by Adam Lee
My name is Adam Lee and I am president of Lee Automalls located throughout the state of Maine. I am a 3rd generation car dealer; I have been in this business my whole life.
I want to thank the EPA for allowing me to speak today.
Our company was founded in 1936 by my grandfather, with a small Chrysler dealership. Today we have two Chrysler dealerships, a GM dealership and a Honda, Nissan and Toyota Dealership.
We are the number one seller of Hybrid cars in the state of Maine for three years in a row. We are also the largest Jeep dealer in the state. We currently sell approximately 7,000 new and used cars a year.
I am very supportive of the California regulations before you today, but I also have some reservations. I have reservations supporting a law that I believe some of the manufacturers may not be able to comply with. They are after all my partners in business. I want them to succeed in business.
I would like to talk about why I support this bill.
I remember as a child thinking it was funny when people started wearing seat belts. But as time went on we just accepted the fact that you had to wear them.
The government forced the manufacturers to put seatbelts in cars; my parents forced us to wear them.
Somewhere along the way airbags and anti-lock brakes started appearing. Many of the manufacturers said that there was no way that they could afford to put air bags in their cars. Then it became mandated that all cars have some form of passive restraint. And suddenly all cars came with airbags. I stress mandated.
Most of the manufacturers said the same thing of anti-lock brakes. They could not afford to put them in their cars. But as time went on they realized that people really did want them and would pay more money for them.
We now have Vehicle skid control, side air bags, adaptive cruise control shuts off when it senses you are coming close to the car in front of you, and the list goes on. No one questions any of these technological advances. They are in the name of safety, and safety saves lives, and saving lives is hard to argue with.
However, almost every single one of these safety devices was shot down at one time or another by almost every automobile manufacturer. 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. At one time one of the larger American car companies had it costing many thousands dollars to put an air bag in a car, it doesn’t.
I am belaboring this point, because 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 gas, really is not better for us.
They have a bad track record and it has damaged their credibility.
By the way, leaded Gasoline which had been used for over 60 years was outlawed in 1986. A study by the EPA from 1985 estimated that as many as 5,000 people died every year from lead related heart disease.
Cleaner cars will not prevent car accidents. Cleaner cars will not save your life if you get into a front end collision. And a cleaner car will not make your car handle better in the snow.
Cleaner cars will in fact reduce global warming, saving lives and improve the quality of life throughout our country.
As the largest hybrid dealer in the state, we sell cars all year long that get between 45 and 60 miles per gallon and pollute very little. They are more expensive than non-hybrids, but as gasoline hits $3.00 per gallon they are becoming more economical. The demand is still strong as can be. Cleaner cars are a reality.
Last month Hybrid sales in this country were up over 30% and total vehicle sales were down almost 8%.
In the end I believe the issue comes down to this: will Americans pay for cleaner, more fuel efficient cars? The answer is yes, they will.
I have been selling Prius’ since they came out 6 years ago. And since that time every Toyota dealer has been selling them for list price and making a very nice profit on them. Until recently no one even asked for a discount. Demand was so strong that people stopped negotiating. This is a car dealers dream. A car people want so badly they don’t negotiate.
In 2004 when the Dodge Ram Pick-up truck came out with a Hemi engine people where lining up to buy them. Then when gas hit $2.00 per gallon sales started to slow down. Today sales are half of what they were two years ago. Cars that get poor fuel economy and pollute more, are not selling very well.
Chrysler, to their credit started equipping the Hemi with Multi Displacement System, which takes the vehicle from a big v-8 to a modest 4 cylinder while traveling at highway speeds. This reduces gas consumption by 20%. This is a good example of a simple technology that will give you a cleaner car.
Right now rebates on large cars, trucks and suvs have never been higher.
The Ford Superduty has rebates up to $4,000.
The Ram truck has rebates up to $5,000.
The Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon have rebates up to $6,000.
The Hummer has rebates up to $6,500.
The Cadillac STS has rebates up to $8,000.
Even Toyota, who seems to do no wrong, has rebates on the all new Tundra.
These cars, that Detroit bet their future on and my future, are not selling.
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.
I need to pose this question to the committee: How is it that some car manufacturers can produce great Hybrids and traditional cleaner cars that people are lining up to buy, and most of the other manufacturers have not even gotten one on the road yet?
I believe it is a lack of effort on their part. GM, Ford and Chrysler really do have the ability to make cleaner more efficient cars. There are a host of new technologies out there:
Clean Diesel Hybrids
Clean Diesel Plug-in Hybrids
And a host of technologies that no one has thought of yet.
I think the auto industry needs to try a little harder and I don’t think they will try any harder until enough states force them to.
All of you on this committee can help pave the way for the people in Maine and the rest of the country to be able buy and drive cleaner cars and trucks, much the way you all buckled your seat belts when you got in your car to come to work this morning.