The desire to get bigger and stronger may be healthy, but automakers must ensure that their Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers doesn't become a schoolyard bully.
This is an odd time for the 10 automakers that make up the Alliance to bulk up on lobbying muscle in Washington. With a friend in the White House and a majority of friends in Congress, it would seem like a waste of money.
Yes, it is important for the industry to speak with a strong, clear voice on issues of universal concern. And it's prudent for automakers to join the fight against unreasonable legislative and regulatory demands.
But it's easy to see how a tougher Alliance might be construed as leading to antisocial behavior by the industry. A perfect example is what appears to be knee-jerk opposition to the Bush administration's plan to raise truck CAFE by 1.5 mpg over three years, starting with the 2005 model year.
True to form, General Motors, in comments filed by the Feb. 14 deadline, was the most vociferous. But other automakers chimed in, as did their collective Alliance.
The plan by automakers to boost their lobbying muscle suggests they are turning their backs on commitments they made when they formed the alliance - just four years ago - to work cooperatively for protection of the environment and improvements in motor vehicle safety.
Perhaps auto executives are nervous because the Bush administration has shown sparks of social responsibility, particularly at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition to the conservative and reasonable fuel economy proposals, NHTSA administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge publicly questioned the safety of SUVs while at the Automotive News World Congress in January.
Automakers must be careful to not abuse their strength and make the Alliance appear to be just another thug in Washington intent on mugging the public interest.
More than ever, it's important to be reasonable and do the right thing.