Update: Car Wars

This is more an FYI than an update. The political machinations of the auto industry over CAFE standards, fuel options, and other technologies are fascinating (and probably ultimately hurtful to the consumer/planet). In this corner you have the Big 3 American automakers and Toyota opposing an big increase to gas mileage requirements for light trucks and SUVs, in the other you have Nissan. Yeah, Nissan is the only (?) car company NOT opposing the stronger CAFE standards.

From Politico [U.S. automakers try to slow CAFE changes] Sept 2007]

A House-Senate conference committee is soon expected to begin work hashing out final language for an energy bill that includes the first modifications to corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards in decades. But, unlike previous showdowns that pitted the auto industry against environmentalists, this fall’s fight is largely a showdown between U.S. automakers and Nissan Motor Co.

Today, the fight isn’t over whether new CAFE standards will be imposed but how aggressive they will be and how fast they will be mandated.

Nissan says it’s promoting more sensible standards for the industry, with fewer mandates and aggressive goals that would allow automakers to develop one fleet of cars for both the U.S. and global markets.

Sounds great, but before you get the warm and fuzzies about Nissan…

Domestic automakers, joined by Toyota, accuse their Japanese rival of trying to fix an internal business problem and smooth over market disadvantages by rewriting federal law to tilt national policy toward their strengths. The UAW argues that Nissan’s action could wind up moving about 17,000 domestic auto plant jobs to overseas plants and wipe out thousands more that provide parts, equipment and support to those plants.

And this little tidbit also raised an eyebrow…

The Nissan team also helped squash a proposed Senate mandate to expand manufacture of flex-fuel vehicles, which ran counter to the research into battery and diesel fuels that foreign automakers are pursuing. The deletion was a blow to General Motors and other U.S. automakers that rely on flex-fuel incentives to win credits toward CAFE standards.

If you were wondering why Brazil was able to increase the percentage of flex fuel vehicles on the road so quickly (see graph below) and why it appears that we will not have the same fortune, the lobbying of companies like Nissan is probably part of the answer.

Vehicles Sales in Brazil by Fuel Source
Sale of light vehicles on the Internal Market (Brazil 2003-2007)
Click to see larger image

Hmm, I wonder what position GM would be taking right now, had it not killed the electric car.

Thanks Dr. Hill