We won’t get into the politics of emission-control laws here, except to observe that you’re either a Marx-quoting, global-warming-duped, vegan one-worlder who wants to crush personal initiative beneath tons of bureaucracy and force everyone to ride an electric bus to their groat rations at the communal kitchen… or you’re an Ayn-quoting, gun-fondling, toxic-waste-spreading wingnut who cackles with glee at the mental image of inner-city children shriveling like salt-soaked slugs beneath tons of lead, oxides of nitrogen, and unburned hydrocarbons. Now that you’ve all chosen sides, imagine that every official in every level of every government in the world waved their magic legislative pens and put the kibosh on all emissions-related regulations concerning motor vehicles. Would you go clean, dirty, or in-between with your next vehicle purchase? (Read More…)
The 100 grams/km CO2 output figure is an important one for motorists in the UK. Cars that can hit this magic number are exempt from London’s daily $16 Congestion Charge, which is levied upon motorists attempting to enter London’s downtown core. But new rules may leave drivers liable for the daily fee, as lawmakers seek to change the exemption threshold to 75 grams/km.
When government, media and industry agree that a trend exists, it’s generally taken as fait accompli. After all, these three institutions wield immense cultural power, and together they are more than capable of making any prophecy self-fulfilling. But there’s always a stumbling block: acceptance by the everyday folk who actually make up our society. And when a trend is taken for granted, the ensuing rush to be seen as being in touch with said trend often generates more heat than light. Such is the case with the trend towards “green cars.” Few would deny that they are “the future,” but at the same time, there’s been precious little examination of how this future is to be realized. And when such examination does take place, it tends to raise more questions than it answers.
I’ve had more Honda Civics than any other type of car (at least one example of each of the first five Civic generations), at one point owning two ’85 hatches and a CRX at the same time. The mid-80s CVCC cars were great to drive and very reliable (provided you didn’t overheat the engine— ever), but when California tightened up smog-check requirements in the early 2000s it became impossible to keep one registered. Why? This. (Read More…)
Last May, the Nissan Leaf was the hottest thing on the green radar. Limited production and a long waiting list for the press meant that Nissan was lending out Leafs (Nissan tells us that is the correct way to pluralize a Leaf) 62-hours at a time. With my long commute and lengthy 120V charging times, this meant a review with only 217 miles under our belt (read our three-part review here: 1 2 3). Now that a few thousand Leafs have found homes in Northern California and I had practiced my “range anxiety” breathing techniques, I was eager to see if the ultimate green ride was also a decent car beyond the batteries.
As the industry (or at least parts of it) and the federal government face off over forthcoming 2017-2025 CAFE/emissions standards, a Center for Automotive Research study is getting more play than ever from an industry that seeks to portray the high cost of fuel economy improvements as being not worth the additional costs to consumers. CAR has yet to publish its full study, but it’s clearly intended to counter an offensive from groups like the Consumer Federation of America, which uses its own study to show that CAFE regulation will actually save consumers money. This battle, over the cost to industry and consumers of passing a 62 MPG standard for 2025, has been playing out for months now, and will continue to go back and forth over the rest of this summer. And sure enough, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Resources Defense Council have both hit back against the CAR study, calling it “industry-advocate propaganda” in the Detroit News and arguing that it underestimates future reductions in technology costs.
When we think of China, we think of massive pollution and CO2-belching cars. Get with the program. China moves ahead at warp speed, and so do emission standards. The China 4 emission standards will become mandatory for all cars sold across China from July 1st, says China Car Times. The Chinese 4 emission standard is pretty much the same as the strict Euro 4 standard (with Chinese characteristics and a separate certification regimen.) (Read More…)
Don’t worry my fellow Americans, your supercharged Elises and Exiges are safe. In Europe, however, the introduction of the new 1.6 liter Elise means the old 1.8 supercharged cars are on their way out, victims of the new Euro 5 standard.
