Blunt-Talking GM CEO Akerson Calls For Higher Gas Taxes

June 7, 2011

When GM CEO Dan Akerson told the Detroit News last week that the federal gas tax on vehicles should be raised as much as $1 per gallon to encourage consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, it was not just what he said but how he said it that made news.

It’s been a while since the auto industry had such a candid CEO. Akerson is more of a tell-it-like-I-see-it kind of guy in the same way Bill Lutz, former GM product czar was, as well as former Chrysler honcho Lee Iacocca.

 “You know what I’d rather have them [the federal government] do – this will make my Republican friends puke – as gas is going to go down here now, we ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas,” Akerson told the Detroit News.

To be fair, Akerson isn’t the only automotive leader calling for higher gas taxes. Ford CEO Alan Mulally has also called for it and Ford Chairman (and previous CEO) Bill Ford, Jr. has advocated an increase in the gas tax in the past. Even at GM, former CEO Rick Wagoner said in 2009 that a higher gasoline tax was “worthy of consideration.”

At issue are the proposals to raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulations to as much as 62 mpg by 2025.

Families will be hit, one way or another

What is clear to FamilyCarGuide is that families will be hit in the wallet no matter which way things go.

Let’s face it. Not every family can make do with a compact car as a primary family vehicle. Small cars are more fuel-efficient than mid-size or large family sedans, minivans, mid-size to full-size crossovers and SUVs, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution for many families.

Raising the CAFE regulation to 62 mpg could increase the cost of vehicles by up to $3,500.

Slapping on another 50 cents or $1 per gallon of gas will also hurt – and it’s the kind of continuing pain that families will not likely see the end of.

Some might say that Americans need strong medicine (in the form of higher gasoline taxes) in order to wean ourselves off of gas-guzzling big SUVs and pickups. But there are all kinds of reasons why people buy trucks and larger SUVs – and they don’t all have to do with image. If you’ve got a business and you need to haul stuff, or a larger family and it isn’t possible to cram them all into a small car, what are you supposed to do? Taking several cars to transport everyone isn’t smart. That eats up more gas than a single larger vehicle.

Sure, it’s not an easy dilemma to solve. Complicated matters such as this never are. Arguments that automakers can devise ways to meet a 62 mpg standard if their backs are up against the wall notwithstanding – who’s going to pay for all that?

You guessed it. We all are.

What’s your take? Let us know in the comments section below.

For other views on this topic, see John Voelcker’s story in GreenCarReports and Kurt Ernst’s in TheCarConnection.

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[Detroit News]

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