June 25, 2019

Motoring: Automakers Push Back Against Consumer Protections

When the transmission in Sarah and Scott McKinney’s 2004 Audi A6 failed after five years, the repair cost thousands of dollars. Audi wouldn’t cover it, the McKinneys say, though the problem was a common one — so widespread that it later became the subject of a federal class-action suit.

The McKinneys, who live in Arlington Heights, Ill., say they are hoping a preliminary settlement in that suit will bring them a reimbursement later this year.

“I think it is our only hope,” Ms. McKinney said.

That recourse may not be available for car owners in the future, as some automakers have started to challenge class actions — and to a lesser extent, lemon laws — by trying to force consumers to agree instead to a binding arbitration process.

F. Paul Bland Jr., a senior attorney at Public Justice, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, sees this as a brazen effort to take away important consumer automotive rights. If the automakers behind this effort are successful, consumer watchdogs say, owners like Gary Peterson of Spring Hill, Fla., might be stuck with defective vehicles that cannot be repaired.

The steering of Mr. Peterson’s 2011 Kia Sorento pulled so suddenly and strongly that the vehicle sometimes changed lanes by itself. When he could no longer tolerate the problem — and concluded that Kia would not help — he saw the lemon law as his only chance.

“Well, short of a lawsuit how are you going to take on a big company like Kia?” Mr. Peterson said. His complaint resulted in Kia’s having to buy back the vehicle.

That recourse might not be possible if the automakers’ efforts are successful.

The remedies sought by the McKinneys and by Mr. Peterson took different approaches. In a class action, thousands of consumers can benefit when a product they bought is judged to be defective.

In a typical lemon-law case, a lone consumer starts with arbitration, generally choosing among arbitration firms approved under each state’s lemon law. If the outcome is unsatisfactory, there are provisions to appeal, including the courts.

But now a few automakers are trying to do away with those resources by taking advantage of something consumers have done for decades when buying a vehicle: signing an agreement with the dealer to use arbitration to resolve disputes. Some automakers — including Honda, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz — are arguing that these sales agreements cover them, too.

Consequently, the automakers say, consumers may not use class-actions or lemon laws to get restitution. Instead, they argue, the consumer must use binding arbitration, in which the decision is final.

“I think this is a very worrisome issue,” said Christine Hines, the consumer and civil justice counsel at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

Arbitration takes consumers out of a public process — the court or state-monitored lemon laws — and puts them in a private system, Ms. Hines said. Moreover, she said, it requires the consumer to play by rules set by the arbitration firm approved by the automaker.

Groups of consumers represented by a class-action may be happy to be included even if they receive only a small benefit, but few would devote the time, effort and expense to go into arbitration alone against an automaker, consumer advocates say.

“So one of the main benefits from the company’s standpoint is to eliminate claims against the company,” said Jean Sternlight, a law professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, who studies arbitration.

The legal force behind these challenges is the 2011 decision of the United States Supreme Court in ATT Mobility L.L.C. v. Concepcion. A result of that decision is that companies can bar consumers from bringing class-action suits and instead require each consumer to individually use binding arbitration.

Some critics argue that too often class-action suits benefit the plaintiffs’ lawyers while consumers get little of value.

But some class actions do help consumers with compensation and extended warranties, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Mr. Bland of Public Justice said that class-action suits could also reveal information about defects that manufacturers might want to keep secret — something that was possible in arbitration.

For example, Mr. Ditlow said, information that came out of suits over Firestone tire failures on Ford Explorers helped to prompt Congressional hearings and led in 2000 to Congress’s passing the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act.

Last year, Honda and Toyota separately asked federal district courts in California to dismiss class-action suits and compel each of the thousands of consumers who wanted to be compensated to individually use binding arbitration.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/automobiles/automakers-push-back-against-consumer-protections.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

G.M.’s Profit Rises Despite Weakness in Europe

G.M., the nation’s biggest carmaker, said it had net income of $900 million in the quarter, compared with $500 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue increased to $39.3 billion, up from $38 billion.

The company said strong sales in the surging United States market helped it post a $1.4 billion pretax profit in North America.

But in Europe, General Motors, like many other automakers, is continuing to absorb big losses from the worst sales environment in nearly 20 years. The company said it lost $700 million in the quarter.

The company had modest success in its other international operations, reporting a $500 million profit in Asia and a net income of $100 million in South America.

The fourth quarter capped a transitional 2012 for G.M., its third full year of operations since its bankruptcy and $49.5 billion government bailout in 2009.

While it is struggling to restructure in Europe, the company is in the process of introducing several new models in the United States, including revamped versions of its highly profitable pickup trucks.

