Let's learn from lessons of the past with CAFE standards

(January 31, 2011) SANTA MONICA, Calif. — In an address last week at the Society of Automotive Engineers' 2011 Government/Industry meeting on policy, the CEO of Edmunds.com told attendees that achieving the president's clean air goals should not be made by repeating mistakes of the past.

"In the 1970s and 1980s, new emission, safety and CAFE standards forced automakers to build vehicles the market often did not want, relying on technologies that were not ready for public consumption. Over time, the reputational damage to iconic American brands like Cadillac was huge. In fact, one reason I was a reluctant supporter of the auto bailouts is that the trouble the car companies were in was not entirely of their own making — government policies played a role," said Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl.

"The lesson from the past is that effective long-term policies must include consumers' interests.

"The good news is that today, technology caught up and is yielding a new wave of high tech clean gas and diesel engines that deliver safer, more efficient vehicles at little expense to consumers," continued Anwyl. While the headlines may be about EVs and plug-in hybrids, the real action is with vehicles with advanced technology."

Anwyl's examples include:

    • the Chevy Camaro 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 engine
    • the Ford EcoBoost V6 engine available in the Ford F-150
    • the twin independent variable-cam timing and available PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission of the Ford Fiesta, which is rated at 40 mpg
    • the Hyundai Elantra 1.8-liter Nu engine, which gets 40 mpg on highways
    • the Mercedes-Benz Bluetec diesel
    • the Volkswagen TDI clean diesel

"Further out however, however, these approaches will only take us so far. At some point, policy needs to be enacted that tilts the playing field in favor of even cleaner, safer, more efficient vehicles. One obvious—but unpopular—solution would be to phase in a significant increase in the federal gas tax," stated Anwyl.

See Learning from Lessons of the Past for Anwyl's full report.