House Passes 35 MPG CAFE Average; will Detroit Comply?

I guess I’m skeptical-Detroit and its lobby (headed by Rep. John Dingell) fought hard to keep Detroit in the SUV business-but now we have a CAFE bill (for 2020). Anyway, why is Detroit resisting this? I don’t see how they can sell 12 MPG SUVs anymore-so do they truly have a deathwish? Or do they secretly know that there is actually plenty of oil? I guess I’d like to understand how the US is helped by becoming MORE dependent upon imported oil. :smack:

  1. Yes, there is plenty of oil. Large deposits (such as Brazil) have been, and will continue to be discovered.
  2. Detroit sells what consumers want to buy and could care less what that is. They will fight for the right to build it.
  3. 35mpg cafe rules would not affect the sale of large SUV’s. They would only affect the engine running the SUV. The technology already exists to meet the criteria in SUV’s.

What’s this “Hose” of which you speak?

Fixed title.

Where Detroit has consistently fallen down is in anticipating what consumers will want to buy in the future and producing innovations to meet that demand.

In terms of fuel efficiency alone, imports have arguably led the way. It is not Detroit that will have the first hydrogen car available for customers. And in some cases I think the domestic auto industry is, unwittingly or not, sabotaging new more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Case in point - the Ford Escape hybrid, at up to 34/30 city/highway estimated mileage. When we looked at this model, we found that very few were being made available in the Midwest, despite claims by dealers that there were in demand. Nobody but the most determined potential customers is going to shell out MSRP for vehicles that don’t have the options they want, because Ford isn’t making them available. I suspect Ford is happy to have this hybrid as part of their fleet because it drives down their overall MPG average, but is too timid to make the effort needed to build sales. Someone in the company probably buys into the belief that big new oil deposits will be found and they can keep on doing business as usual.

Oh, enough with the conspiracy theories. Why on Earth would Ford intentionally restrict demand for a vehicle that people want? Even if you believe in big oil conspiracy theories, Ford isn’t a big oil company. They’re in business to sell vehicles. If demand for the Escape hybrid outstrips supply, they would just raise the price. Or more likely, if they aren’t meeting supply it’s because they have a problem manufacturing a hybrid component in enough quantity. Maybe the batteries or other element of the drivetrain are in short supply.

The car manufacturers simply want to build what people want to buy. The problem with CAFE is that screws up their long-term forecasting, makes them re-tool products, changes the competitive mix towards companies that are better at making more efficient vehicles, etc. In other words, it distorts the market. This costs all the car companies money. They may have had a multi-year development program for a new sports car or SUV that they’ll have to scrap, and eat all the development costs. They may have to close some factories and expand others.

CAFE is about the lousiest way to modify the market possible. A carbon tax would be much more efficient and less arbitrary. But politicians don’t want to sell tax hikes, so they take the easy way out for them, and offload the cost onto the car companies as unfunded mandates.

Perhaps because they wouldn’t want to waste money developing gas-guzzlers that will be obsolete in a few years, and/or they cannot sell overseas?

The new CAFE bill has a target date of 2020, if I understand correctly. Are you saying the auto makers have a good forecast of consumer demand 12 years from now, if only the government wouldn’t interfere with it?

The common argument against it is that tax on gas (which is what “carbon tax” means for automobile users, I think?) is a regressive tax, having the biggest impact on those for whom fuel costs are a large percentage of their income.

That’s because most countries tax the snot out of gasoline as a revenue source. $3/gallon is a cheap source of fuel and allows Americans to buy large/powerful vehicles. If we paid the $8/gallon of other countries we would want more fuel-efficient cars. Hydrogen car’s will never survive beyond city sponsored boondoggles and are a waste of money. There is nothing fuel efficient about them and the byproduct (water vapor) is a greenhouse gas.

Well, problem solved. Despite all their consumer research they need only log on to this debate sight. Here they can avail themselves of the information you pulled out of wherever in a 15 second manifesto of utopia. Think of all the money Ford can save by firing the people who do this for a living.

I don’t mean to be harsh but people buy what they want to buy. And I live in the Midwest where my buddy just bought a hybrid Escape. He had no problems finding one locally.

