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After Trump Deregulates Automakers, Will Car Safety Be The First To Go?

The ongoing conservative and liberal war on regulation manifests itself in the auto industry.

Two separate articles from Automotive News outline just what the Trump administration could be thinking about regulating the auto industry, and as with all Trump-related news, it comes with mixed reactions from those on both sides of the table. First up is the news that President Trump has met with executives of various industries including the auto industry to discuss his plans to eliminate strict regulations, cut corporate taxes, and levy tariffs on companies that outsource work.

During a meeting with prominent corporate figures including executives from Dell, Dow Chemical, Tesla, and Ford, Trump mentioned that he would like to cut corporate taxes to around 15-20 percent, down from 35 percent rate in place today. Regulations, however, would see even bigger cuts. "We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent. Maybe more,” said Trump. This would be done in an effort to entice businesses to remain within US borders. One example the president gave referenced Ford CEO Mark Fields, saying that if the Blue Oval wanted to build a large factory in America, it could have permits approved much quicker than under the Obama administration so long as it's an American factory.

This comes as a separate story surfaced claiming that Trump would meet with automotive executives from America’s Big Three the following day, presumably to discuss similar measures but with a more specific emphasis on the auto industry. While Fields left the previous meeting praising Trump’s planned corporate policy, not everyone is happy with the president’s approach. The Associated Press interviewed Mark Rosekind, the previous head of the NHTSA who stepped down on inauguration day, and learned that he is worried that the theme of deregulation will spell a slackening of safety standards for the auto industry.

Rosekind, who took his position with the safety regulatory board in December of 2014, spent his time at the NHTSA reshaping its relationship with automakers by attempting to stop industry-wide problems before they happen rather than reacting to deadly issues after people had died. Rosekind is in no small part responsible for the NHTSA’s shift towards being a regulatory board that harshly punishes misbehaving automakers and parts suppliers such as Takata, but he believes that Trump’s administration will turn the clocks back if it goes soft on automakers. “You know my biggest fear is that it (change) doesn't continue. The new administration is going to have its own priorities. Safety is bipartisan," said Rosekind.

The more effective and successful programs are, anyone who is going to care about saving those lives is going to want to see them solidified or expanded. Everything's vulnerable.” The types of regulations Rosekind thinks are in danger are the preventative type, which could standardize things like gear shifters. This past June, Star Trek star Anton Yeltsin was killed by a runaway Jeep that had a shifter recalled by FCA because of how easily it mislead drivers to thinking it was in park while still in gear. Yelchin’s death could have been prevented by regulations forcing for standardized shifters, but if Rosekind’s concerns ring true, then these could be done away with by the Trump administration.

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