How wacky have things gotten in Washington? Automakers are begging Congress to raise fuel economy standards.
Import-brand automakers did so in a letter to House and Senate leaders.
And, by the way, they would accept a 35 mpg standard for cars and trucks, says Mike Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. Group members are Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and 10 other automakers.
Stanton said his members just need a little more time to reach 35 mpg than the 2020 target envisioned by congressional Democratic leaders.
Coming from someone who lobbied against fuel economy standards for almost 30 years, that sounds a little like heresy. Instead, others in the industry last week said that Stanton's position is close to theirs.
"We're saying the same thing," insisted Greg Martin, General Motors spokesman.
Well, almost. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing the Detroit 3, Toyota and five other automakers, prefers an alternative. It would require car and truck standards, averaged together, to reach at least 32 mpg but no more than 35 mpg by 2022. Today's vehicles average about 25 mpg.
Toyota, in both associations, sees no contradiction, spokeswoman Martha Voss said.
But what a turnabout for most automakers and their allies. A year ago, the industry was dead set against Congress just picking a number. Carmakers said federal regulators should set standards in the traditional, cautious fashion.
Now they say they accept the number picked by Congress.
What happened in the past year? The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the EPA to adopt the first greenhouse gas emissions rules for cars and trucks — somehow to co-exist alongside fuel economy standards. And if every state that is considering California-style tailpipe rules gets to enforce them, two-thirds of new vehicles would have to meet state-by-state regulations, Stanton said.
All of which makes that congressionally mandated 35 mpg federal standard look a lot better.
Said Stanton: "That's the sane way to do it."