California to Vote on Clean Car Regulations

Law would require automakers to cut emissions by 75 percent.

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Forrest McConnell, director of the National Automobile Dealers Association, testified during the federal hearing Tuesday that tightening fuel efficiency standards will result in unaffordable cars.

"We all want better fuel economy, but it is not free. By adding $3,200, if not more, to the average cost of a car, over seven million Americans will be priced out of the market, fleet turnover will be reduced, and public policy benefits will be delayed," McConnell said.

Other dealers say consumer demand for electric and hybrid vehicles is not what the board hopes it is.

The California New Car Dealers Association says hybrid vehicles, which have been marketed and sold for 13 years, only make up 2.1 percent of the national market, and 4.1 percent of California's market. They say the goal of making one of every seven new cars sold in California a zero-emission vehicle in roughly the same amount of time is unrealistic.

"Rather than setting vehicle manufacturers, new car dealers, and alternative vehicles themselves up for another predictable failure, (the board) should adjust the mandate to reflect a goal that is realistic and attainable," said Jonathan Morrison, the state dealers' association's director of legal and regulatory affairs.

The air board's research and environmental advocates dispute those cost increase estimates, and say increases in hybrid and other sales continue to rise as more cars hit the market. They argue that fuel cost savings will make up for any vehicle price increase.

"Our research shows a $1,400 to $1,900 car price increase, but over the life of the vehicles, the owners save $6,000 in reduced fuel and maintenance costs," said Clegern.

One of the nation's foremost consumer groups, the Consumers' Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, voiced support for the regulations, saying in a letter that they will "protect consumers by encouraging the development of cleaner, more efficient cars that save families money, help reduce the American economy's vulnerability to oil price shocks and reduce harmful air pollution."