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Center for Study of Responsive Law

FEBRUARY 27, 2006
10:48 AM

CONTACT: Center for Study of Responsive Law
Rob Cirincione, 202-387-8030

Nader Rebukes Domestic Auto Industry for Failure to Innovate
Says Solution to Auto Industry's Economic Quagmire Is in Better Safety and Fuel Economy Engineering

WASHINGTON - February 27 - Today Ralph Nader issued a stinging indictment of the domestic auto industry's failure to stimulate innovation, "Innovation and Stagnation in Automotive Safety and Fuel Efficiency." The report details glaring oversights by the auto industry, identifying specific missed opportunities in the areas of safety and fuel economy, and provides a blueprint to jolt the domestic industry out of its downward slide.

Nader, a longtime auto safety pioneer, is issuing the report now to call on automakers to reverse decades-long trends of putting marketing hype before engineering quality - ignoring advanced product designs and stifling innovation from parts suppliers. "General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have always preferred to squeeze their suppliers on price rather than seek technological improvements. It's a short-term, bully's approach to a business relationship that should be collaborative, cooperative, and dynamic. Even as some Japanese and European manufacturers prove that advanced technology sells-especially in safety and fuel efficiency-the market-shrinking domestic auto industry thinks that the only path to profitability is penny pinching on parts."

The report also underscores the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) foot-dragging on new safety and fuel economy technologies. "NHTSA schedules the standardization of safety technology that's already commercially available-it doesn't challenge manufacturers to deliver innovative solutions," Nader said.

The report identifies major barriers to innovation in safety and fuel efficiency, including:

- A technology-stifling relationship between manufacturers and suppliers
- Options bundling that dissuades consumers from buying safety technology
- NHTSA's poor attention to innovators and entrepreneurs
- A reluctance by the General Services Administration to purchase innovations in fleet vehicles
- Insurers who refuse to offer incentives for safety innovations

In conclusion, the report presents 10 recommendations, including: 1) a return to NHTSA-contracted advanced vehicle programs like the 1970's Research Safety Vehicle; 2) a new collaboration between NHTSA and parts suppliers; 3) CAFE increases to at least 46 mpg for cars and 40 mpg for light trucks by 2014; and 4) NHTSA-sponsored contests for super-efficient and extra-safe vehicle designs.

The report is available for $30.00 from the Center for Study of Responsive Law, P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036.


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