Last year, companies spent more than US$40 million lobbying Washington, D.C. decision makers – and according to watchdog Open Secrets, the biggest spender was the auto industry with US$6.3 million.
New, “smart” infotainment systems that offer all kinds of connectivity and features such as real-time navigation and even access to the internet have been the focus of most carmakers in the past few years. The problem is that, along with cell phone use, they are now under scrutiny by the lawmakers.
The Department of Transportation says that, in 2012 alone, distracted driving accounted for more than 3,300 fatalities and 387,000 injuries. The DoT is therefore working on distracted driving guidelines, with a final draft expected by the end of the year.
Although it will not be imposing restrictions on infotainment systems’ design, as the administration currently lacks sufficient data, Mitch Bainwol, the president and CEO of Auto Alliance, believes that this legislation is bound to be enforced sooner rather than later.
“Ultimately, it will be mandated”, he told WardsAuto, “but it might be down the road a bit”.
Mike Stanton, the president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers that represents 13 manufacturers selling vehicles in the U.S. wants the industry to have a saying in the drafting of the new rules: “Our goal is to work with the DoT and other stakeholders to implement a driver-distraction program that includes good laws, education and strong enforcement”, he said.
The industry is also lobbying about the new near-zero emission standards, also known as Tier III. These fall under the Clean Air Act and are not to be confused with CAFE standards – and they will also be mandated by the end of the year.
Speaking of CAFE rules, this is another issue open for debate despite the administration having agreed with the manufacturers for a 54.5 mpg (4.3 lt/100 km) average by 2025. The reason is that the legislation will be reviewed around 2020; and this is now the focus of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).
“The mid-term review has to be real, based on data, consumer demand and affordability,” said NADA vice-president on legislative affairs David Regan. The association last year claimed the 54.5 mpg target will prove too costly for manufacturers, forcing them to adopt technologies that will increase the average price of a 2025 vehicle by US$5,000.
By Andrew TsaousisStory References: WardsAuto