The Detroit Free Press reports that a recent filing by the California Air Resources Board [Full filing in PDF format here] threatens that a rapid ramp-up to the proposed 35.5 mpg 2016 standard and a reduction in zero-emission vehicle credits are necessary “to ensure California’s continued support.” CARB spokesman Stanley Young explains that “what we wanted to do is convey the level of importance for these two issues,” and that it’s “too early” to say whether California will withdraw from its compromise with the Obama administration. Still, the threat of a California withdrawal should be enough to get some attention in Washington, as Obama adviser David Axelrod has called the emissions compromise one of the administration’s top accomplishments of 2009.
Point three of Barack Obama’s ethics pledge to the American people is that “no political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.” Obviously that’s a high standard, and one that seems increasingly important as the lines between government and industry are blurred by rampant bailouts. And clearly not everyone makes the cut. But as Obama assembles a team to “restructure” the auto industry, the spirit (if not the letter) of his ban on revolving door hiring seems to be falling by the wayside.
According to the Detroit News, the leading candidate for Obama’s “Car Czar” position is a certain Mr Steven Girsky, who the DetN describes as a “longtime auto industry analyst.” Having advised Centerbridge Industrial Partners and JP Morgan on auto issues, Girsky is more than simply an analyst. Automotive News [sub] reported in October of 2008 that Girsky was hired by the United Auto Workers to advise on the proposed Chrysler-GM merger and as AN dryly put it “he may also advise the UAW on a possible federal bailout of the U.S. automakers.” Girsky was also a consultant to GM’s CEO and CFO for just under a year, leaving the firm in 2006. As of October 2008, he also served on the board of Dana Corp, a massive auto supplier firm.
Does Girsky’s experience make him incapable of living up to Obama’s high moral standards? Technically, no. Like Tom Daschle before him, Girsky is clearly a lobbyist, though he’s not registered as one (the de facto bright line rule for Obama). But having been paid by the UAW within months to advise them on bailout strategy, he’s also clearly not going to live up to the “no work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years” standard. And if he is appointed as Car Czar, it’s safe to say that he will be guiding regulations and money disbursements that are “substantially related” to the work he has been doing for the UAW.
But as with so many political decisions, the choice of a Car Czar will likely be decided on the lesser of two evils. After all, Girsky may be steeped in the cozy relationships between GM management, the UAW and the government, but at least he has industry experience. Steven Rattner of Quadrangle Group has also been named as a possible czar, but as Newsweek reports, his main qualifications appears to be as a Democratic fundraiser (he is married to the National Finance Chairwoman of the DNC) and media-elite insider. Sure he covered energy and economy beats at the NY Times back in the day, but there’s little to indicate that he would make an especially good Car Czar.
Meanwhile, for all of Girsky’s industry connections, some of his ideas are decidedly TTAC-ish. Like when he got AN Executive Editor Edward Lapham‘s collar up by suggesting [sub] that the Detroit Three might need to cut as many as 70 percent of its dealerships. He even seems to cause some consternation among his UAW employers, based on this post at Salon. And that might just indicate the kind of experience and perspective that Obama’s team clearly needs. After all, his Climate and Energy Czar Carol Browner told Automotive News [sub] at the DC Auto Show that there are “lots of clean cars out there and options for the consumer.” You know, because the OEMs say so.
Meanwhile, it seems that nothing will stop or slow the rolling tide of money that is about to slosh into the automotive industry. $2b worth of battery research money is said to be going into the forthcoming stimulus package, and the Senate just approved an amendment to the stimulus bill which would make auto loan interest and state sales taxes deductable from federal taxes. Whether Girsky or Rattner is appointed as Car Czar won’t likely make much of a difference in terms of the amount of money that will be funneled into the industry over the following years. The crucial distinction is whether experience is worth the possibility of a conflict of interest.
Obama’s strict ethical standards are admirable, but if his options for Car Czar are between an industry insider who defines the term “revolving door” and a candidate who is being considered solely due to his political connections, something has clearly gone wrong. I’m not sure this kind of compromise is what people had in mind when they voted for “change we can believe in.” But in this familiarly frustrating choice, at least Girsky has a record of taking stands on crucial issues facing the industry. If he can publicly explain his recent UAW dealings in a way that passes Obama’s muster, Girsky may actually be the least of the available evils.