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CAFE foe GM takes alliance helm

New leaders, 5 big challenges
Here's what the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers faces in 2002.

1. Higher corporate average fuel economy standards

2. Waves of new safety rules spawned by bad tires

3. Government decisions on rollover testing

4. Pressure to prevent driver distraction

5. Federal and state action on greenhouse gases

WASHINGTON - General Motors, the leading industry critic of federal regulation, is taking charge of the automakers' main lobbying group just as government is ready to move on fuel economy standards.

Top GM executives rotated into the chairmanships of the 13-member Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, effective today, Dec. 17.

Tom Gottschalk, 59, GM general counsel and executive vice president for law and public policy, chairs the alliance board of directors. Ken Cole, 54, GM vice president for government relations, chairs the executive committee, the group's main management body.

In a statement last week, Gottschalk said, "GM looks forward to continuing the work of the alliance members in advocating policies which promote greater safety on the highways and cleaner air without sacrificing consumer choice."

GM and others argue the fundamental flaw in the federal corporate average fuel economy program, or CAFE, is that it tries to force people to buy vehicles they don't want.

While GM's leadership may mean a more militant tone at the alliance, industry officials maintain the organization operates by consensus.

Jim Olson, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America, Inc., was the executive committee chairman in 2001. It was the first time an import brand company chaired the industry's top trade association. But he said Toyota's leadership was probably no different than that of Ford Motor Co. in 1999 or DaimlerChrysler in 2000. He said he expects more consistency with GM.

Said Olson, "All of us had the same job to do. It's a cat-herding job."

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