Thursday, June 14, 2007

Driving the News--Automakers Push Back in Washington

Reuters reports today (Auto giants complain against Congress) that Detroit automakers continue to push back against Senate changes to CAFE standards. According to the article, GM, Ford and Chrysler lobbyists continue to make the argument that the "Big Three" are uniquely important to the American economy and so "deserve special consideration."

The article, sounding a little bloglike, quoted anonymous industry sources worried about congressional retribution for years of resistance to improved mileage and efficiency standards.
"'We went off the tracks somewhere,' said another official from the same company. 'The auto sector stopped having a huge economic impact and has become part of the problem.'" So there is some self awareness. That's encouraging.

Stabenow says part of the problem is that the industry is "not telling its story well." That sounds accurate. If you've been accustomed to "special consideration" for decades, explaining yourself to a hostile crowd might be a new experience.

Part of the story still to be told is why these companies can meet tougher standards abroad, but not at home.

Levin and Stabenow figure prominently in the piece as working toward an alternative to the leading Senate proposal that "would require a 4 percent annual improvement in fuel economy beginning in 2011. Under that plan, vehicles would have to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020."

"Levin and Stabenow were still working out details and mustering support among colleagues for their initiative, which would mandate a range of 36 miles per gallon for compacts, sedans and wagons by 2022 and 30 mpg for sport utilities, light trucks and vans by 2025."