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Proposed 54.5 MPG Standard Wins Support of Labor, Consumer Groups

Consumers should save money from Day One, advocates insist.

by on Jan.17, 2012

The proposed 54.5 mpg rule could create 100,000 new jobs, according to UAW Pres. Bob King.

The United Auto Workers is out to mend its once-robust ties to the environmental movement.

In the past, the union had opposed raising fuel economy standards because it feared higher standards for trucks could lead to the elimination of jobs. During much of the last three decades, the union had been persuaded that changing the fuel-economy standards would weaken the domestic carmakers’ tight grip on the US truck market.

The union reversed its position in 2009 under pressure from the Obama administration, which was in the midst of bailing General Motors and Chrysler.  But this time the union voluntarily teamed up with various environmental groups to support new standards that will boost federal fuel-economy standards.

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UAW President Bob King said Tuesday that he is convinced the new standards, which will raise fuel standards for automaker to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, will help create new jobs in the U.S. by promoting new technology.

“The proposed rules are sensible, achievable, and needed,” King said, adding “the incremental increase in the price of a vehicle will covered by the money consumes will save by using less fuel,” added King, who cited UAW legend Walter Reuther’s dictum that it not only wanted clean factories, it also wanted clean lakes.

King also said in the past the union has to reestablish its ties to groups in the environmental movement to bolster its overall position in American society.

“They are good for the auto industry and its workers, good for the broader economy, good for the environment and good for our national security,” said King. “The drive to bring innovative fuel-saving technologies to market is transforming the auto industry in the United States and creating good jobs from the research lab to the factory floor.”

King said proposed standards to increase fuel economy and reduce tailpipe emissions have broad economic and social benefits and enjoy wide public support – a position echoed by environmental leaders during testimony in Detroit.

The proposed rules also take into account the importance of specialized vehicles such as big up trucks, which are vital to domestic manufacturers.

King joined several environmental, industry, educational and citizen groups to testify before the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about new standards proposed by the Obama administration.

“With these rules in place, there’s a much smaller chance you’ll see ugly pictures of beautiful birds covered in petroleum,” said Larry Schweiger, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

“We’ll reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 2 billion tons, and cut our consumption of oil by 3.4 million barrels a day. That will reduce the need for risky drilling in fragile habitats,” Schweiger said.

David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a partnership between U.S. labor unions and environmental organizations, said: “These standards are moving America to a clean energy economy that creates good jobs that are also good for our environment.

“2012 is expected to be the third straight year of double-digit auto sales growth for the US, with many consumers upgrading their older vehicles for cleaner cars now available on the market. The 54.5 miles per gallon standard will continue to fuel that comeback for years to come,” said Foster.

The Detroit hearings brought out some dissenting opinions from the likes of Don Chalmers, a New Mexico Ford dealer who served as a representative for the National Automobile Dealers Association.  He cautioned that federal regulators avoid “rushing headlong” into new rules that could have unintended consequences.

On a financial front, Chalmers argued that the new CAFE rules will bump monthly payments up by $60 to $70 a month and, perhaps more concerning, result in vehicles that buyers won’t want.

“If the customers don’t want to buy these products, we all lose,” he cautioned.

The proposed rules, which will modify standards already set to rise to 37.5 mpg by 2016, have caused a split within the auto industry itself.  General Motors, Toyota and Hyundai are supporting the change, the Korean maker’s U.S. CEO John Krafcik telling, “Of course, we’re positive on it.”  But several makers, including Volkswagen and Daimler, have refused to lend their support.

Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.

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3 Responses to “Proposed 54.5 MPG Standard Wins Support of Labor, Consumer Groups”

  1. r123t says:

    Goodness, that New Mexico dealer is spouting the same things that we have been hearing since the 1970s. We are not “rushing headlong” into anything, because it has been common knowledge for years that something was going to have to change. The charge that customers won’t want these vehicles is just trash talk: perhaps this dealer, who I am assuming is older, no doubt a baby-boomer like myself, should be reading articles from The Detroit Bureau, where I believe reporting has been done recently on studies by both Chevy and Chrysler on what the 20-somethings want in a car, which indicates cheap transportation modules full of electronic goodies. This guy has his head so far in the sand he’ probably peeking out at China. If these vehicles are all that is being made, the customers will buy them, no question about it. Are we not buying significantly different vehicles now than in the 1970s, when the same old refrain was being kicked around by auto people back then who were stubbornly clinging to past engineering?

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      LOL, please DO pass on any articles from you feel would be useful.

      I agree that his head is buried somewhere, though even if he was peaking at China he’d see a shift in motion to smaller, higher-tech, higher-mileage vehicles.

      Ironically, I might argue that if the U.S. were to ignore the global trend prices here might go up, anyway, as makers would not be able to benefit from global economies of scale. We’re already seeing the advantages of that at makers as diverse as Hyundai and Ford.

      It’s disappointing to see a few makers and a lot of dealers try to sandbag the higher mileage when you have the unusual coalition of labor, consumer groups and normally polar-opposite brands like Toyota and GM lending support. At this point, however, it seems unlikely the 54.5 mpg proposal won’t go through.
      Paul A. Eisenstein

  2. manousos1 says:

    Today there are cars achieving well above 54.5 mpg in the combined cycle, like:

    the Mazda-2 SkyActive-G (operating according a limited Miller cycle at high compression ratio 14:1),

    the Nissan Micra 1.2 DIG-S (working on a limited Miller cycle at high compression ratio 13:1),

    the Fiat 500 TwinAir (MultiAir technology, throttle-less, at normal compression ratio 10:1).

    On this reasoning the 54.5mpg of UAW sounds disappointing and pessimistic, even for today.

    Quote from Engine Technology International magazine (September 2011):
    “Fiat is said to be open to licensing offers for the MultiAir technology, with at least one major German OEM interested.”

    It seems neither VW, nor Daimler is this “major German OEM”.

    The technology for 70mpg already exists and is tested (includes either digital-control and throttle-less induction, or a limited Miller Cycle and high compression)

    The combination of the two innovations provides an engine running at an unlimited Miller cycle, at high compression ratio, with throttle-less digital control on the induction,
    as explained at: and ,
    making the 100 mpg a scientific fiction, no more.

    Manousos Pattakos