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Auto industry titans say they're still committed to cutting emissions

Cars and SUVs driving in Manhattan traffic.
Mark Peterson | Corbis | Getty Images
Cars and SUVs driving in Manhattan traffic.

Both Ford and General Motors say U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement does not affect their views on climate change, or their plans to reduce carbon emissions.

And some auto industry analysts are skeptical the decision will have that much of an effect on the operations of global car companies, which sell and manufacture automobiles around the world.

Traditional automakers are considered by some to be one of the sectors that would benefit from any policy change that could relax emissions standards.

"GM will not waver from our commitment to the environment and our position on climate change has not changed," the company said in a statement sent to CNBC. "International agreements aside, we remain committed to creating a better environment."

The company said it advocates for "climate action and awareness" and is the only automaker to have signed the Ceres Climate Declaration, and one of the first companies to sign the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

"Nothing showcases our commitment more than our leadership in electric vehicles and the Chevrolet Bolt EV," General Motors said.

Ford told CNBC the company believes "climate change is real, and remain deeply committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our vehicles and our facilities. Our commitment to sustainability is why we're investing so heavily in electrification and adding 13 new electrified vehicles to our lineup."

Some industry analysts also point out that both companies, as well as just about every other major automaker, will continue to do business in countries that remain committed to the agreement.

"Despite the U.S. government's decision to withdraw, global automakers must continue developing vehicles to meet more stringent fuel economy and emissions standards for the rest of the world that remains part of the Paris Agreement on climate change," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. "Otherwise, they risk being unable to sell their vehicles in global markets, including China, now the world's largest new-car market, and falling behind technologically."

Even cars sold in the U.S. will still have to comply with regulations overseen by government entities such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Air Resources Board, said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

However, she added that those standards could also come under review if the administration is determined to roll back environmental regulations.

"But while manufacturers may welcome an easing of the very stringent standards and the zero emission vehicle mandate," Lindland said, "they are unlikely to suddenly change course and begin building gas-guzzling SUVs with V8 engines which are out of line with what most consumers in the U.S. are gobbling up — 4-and 6-cylinder crossovers — and very much out of line with the rest of the world."

Kelley Blue Book executive editor Jack Nerad said auto companies might be a bit happier about the withdrawal than they are letting on.

"Auto makers might try to mask their joy at the withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change," Nerad said, "but many of them will rejoice that they will be less likely to be forced to sell vehicles that U.S. consumers don't seem to want."