Inflammatory Language Follows House Hearing on Conversions
- When you see a Detroit Free Press story
headlined, "House talk on plug-in cars erupts,"
you know the plug-in coalition is having an
impact. US automakers who are asked to improve
their vehicles by a few MPG over a period of
years always answer, "you're asking too much."
These companies and their legislative defenders
always insist they're protecting US a threatened
industry. They imply that it's the high-MPG
advocate who are betraying autoworkers.
What happens when they hear eloquent statements
about the cars we need? How do they respond to to
the undeniable reality of conversions,which with
all their limitations imply they could build
PHEVs that could more than double the gasoline MPG? "You're killing us."
We think it's the companies that have downsized
repeatedly for years as foreign competitors beat
them -- not only on price but on quality, design
and innovation -- who are too busy fighting fires
to see the future. (Until recently, they've also
been too narrow-minded to support suggestions
about changing health and pension benefit
structures.) If US carmakers are ever to have
the chance to sell their cars to a
carbon-constrained world, they have evolve.
(Increasingly, US cars don't meet China's MPG
requirements!) If you missed it, see our posting
from last Sunday, "Detroit Free Press: New
Technologies Save Some Auto Parts Suppliers,"
which included a listing of high-MPG cars the
Detroit 3's foreign affiliates manage to build in Europe.
Here's the link to the testimony by Frank Gaffney
of Set America Free
cited about PHEVs from China (this is not about
Malcolm Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles, who are also moving ahead):
Mr. Chairman, let me end where I began, with a
threat from the Peoples Republic of China. It
appears that Communist China will shortly be
introducing to the U.S. and other export markets
the Chery a car that could sell for as little
as $10,000. Some believe the Chinese intend to
translate their competitive advantage in battery
technology to offer a plug-in hybrid electric
variant of their vehicle at a price to consumers of $13,000-$15,000.
Read the Detroit News story below and add your
two cents to the lively responses posted at the paper's website.
House talk on plug-in cars erupts
Mich. lawmaker warns of demise of U.S. auto industry
July 13, 2007 BY JUSTIN HYDE FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF
Contact JUSTIN HYDE at 202-906-8204 or jhyde@....
WASHINGTON -- A debate over the survival of
Detroit's automakers broke out during a
congressional hearing Thursday on the future of
plug-in hybrid vehicles, as advocates pressed for
more action and a Detroit defender warned the
industry was on the brink of collapse.
The hearing was a mix of sympathy, castigation
and bluster that has become typical of any debate
about the auto industry on Capitol Hill. While
General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler
are building prototype plug-in hybrid vehicles,
none was invited to the hearing of the House
Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
That is the panel overseen by Rep. Ed Markey, the
Massachusetts Democrat who has proposed a fuel
economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2018
for new vehicles and pledged to add it to the
energy bill the House likely will consider later this month.
Markey said it was a lack of will, rather than
any bugs in new technology, that was keeping plug-in hybrids from U.S. roads.
"Innovations such as the plug-in hybrid should
not have been sitting on the shelf for so long,"
said Markey. "After all, this isn't rocket science; it is auto mechanics."
But Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison
Township, said Markey and supporters of tougher
fuel-economy standards would force higher costs
on Detroit without accounting for the advantages
foreign automakers enjoy, such as government-paid
health care for workers in their countries. She
added that the Senate's recent vote for tougher
fuel-economy standards would bankrupt Chrysler,
whose reliance on trucks poses the toughest
efficiency challenge for Detroit automakers.
"Congress seems to be making a conscious decision
to bankrupt Detroit," Miller said.
Miller said after the hearing that Markey had
enough votes to put his fuel-economy proposal on
the House energy bill, but had declined her
requests to hold a hearing in Detroit on new
technologies or invite auto executives to his panel.
Automakers and the Michigan delegation support a
less-stringent fuel-economy plan in the House,
and have warned that the Senate and Markey bills
threaten thousands of U.S. jobs.
"I told him, 'Why you keep insisting on cramming
higher fuel-economy standards down our throat is
beyond me,' " Miller said. "I think what happened
in the Senate will happen in the House."
Witnesses at the panel -- including actor Rob
Lowe -- urged Congress to back the nascent
plug-in hybrid industry, citing the 150-m.p.g.
efficiency that prototypes can achieve in city
driving because of their use of nightly
recharging and driving up to 40 miles on electricity alone.
The head of A123 Systems, the battery company
working with GM and other automakers, noted his
company had to make its lithium-ion batteries in
China because there was no U.S. alternative. A123
plans to sell plug-in hybrid conversion kits for
$7,000 to $10,000 and has pushed for a tax credit
that would offset some of those costs.
Some testified about the risks of inaction. Frank
Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy
and a former Defense Department official in the
Reagan Administration, warned that Chinese
automaker Chery could build a plug-in hybrid for as little as $12,000.
"I dare say that will be the end of Detroit if
that vehicle is available in large numbers in
America in the near future," he said.
Lowe, who said he had driven a Toyota Prius
converted to a plug-in hybrid by A123, told the
panel that automakers should move toward plug-ins
with the same urgency that the nation geared up for World War II.
"Can't our amazing and powerful Detroit
automotive industry be given the message,
together with effective incentives, to speed up
their conversion to plug-in hybrids?" Lowe asked.
You can also read an update of yesterday's
Detroit News story (which we discussed in a posting at CalCars-News):
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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