I have my doubt about this anyway. If they were really just selling us what we wanted, they would use their advertisements to extol the useful features of their vehicles rather than all this heavy marketing to our emotions. It seems more like they are trying to convince people that they really need a vehicle that can go off-road up a mountain in order to get to the local Starbucks!

I’d say that the car companies like the SUV market because they are able to spend money on ads to convince people to buy more vehicle than they really need and make a lot of money off of them in the process. (I know that there are some legitimate reasons to buy SUVs but I am also skeptical that many of those who get them really need them or as big of one as they get.)

While I have some skepticism about hydrogen too, I think your analysis has a few major flaws.

First, it is true on the one hand that hydrogen is just off-loading the problem of emissions to the point at which the hydrogen is produced (i.e., hydrogen serves as an energy storage medium, not an energy source). On the other hand, this does allow us more flexibility in what energy sources we use and makes it much more feasible to use renewable ones or to sequester the carbon emissions produced by fossil fuel ones.

Second, to say water vapor is a greenhouse gas is a statement that is technically true but misleading in this context. It is a greenhouse gas but not one that we will significantly change the concentration of in the atmosphere by our emissions from hydrogen vehicles (nor from conventional oil-powered vehicles, which also produce water vapor as the other main product of combustion besides CO2). The reason is both that concentrations of water vapor are already much higher than CO2 and, even more importantly, that water vapor does not stay in the atmosphere for very long…i.e., it rains out pretty quickly.

They’re able to sell whatever people are willing to buy. And some of us are willing to pay the price for the pleasure of driving these vehicles. I just bought another Mustang GT. It gets 14MPH/city at best. So what? If I couldn’t afford that gas I’d buy a Honda. But I can afford it and so can many others. There are some whom can afford it but choose not to drive gas guzzlers. Good for them, but it’s still a freedom of choice.

Theres lots of oil. The current price of oil has nothing to do with actual scarcity but instead supply/demand. As citizens of countries like China & India use more and more fossil fuels the price will go up.

A big reason for the U.S. being dependant on foreign oil is our goofy energy policies. We need to start drilling in more places off shore and Alaska. Doing that coupled with building more refineries will make us less dependant on imported oil as well as lowering the price.

That would depend on how a carbon tax was implemented. Now as is clear from another thread I am fine with raising the gas tax back to where it was 14 years ago in real dollars or as the same percent of the gas bill, but a carbon tax could be on new vehicle purchases only. The system would be that an national fleet average for GHG emission is calculated for the year’s new vehicles. The farther above that average you are the more tax you pay on your new vehicle purchase, the more below that average the more of a tax credit you get. No regressive tax structure required. The average vehicle has no tax added whatsoever.

His theory isn’t a conspiracy one. His theory is that the management of Ford are morons, which is a pretty sound one if you ask me.

My theory is that Detroit sees small cars as a graveyard-they cannot sell them profitably, and their designs are not as good as thejapanese models-so they want to sell trucks and SUVs. SUVs are VERY profitable, because they are just a box welded to a truck chassis-no development expenses-because the engines and bodies are old designs. But the problem that I see is this: people are not buying these things-even Toyota and Nissan can’t seel their new pickup trucks (V-8 engines) and large trucks-so why is Detroit resisting CAFE? The really weird thing: FORD has good small cars in eurpe and S. America-why don’t they sell them here?

You don’t WANT a carbon tax only on new vehicles. The whole point to a carbon tax is that it’s market-neutral, and therefore attacks the most serious gas guzzlers regardless of where they are.

People who are opposed to a carbon tax because it’s regressive have to decide whether they are trying to accomplish social justice or trying to stop global warming. You know what the worst offenders are on the road in terms of fuel consumption and emissions? It’s not ANY new vehicle, except for the small percentage of hulking SUVs. It’s all the old pickup trucks, the old 70’s era beaters, and all the beat-up vehicles that are out of tune and driving around on half-inflated tires.

CAFE standards, in the sense that they make new cars less desirable and more expensive, actually act as a disincentive to move out of the vehicles that are worse for the environment. They do NOTHING to stop people from keeping their vehicles in poor condition, from keeping their tires properly inflated and their engines tuned up. In fact, by reducing demand for oil on the new vehicles, they help to keep the price down and therefore act as a further disincentive to fleet upgrading/maintenance.

