Fuel standards review necessary


When it comes to fuel economy policy, separating fact from fiction gets tricky.

By reading Alan Baum’s column, “Emission standards benefit Detroit, Aug. 15” you would never know policymakers and industry share a strong consensus about fuel-economy. We share a common vision. We agree on continuing progress. And we know the movement to increase fuel efficiency and carbon reduction is both global and enduring.

As companies operating and selling all around the world, OEMs — based in Detroit and elsewhere — are acutely aware of market realities. These automakers are already selling highly energy-efficient vehicles in countries where there is strong consumer demand for them.

Baum compromises the credibility of his argument by suggesting that automakers want to “shift into reverse on fuel economy standards.” No one is talking about a reversal of standards. Period. Federal requirements are based on what people buy, not what automakers produce. Given the realities of consumer buying patterns, industry has suggested that the degree of the upward slope might need to be adjusted.

Today, consumers are enjoying substantial efficiency gains when they trade in their old cars. Still, the adoption rate of alternative powertrains and other high MPG models is lagging, threatening the viability of future standards.

Baum notes polling shows support for fuel economy. This is not an insight to those of us who work on U.S. policy. There has always been enthusiasm for fuel economy. Advocacy groups make opinion polls the foundation of their argument for increasing standards. We too have pointed this out for years. But support for standards is only half the story. The relevant half that activists ignore is whether consumers will pay for greater MPG. The conclusive evidence is NO.

Consumers are neither right nor wrong here. They buy products consistent with their lifestyles and family needs. When their buying decisions do not align with the aspirations of regulators, which looks possible, the public policy issues need to be thoughtfully examined.

That’s why 18 automotive CEOs asked this administration to reinstate the midterm review so marketplace evidence — rather than political hyperbole — would drive policy.

We are grateful the Trump administration put the review back on its original schedule, consistent with the Obama administration’s committed timing. Until the review is completed, automakers will not prejudge the outcome. Nor should Baum and others driven by ideology rather than analysis.

Mitch Bainwol

president & CEO, Auto Alliance