Detroit — Reuters reports that Mazda is raising $1.1 billion in a share sale to invest in the development of green alternatives like hybrids because the company “has been seen as a laggard in next-generation car technologies” and because hybrids “are popular in the United States.”
But in the age of green reporting, every story must be read with skepticism. Reuters’ echo of activists claims that consumers demand green cars is demonstrably false as hybrid sales as a percentage of the U.S. market have dropped from 3 percent to less than 2 percent of the market since 2007.
In fact, Mazda is investing in hybrids because government gives them little choice.
By 2016, automakers like Mazda must increase their fuel economy by 40 percent, a goal unachievable unless alternate technologies like diesel or electric motors (the more consumer-accepted technology in the U.S. and Japan) are employed.
In the past, automakers had the choice (which some frequently exercised) of paying fines for violating CAFE targets rather than making cars their customers didn’t want. But now that mileage standards are written by the EPA — not NHTSA — and come under jurisdiction of the Clean Air Act, compliance is mandatory. That is, failure to comply means prosecution by the feds.
In a Washington run by green ideologues, auto manufacturers are between a rock and a hard place: Make expensive hybrid cars consumers don’t want (which is why the feds are goosing tax credits up to $7,500 to entice buyers) or risk punishment by the courts.