Auto Industry Begins Frontal Assault On Fuel Economy Regulations


The auto industry is at it again — wailing about how higher fuel economy standards are going to cause massive layoffs. The federal government thought it had met industry objections a few months ago when it agreed to lower its mandate for the year 2025 from 54.5 mpg to 50-52 mpg. But the car companies are not happy. This week, they sent their minions to Capitol Hill to plead with Congress to do something! This would be the same Congress that has failed to do anything at all for the past 7.5 years. Good luck with that, lads.

fuel economy standards

Mitch Bainwol, head of the industry trade group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is scheduled to deliver written testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday that asks, “How will automakers meet the aggressive standards currently in place, by when and at what cost to consumers, industry and the economy as a whole?”

Conveniently, the Center for Automotive Research, a non-partisan, independent, non-aligned, and totally neutral non-profit headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan released a study it says proves that higher fuel economy standards will throw a million or more right thinking, hard working Americans out on the streets. Why? Because, says CAR, low gas prices mean that the savings promised by higher mileage cars will be illusory. Well gee, guys. What is it we should do? Pretend that climate change is not an issue? Go back to making V-8 powered behemoths like the road locomotives that ruled the road in the 60’s? Just keep on selling diesels? What? Tell us. Inquiring minds want to know.

By the way, you can see just how non-aligned and independent CAR is by taking a gander at the page on their website that details who their affiliates are. Affiliates, in case you didn’t know, are the companies who pony up the money to fund all that independent, non-partisan research. They include such disinterested parties as Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.

To hear the industry tell it, lower emission mean higher sticker prices. Simple as that. The apologists for the industry like to make it seem that every price increase is directly tied to fuel economy tweaks. Never, ever does anyone suggest that the price of cars is going up because people today refruse to buy a car without an automatic transmission, power everything, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, 22″wheels, killer sound systems, touch screens larger than the first televisions, 4G internet, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless recharging for digital devices, leather interior, and 14 cup holders. People can’t even open and close their own doors, sliders, and lift gates anymore. They require machines to do the job for them.

Also noticeably absent from any discussion about the rising price of automobiles is any discussion of what the autonomous driving systems of the future will cost, yet every manufacturer on the face of the earth is falling all over themselves to hurry self driving cars to market. But the extra money those cars will cost is all the fault of fuel economy regulations. C’mon, guys. Really? My granddaughter in the third grade knows that argument is bogus. The car makers are taking a page from the Donald Trump playbook. If your argument makes no sense, use fear to get what you want.

What is missing from this discussion is any mention of why gas prices are so low and whether the fossil fuel industry should continue to benefit handsomely from direct and indirect government subsidies. No mention is ever made of the health care costs of polluted air, land, and water. No one ever questions the millions of lost hours manufacturers experience every year due to the poor health of its workers. Not a word is spoken about what will happen to all those lovely customers when New York and Florida are under water. No discussion takes place about the environmental damage caused by extracting and transporting fossil fuels. Not one person ever stands up and suggests that fossil fuels should be subject to market corrections that force them to bear the full burden of the costs they put on the shoulders of the citizenry.

In other words, the automotive industry is unable to look beyond the end of next week or past the next quarterly earning statement. It is perfectly content to keep rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as the world economy sinks –figuratively and literally — beneath the waves.¬†Congress, of course, will wring its hands and make dire pronouncements, before moving on to the next Benghazi investigation or attack on the Clean Power Plan. When The Donald sits in the White House, everyone will be able to relax and take a deep breath. But for how long?

Source: Automotive News/Bloomberg  Image credit: CAR

About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • kevin mccune

    This reminds me of a science fiction story I read a while back .The colonists from Earth found a very nice Planet ,already inhabited by a sentient race of friendly Moth like creatures.The earthlings established communications and were getting along fine until the native beings told them they couldnt kill the voracious ,ferocious larva like creatures that appeared from time to time and stopped the colonists from having “carte blanche ” on the planet .
    So the earthlings did something worthy of the purchase of Manhatten island,they charmed and beguiled the beautiful young avatars and gave them poisonous pigments and paints to to adorn their wings with,some of the colonists made hang gliders and were flying with the beings all was well until the young avatars started dying and getting sick and the natives were so peaceful,the old wise ones committed suicide in protest ,because they figured out what the colonists were up to ,shame ,shame,what gave the earthlings the right to kill the native for there own ends.
    There was a strong moral message in that story,the colonists were thinking” manifest destiny ” while the poor unsuspecting natives were acting like Gandhi .
    What you are referring to,reminds me of much the same thing,the PTB wish to keep us enslaved and beholden to them ,cost be damned,with no societal gain,always wage slaves with a quality of life somewhere in the low median (we should be good little brownies and be content ,lest the house servants beat us ) never a peep because we get to live in the hazy promised land ,always free as long as we dont question the “status quo ” and keep to our station(while the “Herr Elite ” get to live in a gated community or Jackson Hole .

  • Ed

    Steve: I started selling in Detroit in the early 1970s, so this is personal. Here is a slide from a recent speech I gave about the madness that is baked into the Detroit mindset. It is downright stupid…even evil…and guaranteed to be self-defeating. The Chinese will sweep the US market if Detroit does not “get with the program” on emissions and fuel economy; the Chinese have already become the largest producers of zero emission vehicles. Let’s hope that California holds the line and pushes the rest of the nation to comply.


    • Steve Hanley

      Thanks, Ed. I too have a background in auto sales and have been appalled at how resistant the industry has been to innovation. But with Elon on the loose, that is going to change, I guaran-damn-tee it, as Al Gore liked to say.