In a sign of the intensifying battle in Washington over whether to toughen the nation's automotive fuel economy requirements, General Motors Corp. is urging its suppliers to ask their senators to oppose any tightening in therules, according to a story by Jeffrey Ball in the Wall Street Journal
.In a Feb. 4 letter to suppliers, GM asks them to register opposition to tougher corporate average fuel economy rules with their senators - and includes a suggested form letter. "I would appreciate receiving copies of the letters you send as well as any feedback you receive. A reply envelope has been included for your convenience," says the letter from Bo I.Andersson, GM's vice president for world-wide purchasing, production control and logistics.Environmentalists, who received a copy of the letter and have been circulating it, criticized it as an example of GM trying to force political support out of companies that depend financially on the automaker. "It's really a pretty horrific example of a major corporation trying to impact public policy through some pretty coercive tactics on people who areeconomically vulnerable to GM," said Michelle Robinson, a senior policy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group that is pushing for tougher CAFE standards.Bill Noack, a GM spokesman, said GM has been urging not just its suppliers, but also its dealers and employees, to contact their senators to urge them to vote against a CAFE tightening. But he disputed the notion that the letter to suppliers amounts to an attempt to strong-arm political support out of companies that depend on GM's business. "It's all voluntary," he said, adding that the potential of a significant CAFE tightening is "a most serious issue for the company, and we would be negligent if we didn't urge our stakeholders to weigh in."