Some high-end automakers regularly pay hefty fines for missing U.S. fuel economy standards - a cost of doing business, like the rent or the phone bill. And they don't like it.
Tom Purves, COO of BMW of North America, last week called the fuel economy law a "blunt instrument" that unfairly penalizes a company with the most fuel-efficient vehicles in its class (meaning his). The remark came in his keynote address at the Washington auto show.
Purves - particularly piqued, perhaps, because a big bill just came due - told Automotive News that that the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the industry's main lobbying organization, is aware of BMW's concern.
Government records show that making gas-gulpers is expensive: BMW paid about $12 million in late 2005 for missing standards in several previous years. Altogether, the company has paid more than a third of the $650 million total collected by the government since 1983.
In a way BMW is hurt by its own success. A company pays $5.50 for each 0.1 mpg by which it misses the standard, multiplied by vehicles sold. In 2003, for example, BMW cars averaged 26.8 mpg, just 0.7 off the standard. But it sold more than 230,000 of them, so the fine was almost $9 million.