Last Wednesday, we went to support the Clean Cars bill that is pending in Washington, DC (find a link here; it would make cars sold in DC meet the California emissions standards, which about 11 states also copy).
Most of the people there were supportive, but one attendant was from the AAM, or Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. They’re the industry group that represents the 6 biggest car companies, and they’re fighting cleaner cars and tighter regs at every turn. (They’re fighting California’s new emissions rules, and they just lost the Vermont case.) He was Greg Dana, their Vice President for Environmental Affairs.
Mr. Dana had his turn at the microphone, and made his case against tighter air regs. It came down to four points. Here are points #1, #2 and #3:
- The automakers are doing everything they possibly can to make cars cleaner, and really shouldn’t be pressured right now.
- California’s rules get so tight by 2016 that the auto industry is likely to completely collapse. Consumers will stop driving rather than buy better cars.
- They’re looking into making cars out of tin, with 3-cylinder engines, because nothing else could possibly work. They need a “breakthrough” technological advance, which they don’t foresee, if they hope to comply with the 2016 rules.
And here’s point #4, the one I thought most interesting:
- Under California’s 2016 emissions standards, only 4 of the 494 new-car models on the market today (2007) would be allowed to be sold. They are:
- Toyota Yaris
- Toyota Prius
- Toyota Camry Hybrid
- Ford Escape Hybrid
I’d like to point out how plainly untrue points 1-3 are, using point 4 (i.e., AAM’s own assertion).
First, let’s take on the idea that big increases in fuel efficiency automatically means smaller, weaker cars. Just using point #4, that’s obviously not true. The only 4 cars that reach the 2016 standards include a mid-size sedan, a full-size sedan, and a mid-size SUV! The Yaris is small, sure, but the hybrid system allows full-sized cars and SUVs to meet standards 9 years ahead of time, and with no loss in vehicle size or weight. The Camry and the Escape carry several hundred pounds more weight than their non-hybrid options. Also, according to reviews from Edmunds and the NHTSA, the performance is about the same. (Here’s the Escape numbers — compare to the V6 SLT)
Now let’s talk about the supposed need for a “breakthrough” technology to comply with the 2016 rules. The very fact that (according to Mr. Dana himself) hybrid cars already on the road today are clean enough to meet those standards (did I mention 9 years ahead of the deadline?), proves that the industry is ahead of the game on technology, not behind the 8-ball. Plus, consider, this isn’t even developmental technology. It’s not even on-the-shelf technology. It’s on-the-road technology, and it has been for years.
Are auto companies doing everything they can? Well, Ford licensed the hybrids from Toyota, but who else has? Nobody. Are auto companies still boosting HP and features at the expense of mileage and CO2 emissions? Yes. Does that sound like anybody’s best effort?
Are higher fuel standards going to crush the profitability of the industry? Leaving aside the fact that they survived the jump from 13 mpg to 27.5 mpg just fine, just look at point #4. How are those cars selling? These aren’t oddball models; from electricdrive.org, it turns out the three 2007 hybrids on Mr. Dana’s list sold 172,000 units through August. Plus, like the Lexus mentioned above, their sales figures grew. Meanwhile, H2’s, Yukons, and a host of other large SUV’s all sold less than last year.
Buyers want better efficiency. The market will bear it fine, as it has before. The technology isn’t just on the shelf; it’s on the road now. When the industry reps say they can’t meet tougher regulations, they’re either blatantly lying, or so stupid they can’t see what’s in front of their faces.