[Ed. – How go things over at Slate? We check in. I do love that “stunning lack of gratitude.” The TAXPAYERS actually want SUVs — if we’re going to get all sanctimonious about speaking in their name here.]
While GM, Ford, and Chrysler do make some sports cars—cha-ching—the main products that spur their profits are pickup trucks and SUVs, the cars with the lowest mileage. Right now, with gas prices being very cheap and the economy generally chugging along, it’s a great time to sell SUVs and pickups. And carmakers’ profit-maximizing strategy for the next several quarters is to sell more of them. Anything that distracts from that is a problem—and strict efficiency standards are at the top of the list.
There are two things wrong with seeking to undo the Obama-era mileage regulations. First, it evinces a stunning lack of gratitude. While the banks and mortgage lenders the feds bailed out following the financial crisis have all paid back their bailout money with interest, U.S. taxpayers ate $9.4 billion of the bailout costs of GM and Chrysler. Ford, for its part, took a $5.9 billion easy-money loan from the Department of Energy to fund work on batteries and low-emissions technology—and is still paying it back. Now they’re all pushing back against regulations that would make the air we all breathe cleaner, reduce the demand for gasoline, and make it cheaper to operate vehicles—even though taxpayer funds are responsible for the handsome profits they’re all presently enjoying.
But this isn’t just a case of bad manners. For Detroit, it’s a bad long-term strategy.