Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Detroit 3 hear they've already 'lost' on CAFE

Harry Stoffer
Automotive News
June 6, 2007 - 3:42 pm

WASHINGTON -- Automakers that oppose higher fuel economy standards won't block congressional action this year, a Senate Democrat who switched positions on the issue warned today.

"The issue is over," Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., told the CEOs of the Detroit 3. "You have lost the issue."

Dorgan's remark came at the end of what was supposed to have been a feel-good session on manufacturing issues by Senate Democrats.

Dorgan represents one of 11 states where the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is running ads that assail "extreme" fuel economy legislation before the Senate. The alliance represents the Detroit 3, Toyota and five other automakers.

Scare tactics such as telling Americans that Congress is going to take away their pickups won't work anymore, Dorgan admonished the executives.

At a lunch meeting, the Detroit 3 CEOs stuck by their position that the corporate average fuel economy program, or CAFE, is a failure. Higher standards alone are not the answer to concerns about energy security or global warming, they said.

Afterward, in a brief session with reporters, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said automakers understand that fuel economy standards are going to rise.

The Detroit 3 say they seek to ensure that higher standards are part of a broader package of actions that promote alternative fuels and provide incentives for advanced technology vehicles.

Behind the scenes, industry lobbyists are meeting with lawmakers on possible alternatives to the CAFE bill, which is scheduled for debate on the Senate floor next week.

Two alternative proposals would require cars to average 36 mpg by 2022 and trucks to average 30 mpg by 2025. Regulators would be able to set lower standards if the targets were deemed to be unreachable.

Today's standards are 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for light trucks.

The bill before the Senate floor would require a fleetwide average of 35 mpg by 2020 and 4percent annual increases thereafter. Again, regulators would be able to cite economic or technological reasons to set lower standards.

Environmental and consumer groups contend that guaranteed standards are needed. They are lobbying to toughen the Senate bill.

No comments: