By on February 3, 2009

North Dakota’s House of Representatives has voted down a measure which would have exempted the sale or lease of a Detroit-branded vehicle from the state’s five percent excise sales tax. The Chicago Tribune reports that the measure, which would have cost the state $25.9m, was defeated by a convincing 64-29 vote. “If we do anything as far as tax exemptions, we should have a greater good in mind,” says Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby. “The passage of this bill . . . we don’t expect anything from (the Detroit auto companies), except that they’re going to sell more of the same old, same old. . . . Every technology in the world has grown, doubled or tripled or quadrupled, in the last 20 years, but the pickup I drive gets the same mileage as one 30 years ago,” he said. “Things like that . . . they haven’t progressed, and that is the reason that U.S. auto makers are in . . . the shape they’re in.”

Proving that Detroit doesn’t have a monopoly on poor decision making skills and regressive tendencies, Nelson went on to argue that the Detroit-only tax break should be used to encourage purchases of hybrids or “flex-fuel” vehicles. A flex-fuel tax break, notes Nelson, would help to promote North Dakota’s ethanol industry. Ironically, Detroit firms have a near-monopoly on flex-fuel vehicles, a strategy that many argue has distracted them from achieving the very efficiency gains Nelson longs for. Other lawmakers cited the struggles of import-brand car dealers, the foreign production of many Detroit-brand vehicles and general fiscal responsibility in opposing the measure.

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13 Comments on “North Dakota Defeats Detroit-Only Tax Break...”


  • avatar
    tced2

    And never mind the fact that for example the Toyota Tundra pickup gets similar mileage as the Ford, Chevy, or Dodge pickup. So the “foreign” brands don’t know how to do it better than Detroit. It’s unrealistic to say pickups got 20 mpg in 1970 and should get 100 mpg in 2009. There’s something called basic science which limits what can be done. A gallon of gasoline contains the same amount of energy in 1970 as it does in 2009. That can’t be changed. By the way, the 2009 pickup pollutes much, much less than the 1970 model.

  • avatar
    BDB

    “And never mind the fact that for example the Toyota Tundra pickup gets similar mileage as the Ford, Chevy, or Dodge pickup. So the “foreign” brands don’t know how to do it better than Detroit.”

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who realizes that yes, the Japanese make gas-guzzling polluters as well!

    Everyone thinks of the Prius and forgets all those Sequoias and Land Cruisers.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Whoever sponsored this legislation was simply posturing for reelection. This kind of thing is blatantly unconstitutional.

    US Constitution, Article I, Section 10.

    . . . No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress. . .

  • avatar
    tced2

    I forgot to mention that “flex-fuel” vehicles will get even worse mileage. Once again, its the basic science. Flex-fuel (containing ethanol) have less energy in them compared to gasoline. So a vehicle using flex-fuel will have to burn more of it to get the same amount of work done.

    @BDB
    I wouldn’t call the pickups gas guzzling polluters. They actually pollute very, very little (especially compared to the 30 year ago standard that the North Dakota legislator used). Those pickups do the best the technology can deliver. You notice there are no hybrid pickups? The closest we can get to those are the GM Escalade Hybrid and similar. The mileage is better in city cycle but the highway cycle isn’t helped by the hybrid setup. At highway speed, the hybrid equipment just becomes dead weight to haul around. And weight requires more energy (gasoline) to move. But the hybrid setup doesn’t change the mileage from 20 mpg to 100 mpg because it can’t.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    More politicans who know everything (I mean nothing) about the auto industry, yet act like they do.

    Not that I think the tax free idea was good or bad (can it really cost $25 million if nobody is buying a car?), but I sure am sick of politicians being “experts” in the auto industry.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    If today’s powertrains were pushing vehicles that weighed as much as those from 30 years ago mileage would likely be a lot better. Along with all those advances in technology came safety legislation and other goodies which have porked out most vehicles quite a bit.

    …and yes, pretty much all automakers are guilty of this. It’s not isolated to the domestics.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    @ tced2:

    Thanks for raising some good points.

    I’m surprised that no one has thrown out the incredibly abused and inaccurate, “If cars were like computers…” analogy yet.

    The physics behind each of those systems, and how those systems are improved, are so wildly different that it is ludicrous to expect them to develop in a similar fashion.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    When will people realize that more Americans own stock in Honda than own stock in Chrysler?

  • avatar

    The population of the great state of ND is about 600,000, which is a lower population than many cities. The people there tend to buy US-made trucks (as far as I can tell from my many visits) and utilize them in ways requiring maximum truckiness, (off-road, in the fields, hunting trips, through driving snow, loading equipment, etc.) unlike the fathead suburbanites who think they need an F350 to tow their little boat once a year.

    Such a measure would have had pretty much no impact on sales, certainly not from Detroit’s perspective. I’m glad it got shot down since it would have made North Dakotans look like protectionist hillbillies (impossible because there are no hills in ND (well not really, there are some I guess)). Just another case of a small-time state legislator getting in over his/her head and proposing some dumbass stuff.

  • avatar
    50merc

    kazoomaloo: “Just another case of a small-time state legislator getting in over his/her head and proposing some dumbass stuff.”

    You’re right, except it has nothing to do with the size of the state. They all do silly things. For years I worked around politicians, and I got to saying “The more you know ’em, the less you like ’em.”

  • avatar
    TEW

    I have family that farms in Kansas and they would be out of work without their big trucks. They pull cattle, drive in the fields, and haul grains in the bed. They are the kind of people who need a large pickup truck the rest of us should not even get one if we are concerned about pollution. As for the gas mileage not improving in 30 years, the payload has been the one improving. They can take cattle further in their truck so instead of having an 18 wheeler they just use a 3500. That is a lot greener.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “Just another case of a small-time state legislator getting in over his/her head and proposing some dumbass stuff.”

    Speaking of which, some dufus in the Washington leg. has introduced SB 6900, which adds an “engine displacement and CO2 emissions” fee to the vehicle license tabs upon renewal.

    The fee has a varied amount depending on the size of the vehicle’s engine:

    Engine Size (liters) Rate Schedule

    Up to 1.9 $0
    2.0 – 2.9 $70
    3.0 – 3.9 $225
    4.0 – 4.9 $275
    5.0 – 5.9 $325
    6.0 – 7.9 $400
    8.0 or over $600
    ____________________

    Talk about kicking our state’s taxpayers and the economy in the ass, in the name of reducing carbon dioxide emissions… This steaming pile is the stupidest piece of legislation I’ve heard of in a long time.

    Carbon dioxide is the main product of combustion. You can decrease its emissions only by decreasing economic output, or by ceasing to exhale.

  • avatar
    MMH

    So if they make a good decision (vote down protectionist tax breaks), but don’t say all the right stuff about making it (poorly thought-out analogy), does that make it a bad decision? When politicos and execs are quoted here as saying the ‘right thngs,’ they’re pretty regularly – and rightly so in most cases – lambasted for doublespeak. Maybe the ND rep felt like he needed to greenwash the vote. Lots of griping for the sake of griping, methinks.

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