Detroit — In early 2008, when the Bush administration — or “Obama Lite” — first proposed increasing fuel-economy mandates by 40 percent to 35.5 mpg by 2020, carmakers protested loudly. At the Detroit Auto Show, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told reporters the standard would cost $4,000 to $10,000 per vehicle, or an average of $6,000.
“This is going to be a net average of cost of $6,000 per vehicle which will have to be passed onto the consumer,” he said.
Yet when the Obama administration claimed this week that its new rules accelerating the 35.5 mpg to 2016 would only cost $1,300 per vehicle, automakers were notably silent. Asked which figure was correct — $6,000 or $1,300 — GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company had no position, saying only that “a lot has changed at our company in the last two years.”
Yes it has.
But the science of auto engineering has not. As a general rule, technology advances internal combustion engine efficiency by 1.5 percent a year. The Obama administration is demanding mpg increases of five percent a year to meet its utopian goals. That means companies will have to resort to more expensive, alternative technologies.
“Car companies have an extensive menu of options to meet the aggressive targets,” writes Car & Driver, “but each has a high price tag. Diesel engines . . . mean thousands of dollars in extra costs. Hybrid technology works, but economy increases are closer to 30 percent (not the 40 percent needed). . . . The systems cost $4,000 to $10,000, depending on the size of the vehicle. GM won’t even talk about the cost of (the plug-in hybrid) Volt, but industry sources quote a $10,000 premium per vehicle — and that’s for a small car.”
“All of this means,” continues the respected auto monthly, “that the anticipated $1,300 price increase per vehicle quoted by the Obama administration is absurd.”
Absurd. Which is what General Motors used to say before it became Government Motors.