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Honda Supports Fuel Economy Boost, Undercutting Rival Automakers

March 11, 2002

As the Senate prepares as early as March 11 to debate whether to toughen the nation's auto-mileage rules, environmental activists aren't the only ones criticizing the Big Three U.S. auto makers' opposition to a big boost, according to a Wall Street Journal story by Jeffrey Ball and Norihiko Shirouzu. Also actively undercutting the industry is one of its own: Honda Motor Co.In recent weeks, the rest of the auto industry -- not just the Big Three, but also Japanese carmakers including Toyota Motor Corp. -- has stampeded Capitol Hill to squash calls for a big increase in the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.Honda prefers to operate through "under-the-radar activities like bringing our engineers in and having talks with both sides of the aisle," said Edward B. Cohen, who's headed up Honda's Washington lobbying shop since September 2000.The Japanese company makes no campaign contributions, but it has been feeding information to CAFE proponents in the Senate to help them derail the auto manufacturing industry's assault on fuel-economy standards.According to the Journal, Honda's counsel has proved crucial in emboldening a bipartisan group of senators to propose that auto makers be required to raise the average fuel economy of their fleets by about 50percent -- to 36 miles per gallon by 2015 from about 24 today. The other automakers argue that there is no technology to significantly improve fuel economy without throwing them into an economic tailspin, and that any big CAFE increase would force the industry to make its vehicles lighter and thus less safe.
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