Experts say the automakers should instead follow Ford’s lead and forego bailout funds by focusing on strengthening their vehicles’ fuel efficiency.
General Motors and Chrysler are scheduled to report back to Congress today about how they have been using the billions in federal dollars they received in December, and about their plans for achieving financial viability over the next several months. They have already publicly stated their intention to ask for billions more in federal assistance.
Ford did not receive bailout funds because it is already taking steps to make its fleet more competitive, partly by strengthening its vehicles' fuel economy with conventional and hybrid technology. BusinessWeek last week credited the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) with creating a blueprint for fuel-efficiency that Ford is now following.
"Ford and its U.S. rivals could have acted much sooner," BusinessWeek noted. "In 2003 the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a paper explaining how a redesigned Ford Explorer could achieve 28 mpg instead of the measly 15 mpg that Explorers got at the time. In addition to light bodies and direct injection, the UCS list included six-speed transmissions and turbocharging, a century-old technology in which waste energy from the exhaust helps drive the engine turbine. Ford's head of product development at the time quipped, 'The UCS doesn't design vehicles for customers, and we do.' Now the Explorer team might as well be working off the UCS checklist."
UCS experts say GM and Chrysler should adopt many of the same technologies Ford is installing in its fleet and produce cars that save consumers money and reduce the heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming.
Two UCS experts, David Friedman and Jim Kliesch, are available to discuss the bailout plans, fuel-efficient technology, and the future of the U.S. auto industry.
Friedman, the research director for UCS' Clean Vehicles Program, is a nationally recognized expert on fuel-efficient technology and the author of the 2003 UCS report.
Kliesch, a senior engineer in the Clean Vehicles Program, has been closely following the status of the new fuel economy rules mandated by Congress in 2007. The Obama administration is currently reviewing the rules and plans to set maximum feasible standards for model year 2011 in the next few months.
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