While there remains uncertainty as to how painful 2023 could be economically, Ann Wilson says there’s no debate about what to expect politically.
Capitol Hill is heading for gridlock.
Speaking Monday at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue Monday in Grapevine, Texas, Wilson said this month’s Speaker of the House elections could be just a glimpse of how dysfunctional the legislative branch is capable of becoming in the next two years. The nation and its Congress are divided. The likelihood a piece of comprehensive bipartisan legislation could make it to the president’s desk is slim.
But Wilson, MEMA’s senior vice president, Government Affairs, says legislative inaction doesn’t mean D.C. won’t have an impact trucking in the years ahead. President Biden still has “immense amounts of authority and we’ll see him use that.”
She says the best example of that can be seen by the administration’s commitment to fuel economy, greenhouse gas and emission regulations through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wilson says the White House remains committed to reducing vehicle pollution and pushing the nation toward clean transportation. December’s announcement of new medium- and heavy-duty engine standards for model year 2027 and later engines is just the beginning — though, fortunately, she says early analysis for the standards appear to be in alignment with MEMA’s primary concerns.
Other proposed rule makings for zero emission vehicle (ZEV) adoption are in production. Wilson says this administration is willing to work with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to hopefully persuade the state from enacting its own regulations that would create inconsistencies for vehicle owners across the nation, though she doesn’t know how successful those efforts will be. She also notes a future where California and follower states develop their own regulations for light- and heavy-duty vehicles could be crippling for motor vehicle suppliers.
“States pushing regulations is going to change this industry,” she says.
Wilson says MEMA is currently and will continue to be active in lobbying the EPA and influencing these regulators to best support the motor vehicle industry.
The Association isn’t turning its back on the hill either. Wilson says MEMA’s No. 1 legislative priority is a right to repair act. She says MEMA has worked with AutoCare to introduce a bill to support independent aftermarket’s right to diagnose, repair and service all on- and off-highway motor vehicles and intends to introduce a bipartisan bill to Congress later this year.
“We know vehicles are going to change and independent repair ability is going to be critical,” she says. “We have to make this personal and we have to push this across the finish line this year.”
Wilson also notes she believes legislation, not private debate, gives the manufacturing industry the best chance to solve the right to repair conundrum. She mentions the recent American Farm Bureau Foundation and John Deere Memorandum of Understanding in the agriculture sector as an example.
“We have our doubts about that, that it will not bear the fruit the farmers want to see,” she says.
Wilson also briefly addressed the recently passed CHIPS Act, which was developed to support domestic semiconductor and microchip development manufacturing. Wilson believes there is language within the act that will support the production of legacy chips needed by aftermarket manufacturers.
Relatedly, she also adds that well-written, direct legislation with strong support such as the CHIPS Act is the right path to follow to get any other bill through this Congress. “I do think there is an opportunity with the right grass roots pressure to move specific pieces of legislation,” she says.