Nobody with a brain should have been surprised when President Barack Obama told the EPA to reconsider letting states set their own carbon dioxide emissions standards, which would be de facto state fuel economy standards. Heck, during the campaign, Obama said he would do it.
And let's face it, the fix is in.
If Obama's EPA doesn't kowtow to the California wing of the Democratic Party, it will be the biggest man-bites-dog story in years.
That could wreak havoc for automakers. The Detroit 3 already are cash-strapped -- and short on personnel -- as they struggle to develop showy alternative vehicles and meet the corporate average fuel economy standards issued by the Bush administration in December 2007. Don't forget that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has marching orders from Obama to boost CAFE by 30 percent.
So where in the world will automakers get the resources to meet new, tougher state and federal fuel standards?
Then it hit me: Suppliers!
But which ones?
So I asked Michael Robinet, vice president of forecast services with consulting firm CSM Worldwide.
Being a clever, experienced consultant, Robinet framed the issue with two assumptions: There is still progress to be made on the internal combustion engine, which isn't going away any time soon; and electronics will account for as much as 40 percent of the value of a vehicle.
Forget about interiors, he said. Logically, the two best categories for suppliers to be in: high-tech stuff and powertrains.
Refusing to settle for broad categories, I badgered Robinet for the names of suppliers who can help automakers and make a couple of bucks for themselves in the process.
He rattled off several companies -- BorgWarner, Aisin, Bosch, Continental and Denso -- and admitted that there are others he'd remember later after recovering from the intense pressure of our, uh, conversation.
I hope so.
It's nice to think that even in this dark epoch it's possible for more than just a handful of suppliers to do well by doing good.