by Jack Rosebro
Beginning this Memorial Day weekend, members of the auto industry are rolling out a comprehensive campaign to convince Americans to oppose proposed increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, and to pressure their elected officials to vote down such proposals.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) has launched a website (www.drivecongress.com) that encourages citizens to compose messages of protest against “unrealistic fuel economy increases” to be hand-delivered to elected officials. AAM represents BMW, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The website allows users to insert statements provided by the AAM, such as “I value fuel economy, but I also want many other attributes in my automobile like safety, passenger and cargo room, performance, towing, hauling capacity and more” or “Rather than setting a harmful mandates [sic] like the one being proposed, the government should encourage the use of alternative fuels like ethanol, and provide incentives for consumers, like me, to purchase alternative fuel autos.”
The Detroit News reports that the campaign will also include at least a million dollars of radio ads in ten states that have a high percentage of truck and SUV owners.
The AAM’s efforts are bolstered by parallel campaigns from DaimlerChrysler and General Motors, each of which has brought a dedicated website online to help with the campaign.
According to GM’s website (drivingamericasfuture.com), CAFE standards “deter innovation”; “have no near term effect on oil consumption”; “foster competitive disparities that discriminate against US automakers”; and are “a 1970’s solution to a 21st Century problem.”
The website cites the steady rise in US oil consumption as an indicator that CAFE standards have failed, but does not calculate the level of consumption that might exist if such standards had not been enacted.
DaimlerChrysler’s password-protected website (www.grabdemocracybythehorns.com) is described as a “grassroots advocacy website, a legislative activation tool that provides employees, retirees, dealers and suppliers with a means to conveniently contact elected officials about the issues that concern you, your family and our company.”
CAFE standards were enacted in 1975, when Congress ordered automakers to more than double the fuel economy for passenger cars from 13 miles per gallon to 27.5 miles per gallon within a decade, which the industry achieved. Since then, Congress has regularly considered increasing CAFE standards, but has not approved a fuel economy increase for passenger cars. Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) increased fuel economy standards for SUVs by 2 percent per year, rising from 21.6 miles per gallon to 24 miles per gallon by 2012.