Auto industry pooh-bahs are talking about the need to conserve fuel as they haven't done since the 1970s.
Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford wants President Bush to convene a summit of automakers, suppliers, energy companies, consumers and government officials to "overcome the great energy challenges facing our country."
Jim Press, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., says industry leaders should go behind closed doors "and come out with a positive direction" on issues such as fuel economy and global warming.
AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson is pushing the idea of raising gasoline taxes -- historically a political nonstarter -- to increase demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.
Others who have spoken out on energy conservation include General Motors Vice Chairman Robert Lutz and Metaldyne Corp. CEO Tim Leuliette.
Because no industry consensus has emerged on the issue, no one predicts big changes in energy policy in Washington anytime soon. But a long-time combatant in the energy wars says the talk itself suggests a turning point.
"The handwriting is on the wall," says Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program. "It's taken us a very long time to get here. It's a combination of market changes, public attitude changes, decision-maker changes of view and, I think, the recognition on the part of auto companies that what they are doing isn't going to allow them to be profitable anytime soon -- and possibly even exist."