G.M. also negotiated a sale of the Treasury Department’s ownership stake in the company.

For the full year, G.M. said it had net income of $4.9 billion compared with $7.6 billion in 2011. Executives said the 2011 profit included $1.2 billion in one-time gains on asset sales.

For the year, revenue grew to $152.3 billion, up from $150.3 billion in 2011.

G.M.’s chief executive, Daniel F. Akerson, said the company had a solid year in 2012, and said its future performance would depend on growing sales with new models.

“This year our priorities will be executing flawless new vehicle launches, controlling costs and delivering more vehicles to our customers at outstanding value,” Mr. Akerson said in a statement.

G.M.’s big profits in North America will directly benefit its 49,000 hourly workers in the United States, each of whom will receive profit-sharing checks of up to $6,750 for their work in 2012.

G.M. made several accounting changes in the fourth quarter, the largest of which was a one-time, noncash gain of $34.9 billion to restore valuation allowances for deferred tax assets in the United States and Canada. The gain was balanced by a $26.2 million charge to erase good will tied to its North American operations, a $5.2 billion charge for impairment of European assets and a $2.2 billion charge related to its salaried pension plans.

The write-down of European assets reflected the troubled state of the company’s business on the Continent.

For 2012, G.M. had a pretax loss of $1.8 billion in Europe, which was more than double the $700 million lost the previous year. By comparison, the North American division earned a pretax profit of $7 billion in 2012, down from $7.2 billion the year before.

G.M. executives were cautious about predicting better overall results this year, particularly in Europe.

Daniel Ammann, G.M.’s chief financial officer, said the European market would continue to deteriorate this year. However, the company is sticking with its prediction that it will break even there by mid-decade.

“We feel better and better about the things we can control,” Mr. Ammann said.

Mr. Akerson said that cost cuts would continue in Europe. He said G.M. eliminated about 2,500 jobs there last year and expected the same number of cuts in 2013. He declined to say whether the company might close any more plants beyond the announced shutdown of a factory in Germany by 2016.

“We’re going to be smart about how we cut costs, and not just close plants,” Mr. Akerson said.

G.M.’s profit in the beginning of the year may be thinner than last year because of the marketing and manufacturing costs associated with selling older truck inventory and introducing the new models.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/business/gm-hurt-by-europe-still-increases-profit.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

G.M., Hurt by Europe, Still Increases Profit

G.M., the nation’s biggest carmaker, said it had net income of $900 million in the quarter, compared to $500 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue increased to $39.3 billion, up from $38 billion.

The company said strong sales in the surging United States market helped it post a $1.4 billion pretax profit in North America.

But in Europe, General Motors, like many other automakers, is continuing to absorb big losses from the worst sales environment in nearly 20 years. The company said it lost $700 million in the quarter.

The company had modest success in its other international operations, reporting a $500 million profit in Asia and a net income of $100 million in South America.

The fourth quarter capped a transitional 2012 for G.M., its third full year of operations since its bankruptcy and $49.5 billion government bailout in 2009.

While it is struggling to restructure in Europe, the company is in the process of introducing several new models in the United States, including revamped versions of its highly profitable pickup trucks.

G.M. also negotiated a sale of the Treasury Department’s ownership stake in the company.

For the full year, G.M. said it had net income of $4.9 billion compared with $7.6 billion in 2011. Executives said the 2011 profit included $1.2 billion in one-time gains on asset sales.

For the year, revenue grew to $152.3 billion, up from $150.3 billion in 2011.

G.M.’s chief executive, Daniel Akerson, said the company had a solid year in 2012, and said its future performance would depend on growing sales with new models.

“This year our priorities will be executing flawless new vehicle launches, controlling costs and delivering more vehicles to our customers at outstanding value,” Mr. Akerson said in a statement.

G.M.’s big profits in North America will directly benefit its 49,000 hourly workers in the United States, each of whom will receive profit-sharing checks of up to $6,750 for their work in 2012.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/business/gm-hurt-by-europe-still-increases-profit.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Two Custom-Publishing Powerhouses Join Forces

Two companies that are leaders in the custom publishing industry – producing publications at the behest of marketers – are being combined under the aegis of a New York-based private equity firm.

The companies are McMurry, based in Phoenix, and TMG Custom Media, based in Washington and once known as the Magazine Group. They are merging in a transaction being overseen by the investment firm, the Wicks Group of Companies, which is taking a significant majority stake in the combined company, to be named McMurry/TMG.

Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. The combined McMurry/TMG will have annual revenue of almost $100 million, Wicks said, and 270 employees. McMurry/TMG will be based in New York, where each of the two companies now has an office.

