Zarrella reacts to editorial
A basic question of fairness is at issue in your April 13 editorial that chides General Motors for buying market share with incentives in March.
Your publication, among others, ominously suggested GM's demise as a market leader when our share hit 28.6 percent in February. Then, in March, when our share went above 32 percent and we increased both our model-year and calendar-year leads over our closest competition, you criticized us again.
You can't have it both ways.
Now that we are matching what the competition is doing in the market, our share numbers are rising, we believe as a result of customer recognition of the outstanding value of GM's products.
Unquestionably, incentives are providing a boost, but we believe brand management - defining our models by their target audiences - is the right approach. Data on gains in share of segment for our models prove it.
You know this is a brutally competitive market. We must be price-competitive, and we intend to be.
RONALD L. ZARRELLA
Vice President and
North American Vehicle
Sales, Service and Marketing
Ex-NHTSA chief speaks for safety
I must take exception to your April 13 editorial, 'Enforce CAFE, but first close CAFE loopholes.' And in so doing, I would refer you to the history of CAFE standards.
When the law was enacted in 1975, Congress recognized that corporate average fuel economy standards would hold manufacturers responsible for consumer behavior, since the standards are based on what consumers buy rather than what manufacturers produce. So Congress provided flexibility.
A few years later, it extended the period in which manufacturers could carry forward or carry back credits earned by exceeding the standards.
So as a former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator, I must take exception to your implication that NHTSA is not fairly and logically enforcing the law. It is.
In May 1996, you editorialized about NHTSA studies that 'show reductions in vehicle weight lead to greater highway carnage.' I suggest that without some CAFE flexibility, manufacturers would be forced to make vehicles smaller and lighter and, thus, more dangerous - the very thing you editorialized against.
In your latest editorial, you call for light trucks to meet the same standards as cars, an increase of one-third over the current standard. When Congress enacted the CAFE law, it recognized that trucks are different from cars and should have separate CAFE targets. Your editorial position fails to recognize that absent a technological breakthrough (which at this point is not even a gleam in some engineer's eye), the only way to achieve a 33 percent increase in light-truck fuel economy is to make them smaller and lighter - and therefore less safe for occupants.
Rather than increase CAFE standards, which would restrict consumer choice and reduce safety, Congress should freeze standards at their current levels.
Coalition for Vehicle Choice
The writer was head of NHTSA from November 1983 to January 1989.
GM exec flogs CAFE editorial
Your April 13 editorial, 'Enforce CAFE, but first close CAFE loopholes,' suggests a fundamental failure to understand the corporate average fuel economy law, the purchase decisions consumers make and the minor role that fuel economy plays in their decisions.
Customers tell us they value safety, capacity, utility, performance and towing capability. Forty-seven percent of new-vehicle sales are trucks because smaller cars (downsized because of CAFE) do not meet the needs of those customers.
Simply stated, with low gas prices and plentiful supplies, customers are not demanding small vehicles. General Motors has a responsibility to its customers, dealers, stockholders and employees to manufacture vehicles that will succeed in the market.
GM has taken action to comply with this convoluted law in a way that minimizes the disruption to our dealers, customers and employees. The alternative would be to cease production of certain models, which would result in idle plants and employees and limited consumer choice.
As far as using so-called 'loopholes,' the provision in the CAFE legislation that permits the use of credits from past and future model years is intended by Congress specifically to provide manufacturers some flexibility to deal with changing market demands. The flexibility is no more a 'loophole' than deducting home mortgage interest is a 'loophole' in the income tax law.
Rather than remove that flexibility or consider an increase in standards for certain vehicles, as you suggested in your editorial, Congress should consider freezing the standards at current levels and prevent the potential of limiting consumer choice and reducing vehicle safety.
DENNIS E. MINANO
Vice President and
Chief Environmental Officer
'You owe readers a better survey'
I am writing in regard to your April 20 article on the 3,700 consumers who were surveyed by The Wall Street Journal on their car-buying experience.
About 1,500 said the experience was like going to the dentist, and 1,500 said dealers should be eliminated. Some 1,500 of the participants purchased their vehicles prior to 1991, and 1,500 purchased used cars.
Were the 1,500 who want to eliminate dealers the same 1,500 who bought in the 1980s? Were they the used-car buyers?
Does The Wall Street Journal know? Does anybody care?
Recent studies by J.D. Power and Associates, Strategic Vision and Consumer Reports find that the customer satisfaction scores of new-car dealers are improving.
Automotive News owes its readers a better-researched and better-reported article on such a vital issue.
Racing should ban alcohol sponsors
I don't use or condone the use of tobacco, but it doesn't seem to bother Keith Crain (April 27) that alcohol companies are major race sponsors.
I am nearing retirement age, and I have seen much more misery caused by alcohol abuse than by tobacco.
RICHARD S. GREENE
Adzel produces glass-matrix thermoplastic sheet for auto parts.