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Global Warming: Asking the industry leaders

Automotive News asked top auto executives about global warming. The central questions: Is the planet heating up? If so, do vehicles contribute to global warming? Do automakers have a responsibility to reduce emissions of C02 from vehicles?
Of course, I believe the automobile has made some contribution to this global warming phenomenon. But right now what's lacking is this global-level root-cause analysis. Are you saying that global warming is or is not an established scientific fact? This is just my personal feeling, because I am not an expert in these issues. But I think maybe it is the case that global warming is a scientific fact. What should governments do about it? I believe that a national government should have a strategy so that not only industry but also government and academia can work together to make a difference. Government's job is to do three things: First, do the analysis. Come up with a clear idea of what is causing what. Second, come up with the technical strategy. If there is a technological solution, say, 'This is it.' Government, industry and academia should work closely together to come up with those technical solutions. Third, use laws and regulations to mobilize not only industry but the public in general. KATSUAKI WATANABE, President, Toyota

Is global warming happening? Is it real? I have no real solid evidence whatsoever, no conviction. But from where I sit, I cannot afford to be optimistic so I'd say, yes, it is happening. I think that the auto manufacturers will have to voluntarily be coming up with some ways to curb this. For Honda, what we want to be is a company that society wants to exist. So we definitely have to take firm steps to reduce CO2. TAKEO FUKUI, CEO, Honda

Does GM have a policy: Is global warming a real thing and is human activity a cause of it? There's certainly ample debate on both sides. Cause for concern is there, and so we need to take the actions that we can to contribute to a reduction in emissions. Is that the equivalent of saying the jury is still out? It is the equivalent of saying within our company there are a range of views on what causes it. I would invite you for one extreme, for example, to talk to Mr. Lutz. So I guess our view on the topic is that we need to contribute to the solution or contribute to an avoidance of the problem that is manmade. So I don't think it's incumbent on us to vote with one side or the other. I think we clearly have a role in getting the issue addressed. RICK WAGONER, CEO, General Motors

There is a contribution of automobiles to global warming. Our strategy is to make sure we develop all of the technologies that will allow most of the 65 million (vehicles made annually worldwide) to be fuel-efficient and have low CO2 emissions. (But) you can't force the technology on consumers. Consumers decide. Our strategy is to make sure we control all the technology which may become the popular technology, knowing that Japan can go for another solution than the United States and that Europe can go for a solution that is different from the United States. CARLOS GHOSN, CEO, Renault-Nissan

We've always said that global warming caused by human activity was the No. 1 issue. We've always said that, in comparison, pollution issues are easier to handle. Governments should make sure taxation takes C02 into account. The tax should be linear - i.e., the same amount of euros should be paid for each additional gram of C02 emitted - to avoid thresholds and market distortions. FREDERIC SAINT-GEOURS, Managing director, Peugeot

My personal opinion is as it always was. I genuinely believe the planet is warming. It has been warming for the last four or five hundred years. I remain totally unconvinced that it has anything to do with human activity. But my opinion is beside the point. The operative fact is that there is a growing body of American public opinion that believes in global warming. Most government officials believe it. And we (GM) have to behave as it if were real. The goal is to hopefully make a difference in C02 reduction, and we are absolutely committed to doing that. BOB LUTZ, Vice chairman, General Motors

The automobile industry considers that CO2 emissions reduction has to be dealt with by all interested stakeholders - manufacturers, oil producers, governments and customers - to find solutions with a better effectiveness related to costs. The efforts of Fiat and other European manufacturers to reduce CO2 will intensify in the coming years. Nevertheless, realistically, only an integrated and consistent approach, which takes into consideration the contributions coming from all actors, will lead to tangible results and prevent the advantages associated with the new technologies from being negated by other factors. Do you think cars will be taxed based on their CO2 emissions? I think there will be a progressive taxation based on CO2 emissions. There will be a threshold established, and anything above that will be linear. SERGIO MARCHIONNE, CEO, Fiat

I think we're definitely of the idea of conservation and environmental responsibility, whether you want to look at it from scarce resources, whether you want to look at it from global warming, or whether you want to look at it from basic efficiency of vehicles. So we're involved in a lot of the different aspects. We have Grand Cherokee diesels launching in the spring. We have fuel cell programs. We have the hybrid program. We have the E85. So we'll be playing in all those venues, however they turn. I don't know if we have an official position (on global warming) other than we monitor that clearly, and a whole bunch of initiatives and efforts around it. ERIC RIDENOUR, COO, Chrysler group



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