The deal to create McMurry/TMG is being formally announced on Monday morning, although details began leaking on Friday.

Chris McMurry, who had been chief executive at McMurry, and the founders of TMG Custom Media, Richard Creighton and Jane Ottenberg, will own minority interests in McMurry/TMG. They will be involved in the combined company, Wicks said. Their new posts or roles were not specified.

Custom publishing is a venerable industry, known in the past primarily for the creation and distribution of magazines on behalf of automakers, lodging chains and retailers. But it is being revitalized as part of a trend as advertisers increasingly become involved in the creation of content aimed at consumers, known as content marketing.

For instance, a food service marketer, US Foods, recently hired a custom publishing company, Imagination, to create a quarterly aimed at consumers, and at restaurant owners and operators, the traditional target audience for US Foods.

Not only are the advertisers that pay for the custom publications taking larger roles in the process, the publications are going beyond print into realms like digital, mobile, social media and video. For example, the US Foods quarterly, called Food Fanatics, has a Web site and a presence in social media and is also available as a PDF.

“We see a real shift going on from traditional advertising to a content-driven strategy,” Dan Kortick, managing partner at Wicks, said in a phone interview on Friday.

“It’s more about engagement than exposure,” Mr. Kortick said, as content marketing offers “real engagement with your customer base.”

Mr. Kortick acknowledged that his observation about engagement versus exposure came from Matthew Petersen, who had been president at TMG Custom Media. Mr. Petersen becomes chief executive at McMurry/TMG.

“We have reached out to a great number of the clients” of TMG Custom Media and McMurry, Mr. Petersen said on Friday, “and we are confident they will embrace the combined entity and the increased capabilities we bring to them.”

Clients of McMurry, which began in 1984, include CBS Television, part of the CBS Corporation; Ritz-Carlton, part of Marriott International; and United Parcel Service. Clients of TMG Custom Media, which dates to 1981, include CDW and WebMD.

Fred Petrovsky, who had been president at McMurry, is becoming chief operating officer at McMurry/TMG. Keith Sedlak, who had been senior vice president for client partnerships at TMG Custom Media, becomes chief revenue officer at the combined company.

The Jordan, Edmiston Group, which specializes in fields like media, represented TMG Custom Media and McMurry in the transaction. Wicks, which invests in companies in fields like media, information and education, was advised by AMR International.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/two-custom-publishing-powerhouses-join-forces/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Wheels: Toyota to Pay Record $17.35 Million Fine for Delaying Recall

For the fourth time in two years, Toyota has agreed to pay fines related to allegations of delaying safety recalls.Kimimasa Mayama/European Pressphoto Agency For the fourth time in two years, Toyota has agreed to pay fines related to allegations of delaying safety recalls.

For the fourth time, Toyota has agreed to pay a fine to settle allegations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the automaker delayed a safety recall.

In a news release Tuesday morning, the safety agency said Toyota would pay $17.35 million, the maximum allowed by law.

Toyota did not admit any wrongdoing and said it was paying the fine to avoid a continued dispute with the safety agency. The automaker said the same thing when agreeing to pay the three previous fines, which totaled $48.8 million.

The recall the safety agency said was delayed occurred last June and covered 154,036 sport utility vehicles — the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h — to fix a problem that might allow the floor mat to become snagged on the gas pedal.

The safety agency contends that those vehicles should have been included in an October 2009 recall of 3.8 million vehicles for the same issue.

But the agency says it was not until early this year — after it contacted Toyota about consumer complaints of floor-mat problems on the two 2010 Lexus models — that the automaker agreed the recall should be expanded.

In a statement, Toyota said it was “dedicated to the safety of our customers and we continue to strengthen our data collection and evaluation process to ensure we are prepared to take swift action to meet customers’ needs.”

The safety agency described the $17.35 million fine as a record. That is the maximum currently allowed by law; the amount is periodically increased to reflect inflation.

Some consumer safety advocates, like Clarence M. Ditlow, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, have long argued that such amounts are no more than a “rounding error” for automakers and that to make companies take their responsibility more seriously, auto executives should face criminal penalties.

The previous fines occurred in April 2010 and twice in December 2010.

Toyota routinely describes its recalls as “voluntary,” but under federal regulations once a manufacturer is aware of a safety problem it has five business days to inform the agency of its plan for a recall.

Article source: http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/toyota-to-pay-record-17-35-million-fine-for-delaying-recall/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Group Proposes NHTSA Add Expertise in Electronics

In a widely anticipated study, the group called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to add technical help, refine its investigative techniques and push for automakers to install “black boxes” that record data in car crashes. It also recommended that the federal agency form an advisory panel of specialists who can assist both in regulatory reviews and specific vehicle investigations.

