Tell the Feds to Freeze the Regs! - Autoline on Autoblog with John McElroy

Every day Chrysler LLC builds Euro-spec versions of the Chrysler 300 at its assembly plant in Canada, bolts a V6 diesel engine into most of them, and ships them off to Europe. That diesel 300 gets better fuel economy, over 30 mpg, than all the other vehicles in Chrysler's U.S. showrooms. But it's against the law for Chrysler to sell that car in America.
Right now Ford and General Motors are trying to figure out how to bring many of their fuel-efficient European models to the U.S. and manufacture them here. They'd love to do it immediately, but it will take them several years to modify, test and validate those designs before they can meet U.S. regulations. Until they do, it's illegal to sell those cars in America.

Anybody else out there agree with me that this is crazy? Let's let automakers bring their fuel efficient European cars over here immediately. As long as a car meets the Euro 5 emission regulations and the latest European NCAP safety standards, we ought to let them build those vehicles in the U.S. with no other modifications.

John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit". Every week he brings his unique insights as an auto industry insider to Autoblog readers. Follow the jump to continue reading this week's editorial.

Those European standards are extremely stringent. It's not as if we'd be allowing smog-spewing death traps to show up on our shores. In fact, there would be virtually no increase in traffic fatalities, nor any measurable increase in air pollution.

But even though U.S. and European emissions and safety standards are awfully close, it takes a lot of time and effort to get a car to comply with either one. It's not as bad if a car were designed from scratch to meet both standards, but if you have to go back and modify an existing European design to meet U.S. standards, it takes a lot more effort than most people realize.

To make this politically palatable I'd make this a temporary freeze, where any automaker would be given a 5-year window to bring Euro-spec vehicles here. After that, those cars would have to meet whatever U.S. standards are on the books. And they would have to be built in North America-no fair importing them (not that they want to considering the dollar/euro exchange, but this would placate the unions).

And there's a precedent for this. Back in 1980 then-President Jimmy Carter froze certain emission and safety standards to give automakers some breathing room as they struggled to re-tool their line-ups to deal with the oil crisis of that day. Guess what? We all survived that temporary freeze.

Moreover, I'm told that Mexico will allow automakers to sell any vehicle there as long as they meet U.S. or European standards. So if we did a similar sort of thing maybe it would help push the industry towards the common international standard that it's been begging for, for years.

The beauty of this idea is that it would not involve any taxpayer money, no corporate welfare, or any complex scheme to regulate at all. It would instantly give consumers many more choices, immediately help the United States reduce its dependence on oil, and promptly provide the domestic industry with some of the assistance it desperately needs.


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