WASHINGTON - Competitive pressure is keeping the automobile industry from giving more than a lukewarm endorsement to President Clinton's proposed tax credits for buyers of highly fuel-efficient, advanced technology vehicles.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in a statement last week, said it 'supports the concept of consumer incentives to offset the high costs of bringing vehicles with advanced technology to market.'
Alliance Vice President Gloria Bergquist said the group, which represents 10 U.S.- and overseas-based companies, did not endorse the specifics of the president's plan because members differ over timing.
The Clinton plan, formally introduced in Congress last week, would give credits up to $3,000 per vehicle beginning in 2003. It also would extend an existing credit of up to $4,000 for electric vehicles. The plan aims to cut emissions of gases that may cause global warming.
Gil Bamford, vice president of government-industry relations for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., which is bringing a hybrid-powered car to the U.S. market next year, said of the 2003 effective date, 'Why are you waiting so long?'
Bamford said the Toyota position sounds self-serving, but he insisted it isn't. He said earlier credits might compel other manufacturers to bring out cutting-edge vehicles faster.
But Dennis Minano, General Motors vice president for energy and environment, called the proposal 'right on target.' Janet Mullins, vice president for Washington affairs at Ford Motor Co, said her company's electric vehicles and others 'under development' would benefit from the legislation.
With or without enthusiastic industry backing, the fate of the Clinton package is uncertain in the GOP-controlled Congress.
Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Calif., has asked House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, to include the Clinton plan in a comprehensive tax-cutting bill to be unveiled in mid-July.