Former Auto Exec Bob Lutz Says Raising the Gas Tax Will Help to Reach MPG Targets

By Jacob Brown | April 18, 2013
Brash and outspoken, we've got to say we miss Bob Lutz and his candidness, which have been missing on a regular basis since he retired from General Motors in 2010. The former executive spoke this week at SAE International's World Congress, a consortium of auto companies and their engineers, to address the biggest challenge engineers face: meeting 2025's 54.5-mpg fuel economy standard. Rather than set unfunded mandates on automakers to deliver clean, highly efficient cars and trucks, Lutz says the best way to get people into more efficient cars is to raise the gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents per gallon and hasn't been raised since 1993. "Common sense dictates that if you want someone to use less of a given commodity, you raise the price of that commodity," he said in his speech. But Lutz says politicians are too afraid to raise the gas tax, which might be political suicide for them. Instead, through the Corporate Average Fuel Economy plan, automakers will have to raise their fleet averages from today's high-20s to 54.5 mpg within the next 12 years, quite a steep climb. Most experts believe the biggest gains will come through electrification, lightening vehicles with expensive materials like carbon fiber, and experimenting with new kinds of fuel injection. "We're attacking the problem at the wrong end of the pump," Lutz says, comparing the government's solution to forcing people to slim down by only offering smaller sizes of clothing. "You don’t want to punish people for driving. You want to give them incentive to buy more efficient vehicles." Most of the solutions on the table are still very expensive and may not be feasible. Further, as only Lutz could put it, there has to be a goal of making cars that still look attractive and not like "rolling suppository shaped aerodynamic appliances." Ah, we really do miss you, Bob. Come back. "The business needs engineers a lot more than it needs MBAs," Lutz said in front of an audience mostly comprised of engineers. Lutz, himself, holds an MBA from UC Berkeley. The ex-fighter pilot, ex-exec, ex-GM/Chrysler/Ford/BMW employee has had a 50-year career helping shape what we drive, from the idea of the premium sports sedan from BMW to the aerodynamic shape of cars today. Do you think he has a point? Whether you like the idea of raising taxes or not, we can't see a way around his conclusion to get people to willingly buy more efficient vehicles. Source: Detroit Free Press