Auto Dealers Speak Out on CAFE Rules

The fight over fuel economy and vehicle tailpipe emissions is just beginning and America's franchised new-car and truck dealers are at the center of it, says the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

"This is no time for us to relax," says incoming Chairman Annette Sykora at the 2008 NADA Convention & Exposition in San Francisco on Feb. 11. "In fact, it is because dealers were actively engaged in the CAFE debate that the industry can live to fight another day."

Sykora, president of auto dealerships in Texas, will become the first woman chairman at NADA.

NADA supports the aggressive but responsible CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) increase of vehicles to achieve 35 mpg by 2020, which is a 40 percent increase in fuel economy over today's standards. NADA opposes any effort to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision, because it would undermine a federal approach.

"We support a national approach to fuel economy, not a confusing and costly state-by-state patchwork of regulations that could threaten vehicle availability, affordability, safety, and the ability of dealers to engage in interstate vehicle sales and trades," Sykora said.

In early February, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson testified before a Senate committee led by California Sen. Barbara Boxer. The EPA defended its decision in December 2007 to deny California a waiver to regulate its own vehicle tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.

And last week, California Rep. Henry Waxman issued a subpoena to force EPA to provide documents that supported the agency's refusal to grant California a waiver.

California has introduced a plan to reduce tailpipe emissions and regulate greenhouse gases from cars and light trucks 30 percent by 2016, starting with the 2009 model year.

Sykora says the "consumer will ultimately decide if a federal fuel-economy standard is successful, because you can't wave a government wand and make consumers buy a particular type of vehicle."

Additionally, Sykora warned against the "jalopy effect," when car owners keep their older, less fuel-efficient vehicles longer. Unless public policy encourages turnover of the existing fleet, the goals of saving energy and cutting tailpipe emissions will not be achieved, she said.

NADA said it supports EPA's decision to deny a waiver because there are no "compelling and extraordinary conditions" unique to California that would justify state regulation of motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the first ever waiver request that involves greenhouse gases. All previous waivers addressed atmospheric pollutants that created local and regional air quality concerns. But greenhouse gases are a global concern, NADA stated.

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