In a few years, by 2016 to be exact, P.J. O’Rourke’s “ass-engined Nazi slot car” may be history in the U.S.A. Gone. By that time, Porsche needs to have a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 41.4 mpg – if President Obama gets his wish. Mission impossible, says Porsche. Jack Baruth, stock up. Porsches will be extinct.
On May 19, 2009 President Barack Obama proposed a new national fuel economy program. If signed into law in May this year, as currently planned, the law will throw a nasty punch, beginning in the model year 2012.
Porsche-Lobbyist Stefan Schläfli talked to the German Edition of the Financial Times, before taking off for Washington for a last ditch effort to save the endangered species. Says the FTD: “Hardest hit will be German producers of premium brands which sell big-engined large cars. Critics in the German camp don’t think this is a coincidence. The formulas used to calculate the maximum permissible values are tailor-made for U.S. manufacturers. Basis for the calculation will be wheel base and track width – highly unusual criteria.”
A short and compact Porsche is faced with much stricter limits than a Corvette. Not to mention a pick-up. Large manufacturers turn into a CAFE-society, and can offset their thirsty oinkers with smaller cars. Porsche doesn’t have that option. Neither does Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and other eclectic brands.
Being part of Volkswagen won’t help Porsche. According to the proposed law, Porsche would have had to be under Volkswagen’s umbrella in the year 2009. They weren’t. The FTD reckons that Volkswagen may have to contend with problems of its own anyway. Strong U.S. sales of the Touareg, the Audi A8 or Q7 may make for very bitter CAFE.
To avoid immediate execution in 2012, Porsche received a stay in form of a special dispensation. The pardon expires in the 2016 model year.
Porsche (and many other makers, such as Mercedes) already pay for the thirst of their cars. Currently, the fee is a few hundred dollars per car, says the FTD. The new law sets $37,500 as a maximum penalty – per car. “We can’t afford that,” says Porsche’s Schläfli.
Catching up with the new rules by 2016 would mean that Porsche has to improve their current average fleet economy of 27 mpg by 14.4 miles. “Technically impossible,” says Schläfli.
Unless the new CAFE law will fail at the last minute, the vehicular landscape in the U.S. will become quite boring in a few years.
Have any German or British Foreign Ministers complained, like Hillary Clinton over 4200 American cars to Japan? Have European politicians proposed WTO action like Betty Sutton? Any trade wars threatened for the removal of Europe’s finest cars from American roads? Boycotts of Burger King? Not a word. What’s with those Euros anyway? Whimps.