Car dealer blasts automakers at EPA hearing
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. — An auto dealer blasted domestic car makers today at a federal government hearing on emission standards.
The day-long meeting is underway to address California’s request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act so it can adopt stringent tailpipe emission standards.
Adam Lee, president of Lee Automalls in Maine, which includes two Chrysler dealerships as well as General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota dealerships, launched into a forceful denunciation of the domestic auto industry and its opposition to safety and environmental advances over the past three decades.
“These cars, that Detroit bet their future on and my future, are not selling,” Lee said, referring to light trucks that have seen slower sales amid rising gas prices.
“They need a not-so-gentle nudge in the right direction of producing cleaner cars. I am afraid that if they don’t pick up the pace not only will global warming continue to get much worse, I will be stuck with a lot full of cars that no one will buy; or even worse: This country will no longer have a domestic car industry,” Lee said.
California wants the Environmental Protection Agency to let it impose the strictest tailpipe emissions controls in the country, reducing carbon dioxide by 30 percent by 2016. The increases — which
would begin with the 2009 model year — would require automakers to average 40 miles per gallon or more. Eleven states — including Maine — have adopted California’s regulations, but they are on hold pending the outcome of auto industry legal challenges.
California has vowed to sue if EPA doesn’t approve the waiver by Oct. 24.
Alluding to comments by auto companies that stricter standards would drastically hike the price of new cars, Lee noted the auto industry’s one-time opposition to mandatory seat belts, front air bags and anti-lock brakes.
“Almost every single one of these safety devices was shot down at one time or another by almost every automobile manufacturer,” Lee said. “They all claimed that they were too expensive and they would quote absurd figures as to what it would cost to put an air bag in a car.”
Lee said automakers have “damaged their credibility” by opposing many advances.
“The American automobile manufacturers have a long history of pleading financial ruin, or that their competition has an unfair advantage, or of trying to prove that some technology like catalytic
converters and unleaded gasoline, really is not better for us,” Lee said. “Cleaner cars will in fact reduce global warming, saving lives and improve the quality of life throughout our country.”
Afterward, Lee told reporters: “I’m just a car dealer from Maine and I doubt anyone will listen to me.”
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — a trade group representing GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota among others — noted that automakers support raising fuel economy requirements to the maximum feasible level and have spent billions to improve fuel economy through advanced technologies.