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Automakers told to focus on fuel efficiency

November 17, 2010

Producing more fuel-efficient vehicles would stanch the declining market shares of domestic automakers, NADA Chairman Dale Willey told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit this month. 

Responsible laws—specifically, proposed changes to CAFE standards—also are essential to help all dealers turn market challenges into opportunities, Willey said.


"Loss of market share and higher gas prices create an opportunity for the auto industry to reinvent itself. Those higher prices create an opportunity to design and sell more fuel-efficient vehicles," said Willey, whose Kansas Pontiac, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealership has long counted Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally’sfamily among his customers. 

The industry already has undergone tremendous change, he said, with GM and the UAW on the verge of getting an industry-changing labor agreement ratified,Mulally joining Ford from Boeing and Cerberus Capital Management buying Chrysler LLC. Cerberus then hired longtime Toyota executive Jim Press to help former Home Depot chief Bob Nardelli run Chrysler.


The industry’s problems today are not as severe as the difficulties it has overcome in the past, Willey said. 

Willey cited a 37 percent increase this year in U.S. sales of hybrid vehicles. The NADA supports a House bill (Hill-Terry) that would raise combined corporate average fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks to 32 to 35 mpg by 2022.


That proposal, Willey said, is "the only bill that calls for responsible CAFE reform." A competing Senate bill would increase CAFE standards to a minimum 35 mpg average by 2020. Willey said the Senate bill "would pose a significant threat to vehicle choice, safety and affordability."