It's time for the National Automobile Dealers Association to reconsider its opposition to the Obama administration's proposed corporate average fuel economy standards for the 2017-25 model years.
NADA is just about the last remaining industry group trying to derail the proposals. The association says it is still raising questions about the proposed standards because it has not received satisfactory answers from the government. The group says it will continue to pursue the issue in 2012 as one of its top legislative priorities.
One NADA question is whether consumers can afford or even want the technology required to meet the standards. The group says the estimated cost would be an average of nearly $3,000 a vehicle to achieve the equivalent of 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model year. The association says it favors a single, national standard but fears the proposed rules would cost jobs and limit consumer vehicle choices.
The group also criticizes the way the proposals were created when the administration allowed the EPA and the California Air Resources Board to participate in the process with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which by law has the sole responsibility.
But the process also gave a voice to automakers, 13 of which publicly supported the fuel economy proposals last July.
The administration's proposals aren't perfect. They include CAFE credits and inducements that unfairly favor the administration's thesis that electrification is the ultimate solution to limit hydrocarbon emissions and improve fuel economy -- at the expense of other, proven technologies such as clean diesels.
At a public policy forum during last week's Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, there were many points of agreement among representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group; Ricardo Inc., an engineering firm; and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 12 automakers.
The panelists agreed that despite the administration's predisposition toward electrification, conventional internal combustion engines would still account for a majority, perhaps some 80 percent, of all light vehicles produced for the 2025 model year, thanks to advanced technology.
Consumers have not yet fully embraced electrification, with gasoline-electric hybrids, pure electrics and extended-range electrics accounting for less than 3 percent of U.S. light-vehicle sales. But since the administration's proposals include a provision for a 2018 midcourse review to measure the effects of the standards, there is general agreement that the most reasonable approach for the industry is to get on with it.
NADA would do well to take that into consideration.