Health care: Perhaps the single greatest threat to the automakers' finances, health care adds $900 to $1,400 to the cost of every vehicle GM, Ford and Chrysler make. [...]Automakers are not opposed to unreasonable increases in fuel economy according to the DetNews, but "the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage mass transit or increase conservation. Drivers have responded to each improvement in fuel economy by driving bigger cars and trucks and driving them farther than ever before."
Trade and currency: A chronic complaint of the domestic automakers -- the unfair advantage of a weak Japanese yen -- has grown in Detroit's executive suites as Toyota, Honda and Nissan rack up impressive profits.
Energy: [...] The Detroit automakers pledged earlier this year to double the number of vehicles they build annually that can run on 85% ethanol fuel, and have pushed for more incentives to spread E85 fueling stations.
I'm hopeful something good will come out of this meeting with respect to health care, trade and currency issues, but I'm less optimistic about energy and the environment. CAFE standards are just one piece of the puzzle. As Eric Baerren says:
To the extent that environmental laws have been ignored or treated -- in the least -- as an annoyance or -- at most -- as an obstacle the last six years, some of the real damage has gone on behind the scenes ... appointments of industry hacks to watchdog positions, lax enforcement of laws on the books, politicizing science..., ruining our national parks, and just plain not wanting to spend the money.And consumers haven't helped the problem either. We're a fickle bunch, as the results of those CAFE standards show. Increase the fuel economy and we drive more or buy bigger vehicles. Government, business and consumers all have to be on the same page if we truly want to clean up the environment and reduce our dependency on oil.
Consumers are finding more environmentally friendly choices in the marketplace though. Black Bear Speaks has a post about this cool car:
American Electric Vehicle Company in Ferndale, Michigan, will soon begin selling an all-electric car dubbed the "Kurrent" for $9,800 (with a $3,000 federal tax rebate). The car costs about 1-cent per mile to drive, compared to 14- to 16-cents per mile for an SUV.And the DetNews recently reported the following:
General Motors Corp. is likely to unveil a prototype plug-in hybrid at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as part of its company-wide focus on "electrifying" the car, GM officials said Thursday.Of course, there are other vehicles out there, but I think we should all consider this sage advice:
The advanced technology vehicle would have an extended driving range on battery power alone and would also have a diesel or gasoline engine that could power the car when the battery was low.
Signing off on Thursday night's cable show, satirist Stephen Colbert read from a sheet of paper, as if to make a public-service announcement for someone who left his or her headlights on: "If anyone here is driving a black Ford Explorer ... thank you for buying American."Hmm... Colbert advocates buying American and Consumer Reports touts, "The quality of [American] cars has improved dramatically." I have to admit I didn't need convincing though. My husband and I have always bought American-made vehicles. We believe in supporting the industries that helped build this country.
Besides, as General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz recently said: Foreign automakers that build cars in the United States help the economy, "but it's not the same as a fully integrated American auto company that retains the intellectual property in the United States, has primarily American shareholders... so the wealth gets reinvested in the U.S."
That additional wealth could go a long way toward developing alternative fuel vehicles here in this country.