For the past five years, I have had the honor of leading the nation's oldest automotive trade association, the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.
During that time, AAMA has been involved in virtually every major issue affecting the U.S. automobile industry: safety, environmental stewardship, trade and economic development, technological advances and globalization.
The closing of AAMA at the end of this year ends 98 years of contributions. It is another sign that change is the only constant in our industry. The programs and policies AAMA has helped to put in place during the past five years will serve the industry well into the 21st century.
For 98 years, AAMA and its predecessors have played a major role in shaping the industry and its impact on America and the American economy, from guiding the first standardization of automotive design in the early years of the century to the 10-year effort known as Traffic Safety Now, which increased seat belt use in virtually every state in the 1980s and saved thousands of lives.
AAMA built on that long and remarkable record of achievement in the 1990s, laying the groundwork for the industry as it moves into its second century. Here are some of the major accomplishments.
Safety. AAMA led the industry's response to concerns about airbags and the risks to occupants who are not properly restrained. AAMA petitioned the government for immediate depowering of airbags, making them safer for children and small adults.
We led a coalition effort to limit airbag cutoff switches to those truly at risk. And we petitioned the government to revise its standards so that advanced-technology airbags can be used as soon as practicable.
The association is playing a leading role in developing new standards that will determine the course of safety improvements in the next two decades.
Globalization: The events of the past year have shown again that the automobile industry is truly global. One of the cornerstones of a global industry is global standards for design and manufacture of vehicles, particularly safety standards and test procedures.
Through its work with the United Nations' Working Party 29 and the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers in Paris, AAMA has been a leader in the move toward international harmonization during the past four decades.
Trade. Throughout the 1990s, AAMA has led the battle to end restrictive trade rules. Those efforts contributed to the 1993 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement linking Mexico, Canada and the United States.
In 1995, the United States signed agreements with Japan and South Korea to open the automobile markets there.
Energy efficiency. In the 1990s, the industry joined with government to assure energy independence and sound environmental stewardship into the 21st century.
AAMA was the industry's first representative to the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, a venture between the federal government and American automobile manufacturers that was formed in 1993. The goal is a prototype 80-mpg-equivalent car in the next five years. The partnership has produced advances in powertrains, efficient manufacturing and advanced materials in today's vehicles.
Environmental stewardship. Twenty years after the Clean Air Act was passed, air quality in most American cities has improved significantly. But the continuing growth in the number and use of automobiles means the industry must continue to reduce tailpipe emissions.
AAMA promoted an industry plan known as the National Low Emission Vehicle Program, which will bring cleaner cars to nearly every state early in the next decade. We have continued to build on that program by working for cleaner fuels nationwide.
This is a remarkable record of accomplishment, and I am proud of the role that AAMA and its employees have played over the past five years in laying the groundwork for the automobile industry's second century.