We ask how incumbent car manufacturers and their political coalitions changed their political strategy with respect to the Californian zero emission vehicle mandate over the period 2000–2013. Building on the Corporate Political Activities literature we conceptualize firms’ political strategies and their underlying tactics and actions. Our longitudinal case study builds on a dataset comprising governmental reports, documents, and public hearing transcripts, letters from industry, and complementary interviews with stakeholders. We find that car manufacturers became less defensive over time and more proactive and compliant in their political strategies towards the zero emission vehicle mandate. Car manufacturers’ coalitions on the other hand, remain relatively defensive in their political actions as they continue to do the manufacturers’ ‘‘dirty work’’. We provide insights in the Corporate Political Activities used to influence policymakers. To deal with industry opposition to policy interventions, our research suggests that policy makers might focus their interaction with industry on individual firms instead of industry associations, craft policies that stimulate competition between firms to break apart their closed industry front, and complement technology-forcing policies with demand-pull initiatives.