Skip to content
Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > GM Keeps Fuel Efficiency in the Dark Ages

General Motors should be renamed General Wasteful Motors for its decades of destructive resistance to improved fuel efficiency for your motor vehicles.

Never mind that you deserve, after all these years of industry stagnation (the last upgrade in fuel efficiency was 1985), more miles for your gasoline dollars. Never mind that our country is more reliant on imported oil (over 50%) than ever before. Never mind that as taxpayers you are being charged billions of dollars yearly for our armed forces safeguarding the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. And never mind that you are breathing more polluted air from vehicle emissions which are also contributing to global warming.

Giant GM, run by myopic executives, just won’t let its engineers and scientists diminish the gas guzzling nature of its infernal, internal combustion engines.

The last legislated standard on fuel economy was in 1975 which declared a phase-in by 1985 of average automobile economy to 27.5 mpg and light trucks to about 20 mpg. Today, average fuel economy overall has been dropping and now comes in at about 24 mpg — the lowest since 1980!

It is reliably reported that General Motors is putting very heavy pressures on its suppliers to lobby Congress against long overdue stirrings by some Democrats and Republicans — most notably Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) — for higher, mandated fuel efficiencies.

GM is most upset with Senator John Kerry’s proposal to boost fuel economy by 50% over the next 12 years.
Imagine, after assuring decades ofdelay both before 1975 and after 1985, garnished by futile futuristic promises of new engines and new fuel advances from its exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York to its contemporary propaganda, GM thinks going to 37 mpg by 2014 is not possible. Some automobiles in the Nineteen Thirties achieved that level. The U.S. Department of Transportation in the mid-70s said that over 40 mpg average fleet levels could be yours by the year 2000. A few years later, a detailed article in Scientific American showed how the average could be in the 80 mpg zone by then. And, of course, Toyota and Honda are already selling thousands of hybrids that average over 50 mpg already.

Talk fuel efficiency and you’re sure to evoke from GM its sudden touching concern with auto safety, as if you cannot have both. Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety (tel – 202-328-7700) and other engineers have pointed out ad nauseum the corporate fallacy of having either a gasoline efficient less safe car or a safer car that is less efficient.

The stubborn, dug-in-heels of General Motors and its allies have become an ever greater national security, public health and environmental problem. One would think that GM would decide to be a little patriotic and think of our nation’s interest for a change.

The attitude of “NYET” is too much even for the leading industry trade journal — Automotive News — whose journalistic integrity under the ownership of the Crain family — evoked the following editorial comment:

“It was a throwback to a darker era. On a Senate witness stand two weeks ago, Greg Dana of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers went mute when asked whether a 1-mpg increase in corporate average fuel economy standards during the next decade would be feasible.

“His questioner, Sen. John Kerry, responded ‘Don’t you think that renders you sort of silly?’

“Indeed, it made the alliance look silly.

“Let’s get real. It’s time for automakers to deal forthrightly with fuel economy issues. . . . To deny — or refuse to admit — that there is technology that can reduce fuel consumption significantly is ludicrous. The industry’s credibility is at stake.”

Then Automotive News really turned the screw, noting that the $1.5 billion tax dollars that Clinton poured into an engine research partnership with GM, Ford and Chrysler, as an alternative to raising fuel efficiency standards, was used by the Big 3 as a “cover to improve horsepower, not fuel economy.”

It is also time for you the motorist to become more demanding of engines and fuel that are more efficient and cleaner. Detroit knows how to do it and has for many years, but once again profits come before patriotism.