Panel: Industry can meet 54.5 mpg, but at what price?
Runkle: "There is going to be a disruptive technology -- hopefully, it's ours -- that will come along and provide more for less."
DETROIT -- It's not yet clear how automakers will achieve the federally mandated 54.5 mpg fuel-economy standard in 2025, but the industry and consumers are likely -- though not guaranteed -- to adjust to the requirement.
That assessment, from a panel of supplier-company speakers at the Automotive News World Congress on Wednesday, came with some caveats.
"As long as California doesn't screw it up," said Mary Ann Wright, 50, vice president of technology and innovation for Johnson Controls Inc.'s power solutions unit.
Ted Robertson, chief technical officer of the Americas for Magna International Inc., was more uncertain. "There's doubt whether we'll get there," Robertson, 63, said.
The third panelist, Don Runkle, CEO of EcoMotors International, cheered on the coming standard. "It's terrific," said Runkle, 67, the former General Motors and Delphi Corp. executive. "I think they ought to raise it."
Robertson, Wright and Runkle all talked about technologies that could provide answers for automakers seeking to meet the tough new standards. They also warned that many hurdles remain.
Cost, in particular, is a challenge, they said, citing studies that show car buyers' unwillingness to pay a big upcharge for increased fuel efficiency.
Robertson: "Is there a solution set that satisfies the cost versus price the marketplace can tolerate?"
"Can they make it?" Robertson asked rhetorically. He urged industry players to converge on cost-effective common technology strategies. "Technically, there are solutions. But the big question is: Is there a solution set that satisfies the cost versus price the marketplace can tolerate?"
Wright said that cost pressure from vehicle buyers will only increase.
"There's going to become a threshold where they're going to expect that this is going to come without incremental costs," she said.
Tough times ahead
That means, said Runkle, tough times are ahead for the expensive solutions.
"There is going to be a disruptive technology -- hopefully, it's ours -- that will come along and provide more for less," said Runkle, who was promoting his company's opposed-piston opposed-cylinder lightweight engine.
He said that the new technology is still being tested for its durability.
"Those technologies that prevail are those that save more than they cost," Runkle said.
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