The National Automobile Dealers Association is trying to put a major bump in the road for Americans drivers. The lobbying group for car dealers wants to block new fuel efficiency standards that will save drivers $80 billion a year at the pump and give us more choices for the efficient cars consumers have been demanding.
Why are they standing in the way of what their customers want? Politics. Members of the NADA say the clean car standards are a sign of "over regulation."
But the companies being regulated here -- the automakers -- aren't complaining. They reached an agreement with the Obama administration over the clean car standards, and they have already put their engineers to work building cleaner, better performing cars. Ford and Toyota, for instance, just announced a partnership to bring hybrid gas-electric systems for pickups and sport utility vehicles to market faster.
Automakers welcome the market certainty that comes from having a national standard instead of a patchwork of states setting their own individual standards, which 14 states had already done.
They also know their consumers want more efficient cars. Sales data from the first half of this year compared to last year show that sales of hybrid and high-mpg clean diesels were also up about 19 percent; small cars up 17 percent; and very small cars up a whopping 24 percent.
Providing these cleaner cars has been a key part in the industry's recovery. In an article called, "Detroit's Rebound Is Built on Smaller Cars," the New York Times reported: "By refocusing on small cars and de-emphasizing the gas-guzzlers that had long sustained the industry, General Motors and Ford in particular are preserving jobs and positioning themselves to prosper."
Indeed, more than 150,000 Americans currently have jobs assembling clean cars -- hybrids, electric cars, and other advanced vehicles that weren't available 10 years ago. They work at facilities in 43 states, according to a report published by NRDC, the United Auto Workers, and the National Wildlife Federation.
The dealers in NADA, meanwhile, are working against this growth in the clean car market.
They claim the new standards will hurt business because they could increase costs by $2,000 to $3000 per car. But drivers aren't scared off.
A poll conducted by the Mellman Group found that 83 percent of respondents supported clean car standards even if they added $3,000 to the price of a new car. They know they will recoup the initial investment, typically within just four years. In fact, drivers would see a net savings of more than $7,500 over the life of their vehicles when gas prices average $3.50.
NADA isn't doing drivers any favors by trying to take these savings away. In a world of volatile oil prices, consumers know efficient cars can insulate them from the worst spikes. NADA isn't doing carmakers any favors either. Delaying or sidelining national standards could havoc for manufacturers and make it harder for them to plan future lineups. And NADA sure isn't looking out for America's long-term interests. Clean car standards would reduce our oil use by 1.5 million barrels per day by 2030 and cut new automobile carbon emissions in half.
The primary beneficiary of NADA's efforts to block progress seems to be Tea Party leaders who complain about federal regulations. But that puts politics above real progress for the American people. These clean car standards will save drivers money, put people back to work, make our car companies leaders in innovation, and help us build a more secure energy future. That's not ideology. That's just the truth.
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.