It's curious that no automaker is seriously opposing the proposed CAFE standard of 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model year, says Ted Robertson, Magna International's chief technical officer for the Americas.
"No one knows how to make that number. No one knows how to get there," Robertson says.
For nearly four decades, I have heard auto execs grumble that each successive corporate average fuel economy proposal was either technologically impossible or just too darned costly to achieve.
Sometimes those arguments worked, and the feds backed down.
But when pressed, most companies found a way, miraculously, to accomplish the impossible because they wanted to keep selling cars and trucks. True, some luxury automakers preferred to pay a fine and pass the cost on to their customers.
Look, crying "Wolf!" about CAFE standards is nothing new. So it's easy to turn a deaf ear to the message -- unless the messenger is someone like Robertson.
You probably wouldn't mistake him for Klaatu, the alien who tried to warn the world about impending doom in the classic movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, but Robertson is believable.
An even-tempered Canadian with a quick, easy smile, Robertson spent 35 years as an engineer at General Motors before retiring and subsequently joining Magna.
He also has earned global engineering street cred through four decades of leadership in engineering societies, including stints as president of SAE International and as president of FISITA, the International Federation of Automotive Engineering Societies.
So when I spent time with Robertson at the Auto21 conference in Montreal a couple of weeks ago, his message resonated.
He told me automakers and suppliers are testing a variety of technologies with some success -- but no one has found The Answer yet. Fortunately, there will be a midcourse review to assess engineering progress toward making The Number.
But there is still time to put things straight. Ask Klaatu.