You might make a case that a car company that only sells a few hundred or even a few thousand vehicles in a 16-million-vehicle-a-year market doesn't really make much of a dent in emissions or fuel consumption. This is particularly true if the cars they sell are high-performance models that typically only get driven a few thousand miles a year at most. This is the case for companies like Ferrari and Lamborghini that only sell about 5,000 cars a year worldwide with perhaps half of those in the United States. By comparison, Porsche sold over 34,000 vehicles in the US in 2006 and about 100,000 worldwide.

Is a company that builds 100,000 vehicles a year low volume? Porsche would have you think so. Currently car companies that build fewer than 10,000 vehicles per year are classed as low-volume and are exempted from paying fines for exceeding the corporate average fuel economy standards. Ferrari, Lotus and Lamborghini fall into this class. However a little-mentioned provision of the energy bill passed by the Senate last spring would change that hard 10,000 unit threshold to a variable 0.4 percent of US market share. At current market volumes that amounts to about 64,000 cars a year and it could be more if the market ever starts growing again. This would allow Porsche to save the $4.6 million in CAFE fines they paid last year. As with so many other things about CAFE, this is a bad idea. Leave the low-volume threshold where it is or even lower it. Sales of 64,000 vehicles a year may be small compared to GM or Toyota but those are the kind of volumes that will make a difference. Those that can afford sports cars and SUVs priced from $50,000-150,000 can afford to pony up a little more if the vehicles don't meet the fuel economy threshold. Although Porsche may build higher performance vehicles than most companies, at their current volumes they should not be treated any differently from any other mainstream car-maker.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. req'd]


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