Auto Dealers Visit Capitol Hill Over Mileage Mandate

By: Anthony Fontanelle

New-car dealers from around the nation were in Washington this week lobbying Congress to support an alternative to Senate-passed fuel efficiency standards they say could raise vehicle costs thousands of dollars and make larger vehicles hard to come by, reported Anthony Clark of The Gainesville Sun.

Roland Daniels, the owner of Saturn dealerships in Gainesville and Orlando, went with a delegation from Florida and spoke to a number of the state's U.S. representatives. "We all agree this country is too dependent on oil and we need to do something about that," Daniels said Friday. "What I wanted to get across to the congressmen and women I spoke with, there's an alternative to what I think is a Draconian measure by the Senate."

In June, the Senate passed new fuel efficiency standards requiring automakers' fleets to average 35 mpg by 2020. With the said mileage requirement, analysts estimate it would cost auto manufacturers $114 billion, with an additional $2,000 to $5,000 per car passed on to purchasers. If manufacturers are forced to meet the standards before the technology is ready, they will respond by offering fewer large vehicles like trucks and SUVs, Daniels said.

The added cost and lack of availability would cause more families and businesses that depend on large vehicles to keep their existing vehicles that are less fuel-efficient, Daniels noted. "Fewer purchases would have a ripple effect throughout the economy, with one in seven jobs dependent on the auto industry," he said. "Domestic manufacturers that offer more large vehicles also would be at a competitive disadvantage against foreign competition with fewer lines of large vehicles."

With the rising gas prices and the intensifying global warming concerns, lawmakers are expected to act on a new mileage mandate that reduces harmful emissions at the same time boost fuel efficiency of vehicles. But the automakers also are considering the automakers' predicament. As a result, Congress is divided. Part of it is touting a more stringent fuel proposal while the other side is proposing a less onerous alternative.

As the car needs positive crankcase ventilation valve to boost engine response, the auto industry also need a timely freshening. But the may not be of great help. Automakers and dealers have to work hand in hand to carry out a good lobbying strategy and eventually persuade the lawmakers to act on the new mileage mandate by considering their quandary.

Dedee DeLongpre, the director of the University of Florida, Office of Sustainability, said that the adjustments will be costly to manufacturers, but those that do not innovate in the global economy will be the ones at a competitive disadvantage. The University has been acquiring more fuel-efficient cars for its own fleet. This is an effort to curb foreign oil dependence and global warming effects.

While departments like the physical plant still need large trucks, DeLongpre said that the technology is growing rapidly to make fuel-efficient trucks.

The National Auto Dealers Association endorses the Hill-Terry House Resolution 2927, led by Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., that would require 32-35 mpg standards by 2022. Though not ostensibly remote from the Senate version, Daniels, who is on Saturn's product development task force, said that it makes a huge difference. "It takes three to five years depending on the manufacturer to bring a new product from concept to market, so every year is important," he said.

While the auto industry is arguing for more time, DeLongpre pointed out that many vehicles already meet the fuel-efficiency standards, including larger vehicles that meet all crash safety requirements, wrote Clark. Whether or not the auto industry will be victorious in their lobbying only time can tell.

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