Toyota is a good company. Their engineers in Japan got their company out front on hybrid technology with the original Prius, and some really forward-thinking Americans like the late David Hermance made sure that their technology would actually take hold in America with the Gen. 2 Prius redesign. They scored impressively in our last Automaker Rankings, scoring a close second to Honda – and impressive feat for a full-line manufacturer.
Those are the wonderful things that can happen when engineers are given a mandate to use technologies to make our cars cleaner and more efficient. It’s why we asked them to channel their considerable hybrid talents into more fuel efficient model for American drivers, such as a hybrid minivan like they already have in Japan.
Unfortunately, that can do spirit that has guided Toyota to become the world’s largest automaker seems to stop at the foot of Capitol Hill. As I noted in the last Driving Change Network newsletter, Toyota has decided to take its lobbying marching orders from the Detroit-led Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and campaign against the Senate-passed provision in the Energy Bill that would bring fleet-wide fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
This provision was a hard-fought, bipartisan compromise, and quite doable without compromising safety and performance according to the National Academy of Sciences.
We pointed out these facts to our activists, and they poured over 18,000 messages into Toyota USA President Shigeru Hayakawa this week telling him that Toyota can’t be an environmental leader and campaign against the first meaningful increase in fuel economy standards in 30 years.
I was excited when I actually got a response from Toyota that wasn’t just a “thank you for your message” but an actual response to my letter. Unfortunately, that response seems more of a reflex action than a reconsidering of a wrongly-held position.
First, they try and lean back on their engineers, who have, according to their message, told corporate executives that “the technology to meet such stringent standards by 2020 does not exist.” As we showed with our UCS Guardian cleaner SUV blueprint, the technologies to do this have existed for some time. Indeed, Toyota is already working to comply with Japanese fuel economy standards that will hit roughly 46 mpg by 2010. As much as I respect Nissan’s engineers, I don’t think they’re any better than the engineering minds at Toyota – and Nissan says it can meet the 35 mpg Senate standard.
Next, it’s onto the main spin. Given the Auto Alliance failed in their first tactic—to completely submarine any CAFE improvements in the Senate—they’ve instead attempted to bring a weak substitute in the House with H.R. 2927. This is only a “compromise” in the sense that it would compromise any efforts to genuinely address U.S. oil dependence in the transportation sector. This fact sheet clearly shows the Senate position as an imperfect, but substantial gain, while H.R. 2927 is nothing more than a token gesture.
When I received Toyota’s response, which told me that their efforts against stronger fuel economy standards were an “inaccurate assertion,” I quickly rattled off a response letting them know that it is their response that was inaccurate, not to mention highly disappointing. For those who received Toyota’s letter, or even those who didn’t, I would recommend you do the same. And while you’re at it, send a little note to those actually making this decision, your Representative, and let them know how you feel.
Posted by: ScottN