OPINION: We Need To Make New, Safe Cars More Accessible For Average Americans


Gerard Scimeca Vice President, CASE
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When Henry Ford created an assembly line to mass-produce cars in 1913, his goal was to build a quality product the average working American could afford. Unfortunately, outdated and unnecessary regulations are making new car ownership a difficult goal for today’s hard-working Americans to achieve.

The time for you to make your voice heard on modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards is coming to a close on October 23rd.  It’s time for CAFE standards to reflect current realities that will help make new, safer cars more accessible to average Americans, as Henry Ford envisioned.

In 1985, the average price of a car was $15,500, after adjusting for inflation. Today, the average price of a new car is about $35,000. That’s unaffordable for average Americans, leading many to take out lengthier loans (over six years) that increase the risk of defaulting if anything happens in the early years of ownership. New cars are just too costly.

One reason cars are so much more expensive today is that the auto industry faces serious regulatory burdens, such as current CAFE standards.

CAFE is a federal policy that says an entire fleet of vehicles — every car, truck, and SUV that rolls off a Ford or any other assembly line — must meet a certain average gas mileage standard for every year of production. The 2012 CAFE regulatory standard was 29 MPG. Under current law, that standard is scheduled to leap all the way to 54.5 MPG by 2025, nearly doubling the standard.

CAFE regulations were first introduced by Congress in 1975 as a response to the energy crisis, which prompted long lines at the gas pump and fears of possible future fuel shortages. Those fears proved to be unfounded, as advancements in technology have led to the United States becoming an energy production leader. But the most recent CAFE regulations enacted by the Obama administration still reflect a 1975 worldview.

Instead of modernizing CAFE standards to reflect current realities and holding down the cost of vehicles, Obama’s CAFE policies passed on the cost of his “green energy” agenda to the consumer. The Heritage Foundation estimates that Americans would save $7,200 dollars per car if these regulations were eliminated to reflect our modern energy reality. The fuel crisis of the 1970s is behind us, and it’s time consumers experienced the benefits of America’s energy dominance.

Today, CAFE regulations are used as a tool by bureaucrats in Washington, as well as liberal states like California, to control the consumer’s selection of vehicles. This limits the consumer’s choices considerably, as other states follow suit.

Safety concerns are still another unintended consequence of CAFE standards. The average age of a vehicle on the road is twelve years, a record high. The old age of our cars comes with enhanced risks. New cars are simply much safer. They are built with better features and new technologies, such as backup cameras, lane-keep assist, and collision warning systems. It is estimated that new model vehicles will save 1,000 lives every year.

But thanks to the enormous costs of new vehicles, Americans are hanging onto their old ones longer, making the roads more dangerous.

Over-regulation is a serious drag on the auto industry. Thanks to incredible technological advances, as well as a bustling economy, America doesn’t need to hang onto an archaic policy from the Carter administration where Washington bureaucrats and politicians are designing the models we must choose from.

The United States has become a global leader in oil and natural gas production. The days of the oil crisis are gone. It’s time our CAFE policies reflected that, and we return to Henry Ford’s vision of making new car ownership an accessible goal for all hard-working Americans. Let the Trump administration know you support its effort to modernize CAFE standards.

Gerard Scimeca is an attorney and Vice President of CASEConsumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.