Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Barbara Holzer, Broadcast Manager
w. (202) 588-7716
bholzer@citizen.org

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779
kgower@citizen.org

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog
Facebook/publiccitizen

Follow us on Twitter

 

Dec. 9, 2008

Congress Must Force Big Three Automakers to Deliver Safer, More Fuel-Efficient Vehicles to a Demanding Public

In Exchange for Loans, Public Interest Should Be Detroit’s Top Priority

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Before American taxpayers once again come to the rescue of the U.S. auto industry, Congress must require the industry to make vehicles that are more fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly and safer – products the public both wants and needs, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook told a House committee today.

Americans expect a return on their investment, which can be achieved only by fundamentally changing the way the Big Three automakers do business, Claybrook told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

“It makes no sense to simply pump cash into a failed business model,” said Claybrook, who served as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1977 to 1981. “The financial problems facing domestic manufacturers are largely a result of their failure to adapt to a changing market, risky reliance on gas-guzzling vehicles and lack of investment in innovative safety, fuel economy and emissions technologies until literally forced to do so by regulation or lack of sales.”

Claybrook urged lawmakers to adopt consumer safeguards as part of any bailout package, including strict accountability through an appointed oversight board led by a “car czar,” equity stakes for the federal government, government membership on the company boards, limits on executive pay and bonuses, and a ban on using taxpayer money for lobbying or campaign contributions.

While it is clear that the U.S. auto industry is in distress – and its failure would send tremors through the economy – the crisis provides Congress an opportunity to exert pressure on automakers to achieve greater fuel economy than currently required under federal law, Claybrook said. They also should not use the crisis as an excuse to roll back safety improvements. Automakers should support new safety standards including strong rollover roof crush and ejection standards to address the thousands of deaths each year in rollover crashes.

As part of the bailout, automakers also should be required to suspend litigation blocking California and other states from setting greenhouse gas emissions standards. This would further encourage the industry to produce cleaner vehicles.

Because of the auto industry’s history of breaking promises to deliver more fuel-efficient and safer vehicles, Congress must write these consumer safeguards into law or make them part of the loan conditions, Claybrook said.

“The auto industry must show American taxpayers that it has a plan to make the best use of this money and regain a prominent position in the global automobile market,” Claybrook said. “If the industry is willing under new leadrship to dramatically change how it will operate in the future, then it might just be salvageable.”

READ Claybrook’s testimony.

###

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.