People need to stop meddling with the market and just let it do its thing. When social/environmental concerns aren’t addressed properly by the market, you should always look for the solution that disrupts market mechanisms the least. In this case, a flat carbon tax would do that. It’s not even anti-market if it’s used to pay for externalities resulting from a market failure - in fact, if it’s done correctly it will make the market more efficient.

But the minute you start mandating exactly what form vehicles must take, what kinds of fuel they must burn, how big they can be, etc., you start screwing around in areas that are bound to have unintended consequences. No one who demanded that all vehicles have front passenger airbags realized that this would have the effect of pushing more people into minivans and SUVs (if you have three kids, and you can’t put one in the front, a four-seater vehicle is useless). No one realized that the original CAFE regulations would kill the station wagon and cause the birth of SUVs.

Allowing hybrid vehicles to enter HOV lanes is another example - this has the direct effect of picking hybrid as the ‘winning’ technology - a small Corolla that gets 45 mpg can’t drive in that lane, but a Lexus hybrid SUV that gets 18 mpg can. Does that make any kind of sense if your goal is to reduce oil consumption?

Attack the problem directly. If the cost of carbon is externalized in the market, put a tax on carbon to correct the externality. Then leave the market alone.

Sam We’ve had this discussion before. In terms of net greenhouse gases, it may very well be better to keep that old guzzler on the road than to manufacture a new more energy efficient car.

No the point re GHGs isn’t to junk old cars. Its to motivate that the new ones are less emitting. Social justice and Global Climate change are not exclusive of each other.

Agreed about not dictating the solution and letting the market innovate instead.

Exactly. What I referred to was timidity and lack of foresight on the part of management, which is typical of U.S. automakers’ lack of innovation and resultant declining sales.

As to availability of Escape hybrids locally, one dealership I called said “I think we have one” but they never got back to me on checking. A second was expecting one to arrive in a couple of weeks. A third sent me specs by e-mail of a vehicle that was not what we were looking for, but close enough to consider. When we got there it developed that they didn’t even have it on their lot (it belonged to an out-of-town dealer who, as it turned out, had already sold it). We were told by multiple dealers that none of them would trade Escape hybrids between dealerships because they couldn’t get equivalent ones back.

This is a model that Ford has advertised nationally for at least a couple of years, but customers are expected to jump through hoops to find one.

It can “do its thing” all it wants. Apart from a frustrating car shopping experience, I feel badly for people who depend on the U.S. auto industry for jobs, not to mention taxpayers who have subsidized these companies in the past and may be asked to do so again.

I’m not bothered by the idea of extending HOV access to high-mileage vehicles (incidentally, Sam, the Lexus hybrid SUV’s listed city/highway mileage is 26/24, not 18 mpg).

Slight hi-jack.

We have some hybrid Escapes as company cars. The people that drive them are primarily middle aged Women. Nobody likes them. Not powerful enough is the biggest complaint. When they have a choice they will always take the older Jeep Cherokee.

These cars are not driven in expressway conditions, but out in residential areas. There is often deep snow, so that may have something to do with it. Perhaps they suck as a 4x4.

I was under the impression that the fuel consumption average that auto makers are under is a median for all vehicles produced, meaning if you have a car out that can get 80mpg you can also sell some rumbling behemoth that gets far less fuel economy as long as your average for all equals 35mpg. Am I mistaken?

With regard specifically to the availability of the Escape Hybrid, The Kansas City Star had an article on the cover of the Business section last week about new shifts at the plant in Claycomo that builds the Escape.
A link that may expire soon

What’s wrong with trying to achieve a compromise between those two goals?

I agree with that. But on the other hand, lack of new fuel-efficient vehicles also acts as a disincentive to buy a new vehicle. My wife has a Toyota Tacoma which is one of the most fuel-efficient pickup trucks available, but that’s still 20 mpg in actual use. If the auto makers were forced to manufacture a 30-mpg truck, I think she’d buy it.

In which state? Here is a list of vehicles eligible for single-occupant carpool lane use in California. Only three hybrid models are eligible: Honda Civic, Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. They all get better gas mileage than any non-hybrid currently available in the US, as far as I know.