Auto Dealers Take Up Arms Against Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards

By Blake Z. Rong | November 03, 2011
Who doesn’t want higher fuel economy? For years, it was always the major auto manufacturers, who would cite increased prices, compromised safety (somehow), and a loss of jobs in order to fight the growing scourge! of increasing efficiency standards. But now that fuel efficient vehicles are actually moneymakers, it’s not the automakers fighting this vicious, specter-like boogeymanit’s the car dealers themselves taking up the cause. All of the automakers agreed to the higher fuel efficiency target set for 2025, which doubles current efficiency rates to 54 miles per gallon. Now, abandoned by the powerful manufacturers, auto dealers themselves are fighting this progress tooth and nail. The National Automobile Dealers Association has backed a Republican measure to tear down federal influence to set national fuel efficiency standards, with the Obama administration and the state of California as targets. Mimicking the argument that the automakers once held, the NADA believes that higher efficiency targets will also lead to higher prices, which will continue to hurt the economy. "This is a big jump,” Dave Westcott, owner of two dealerships in North Carolina, told Reuters. “We'd like to slow this process down and find out what's working and what's not. We'd like the public to be in control of what they would like."
As a shot in the dark towards the general zeitgeist, it seems like the public is looking forward to better mileage and spending less money on gas (it’s a recession, don’tcha know). But dealers want a return to the good ol’ days, when the Department of Transportation set mileage standards (and was constantly strong-armed by the automotive industry), with the guise of “consumer choice” as their driving argument. NADA is a major contributor to Republican candidates, and House Speaker John Boehner recently spoke to the association in Washington in an attempt to increase their lobbying. Not all dealers are keen to dismiss the higher standards: "With the economy now, customers are so price sensitive," said Forrest McConnell, who owns Honda and Acura dealers in Alabama. "There is no problem with going up [in fuel economy] but it's a balancing act." But with automakers complicit with the government in meeting these fuel efficiency targets, it’s up to the dealers to fight “the good fight,” as they see it, anyway. Source: Reuters

Each 1 mpg increase in fuel efficency (cafe standards) results in an additional 3,000 deaths per year, according to the US DOT. Enhanced safety features such as air bags and crumple zones add at least $3500 to car prices and can result in increased insurance costs due to more cars being totalled due to repair costs.