Putin or CARB? Mike Jackson picks Putin

AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson is not the first person I've heard liken the state of California to a foreign country. But he really means it.

Jackson told Washington, D.C., dealers Wednesday that he packs his passport when he visits California, where AutoNation operates more than three dozen stores. "I'm leaving the United States. I'm going into someplace I really don't recognize," Jackson said.

Sure, there's some hyperbole in that comment. But Jackson had a bigger point he wanted to make: California -- specifically the environmental regulatory demands looming from the California Air Resources Board -- is the reason vehicle manufacturers acquiesced to demanding new federal rules for increasing corporate average fuel economy.

Without tightened federal standards, manufacturers would have had to deal with even stricter regulations from California, which then would have been emulated by half the country, he said.

Jackson left no doubt on where he stands on that choice.

"If you asked me if I had to decide between the California Air Resources Board or Vladimir Putin, I'm going in with Putin," Jackson said. "So I understand why the manufacturers made the deal with the federal government -- because the next devil in the room is really a problem."