Obama Will Take Away Your Porsche

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • R H R H on Feb 23, 2010

    Perhaps porsche should give away free a $5k value 100 mpg scooter with purchase? If their cars get 20mpg average, doesn't this make the "purchase" 60mpg ? On a more serious note -- I hope we don't end up with [s]import[/s] pollution taxes like import taxes are in Brazil. 165,000 local currency for a Tribeca, and about 140,000 local currenty for a WRX. I think the STi is 220,000 there... But hey, locally built 1.0L sub 100hp vehicles are normal price at least.

    • Hakata Hakata on Feb 23, 2010

      Those taxes are just thinly veiled protectionism. Hey...

  • Cyclone66 Cyclone66 on Feb 25, 2010

    To all of you who think the Government will not stick to these rules in 2016 for German brands like Porsche and BMW get a Clue! Sorry but these Cafe standards are coming and if the American companies have to meet them wile selling Pick Up trucks (the most popular segment of vehicles in the county) then the German companies will have to meet them as well. Besides the US government can just tell people to buy a Cadillac, Lincoln or Chrysler instead and do something the American economy for a change. Hell that’s a win win situation. You don’t have a repair nightmare on your hands, company meets the Cafe standards, you helped keep a fellow American employed and you finally get to sit down with you analyst and say “ I think I made a great stride in getting rid of the narrow minded selfish behavior in my life”.

  • Canam23 I believe the Chinese are entirely capable of building good cars, BYD has shown that they are very forward thinking and their battery technology is very good, BUT, I won't buy one because I don't believe in close to slave labor conditions, their animosity to the west, the lack of safety conditions for their workers and also the tremendous amount of pollution their factories produce. It's not an equal playing field and when I buy a car I want it made with as little pollution as possible in decent working conditions and paying a livable wage. I find it curious that people are taking swipes at the UAW in this thread because you can clearly see what horrific labor conditions exist in China, no union to protect them. I also don't own an iphone, I prefer my phones made where there aren't nets around to catch possible suicide jumpers. I am currently living in France, Citroen makes their top model in China, but you see very few. BYD has yet to make an impression here and the French government has recently imposed huge tariffs on Chinese autos. Currently the ones I see the most are the new MG's, mostly electric cars that remind me of early Korean cars, but they are progressing. In fact, the French buy very little Chinese goods, they are very protective of their industries.
  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market
  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.