Toyota Getting Hammered by Greens

Environmentalists are putting pressure onToyota to switch sides in the ongoing debate over fuel economy.

As a member of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Toyota, which has artfully used the hybrid Prius to polish its green image, has sided with its American rivals — General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler — in opposing tougher fuel-economy standards.


The debate over fuel-economy standards could reach a climax this fall in the U.S. House of Representatives where the Alliance and the United Auto Workers union have been fighting a ferocious battle against standards approved by the U.S. Senate this past June that would raise fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

"Congress is negotiating an energy bill that could raise the fuel economy standard to 35 miles per gallon, a move that would save America 1.2 million barrels of oil each day by 2020 — more than we import from Saudi Arabia,” said Deron Lovaas, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental activist group. “But Toyota has joined forces with General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and other automakers in an attempt to derail what would be the first improvement in fuel economy standards in nearly 20 years.”


“Why is Toyota , a company that can make a car that gets 55 miles per gallon today, fighting a 35-mpg standard?" Lovaas asked in a statement. “As the world's largest automaker and inventor of the best-selling hybrid car on the market, Toyota has a responsibility to lead, follow or get out of the way as Congress debates the first substantial fuel-economy boost in decades,” she said.


“Shamefully, Toyota has joined forces with older automakers," she said.

Lovaas estimated more than 8000 consumers have sent letters to Toyota objecting to its participation in the campaign to block the new standards. Other environmental groups are being encouraged to join the campaign to put additional pressure on Toyota.

Facing growing pressure for higher fuel economy standards, the Alliance has shifted its tactics from outright opposition to any change in the current corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, rules to support a moderate proposal from an Indiana Democrat, Baron Hill, and Nebraska Republican Lee Terry, that would boost fuel economy to 32 to 35 miles per gallon by 2022.

Toyota officials noted that the position on the Hill-Terry bill represents the first time the industry has united behind a common proposal that would actually lead to new, tougher standards. Jim Press, formerly the top American executive at Toyota who moved to Chrysler in August, was instrumental in getting the automakers to support a compromise.

Ron Gettelfinger, UAW president, said in a recent speech the tougher rules pending in Congress would shatter the U.S. domestic car industry and offered the Hill-Terry bill as a compromise.


“There’s a much better bill before Congress — a bill that would require a sharp increase in fuel economy standards in a responsible manner that would help our industry and preserve American jobs," Gettelfinger said. “That would be the biggest increase ever since CAFE standards were first implemented in the 1970s,” Gettelfinger said.

“But unlike other, more extreme proposals, the Hill-Terry bill would phase in these requirements over a reasonable period between now and 2022. That gives automakers sufficient time to re-tool their plants to shift towards more fuel efficient vehicles,” Gettelfinger said.

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