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Friday, March 02, 2007

A Van That Can't Possibly Exist

States are taking up the environmental slack from the federal government. Eleven states, including California, have passed laws restricting carbon dioxide emissions in vehicles. Not surprisingly, auto manufacturers are freaking out. Actually, they're doing more than freaking out -- they're filing suit.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers:

Washington, DC -- The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers today announced that it has joined a group of automobile dealers in California's Central Valley to challenge regulation of motor vehicle fuel economy under California's greenhouse gas law.

"Federal law is designed to ensure a consistent fuel economy program across the country," said Fred Webber, president & CEO, Alliance. "There's a better way to improve fuel economy than this regulation, such as providing consumer tax incentives for the purchase of our new advanced technology vehicles."

Among the reasons that the AAM finds these new regulations so unworkable:

Under the greenhouse gas regulation, all Californians purchasing a new vehicle would pay significantly more than consumers in other states. When all costs are considered, not just those costs selected by regulators, Californians would pay an average of $3,000 more for a new automobile and would never recoup those extra, up-front dollars through savings at the gas pump.

We'll get to other reasons why that's BS in a sec. But their press release contradicts this statement by saying, "Carbon dioxide and fuel economy are synonymous. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures carbon dioxide to determine the fuel efficiency labels on new vehicles." So more fuel efficient vehicles won't pay back at the pump?

But here's the fun part -- someone made a vehicle that meets the standards. The modifications cost $300 and returns $1,300 in savings. Meet the UCS Vanguard.

Union of Concerned Scientists:

Automotive engineers at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today unveiled a minivan design that shows automakers can build affordable vehicles with existing technology that would meet or exceed global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks adopted by California and 10 other states. Automakers are currently fighting these standards in court.

The minivan, dubbed the UCS Vanguard, features off-the-shelf engine, transmission and fueling systems and other technologies that would save consumers money, maintain vehicle safety and performance, and cut global warming pollution by more than 40 percent. All of the technologies in the Vanguard are in vehicles on the road today, but automakers have yet to combine them all in one single package. (For a computer-generated animation of the Vanguard's features and the full report, go to

In other words, it's really nothing special. All the technology already exists and is already being used in vehicles in production. Turns out that the claims by the AAM aren't so much factual. It's kind of hard to claim that you can't produce this thing when there's one rolling around out there.

This is what industry does. It doesn't want to be forced to do anything. There's no reason why they'd have to build different models for different states -- they could just build models that meet the strictest requirements and sell those everywhere. But because it would mean retooling (something they do with each year's model anyway), they'd rather just sue. It's almost a default reaction.

It's not a market problem, since all cars would have the same requirements. It's not a technological problem, since UCS built one without even a factory. It's that it's not the easiest thing to do. They claim that the market will drive the production of cleaner vehicles, but that's only true if they bother to build them -- which they're clearly unwilling to do. People aren't clamoring to buy something that doesn't exist.

As the lawsuit moves forward, UCS should drive this thing up and down the street in front of the courthouse. As fuel efficient as it is, you could do it all damned day. It'll be awfully hard to argue that you can't make this vehicle when there's one tooling around the block. The Vanguard renders AAM's arguments ridiculous.


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1 comment:

Adam said...

So the UCS thinks they can add a turbo, a six-speed automatic, and cylinder deactivation (and that's not the whole list) to my Family Truckster for $300? Ford--not exactly a big-margin player--charges $740 invoice for a 5-speed automatic on the Fusion. Who did UCS' accounting? Enron?