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
- 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.