With electronics systems becoming more complex, the agency needs to “gain a stronger understanding” of both the hardware and computer software that automakers are installing in their latest models, the group said.

The National Academy of Sciences was asked to review procedures at N.H.T.S.A. after the agency’s investigation of unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles and a possible link to electronic-control systems. The Japanese automaker recalled more than eight million vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010 to fix sticky accelerator pedals or replace faulty floor mats that Toyota had claimed could cause unintended acceleration.

In a statement, the safety agency said it had “already taken steps to strengthen its expertise in electronic control systems,” but added that it would review the recommendations by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences to do more.

The agency said it would “continue to evaluate and improve every aspect of its work to keep the driving public safe, including research to assess potential safety concerns and help ensure the reliability of electronic control systems.”

Members of the science committee said that despite its shortcomings, the safety agency had done all that it was capable of doing to determine why Toyotas were suddenly accelerating out of control and causing serious accidents. They concluded that the agency had correctly closed its investigation after failing to find evidence of defects in Toyota’s electronic throttle systems.

Federal regulators accepted Toyota’s explanation that accelerator pedals or floor mats had been causing the problem. They closed the investigation last February after a separate study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also found no electronic defects.

“The agency got this right, and that was subsequently confirmed by the NASA report,” said Adrian K. Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a member of the National Academy of Sciences study committee.

The chairman of the study team, Louis J. Lanzerotti, stopped short of ruling out electronic malfunctions as a possible cause of sudden acceleration. “It’s impossible to prove a complete negative, but all the data available to us indicated the conclusion that there was no electronic or software problem,” said Dr. Lanzerotti, a physics professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The 16-member study committee focused primarily on how the agency, and later NASA, conducted their investigations, and whether the results yielded conclusive evidence of causes beyond pedals, floor mats or driver error.

And while the committee found the decision to close the investigation “justified,” it questioned the overall competence of the agency to regulate automotive electronics.

“It is troubling that the concerns associated with unintended acceleration evolved into questions about electronics safety” that the agency could not answer convincingly, necessitating assistance from NASA, the report said.

The committee also called for a review of how the agency’s investigators share data with its researchers, and supported the agency’s recommendation that electronic data recorders, or black boxes, become standard equipment in new vehicles.

The committee recommended that the agency “give explicit consideration to the oversight challenges arising from automotive electronics” and “develop and articulate a long-term strategy for meeting the challenges,” the report said.

One auto safety consulting firm, Safety Research and Strategies, expressed disappointment with the committee report because it had reviewed the agency efforts rather than holding its own investigation into the Toyota incidents.

“It is an incredible assertion for them to say that N.H.T.S.A. is not equipped to deal with electronics, but that they were justified in closing this investigation,” said Sean E. Kane, a founder of the firm, based in Rehoboth, Mass.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=162fc328e33e3ea9adf07f5c54a1b544

Fancy Batteries in Electric Cars Pose Recycling Challenges

Yet even as automakers vaunt the ways these cars can benefit the environment, they are divided over how best to handle the refuse: recycle or repurpose.

That is worrying some companies involved in “urban mining” — a voguish term that refers to extracting valuable metals from all kinds of discarded electronics, from power tools to mobile phones. They have already begun spending money to build an infrastructure to handle the flood of partly depleted battery packs that are expected to enter the waste stream; Frost Sullivan, a consulting firm, puts the number at about 500,000 a year by the early 2020s.

“There is no green car without green recycling,” said Ghislain Van Damme, a manager at Umicore, a company based here in Hoboken that is one of the world’s largest recyclers of precious and specialty metals from electronic waste.

Companies that fail to plan for recycling face “brand damage” at the very least, he said, as well as potential fines and legal action if the batteries end up being illegally incinerated or dumped in landfills. In many cases, automakers will be responsible for final disposal of the batteries — even if they did not actually manufacture them — because of stricter laws governing recycling, especially in Europe.

Any sense of urgency in developing recycling capacity has been dampened, however, by the cost factor. The newest, most-powerful lithium-based batteries are also less valuable to recycle than earlier ones.

Lithium is plentiful compared with the nickel and cobalt found in hybrid and all-electric car batteries developed earlier, even if the main sources of the metal, in countries like Chile and Bolivia, are far from auto production centers.

“You can count on a constant and growing thirst for metals including lithium,” said P.Aswin Kumar, an analyst with Frost Sullivan. “But lithium still costs about five times more to recycle than to mine, so environmental laws will drive recycling for now.”

Shoebox-size, lead-acid batteries have powered ignition and lighting in gasoline- or diesel-powered cars for decades. They already are widely recycled, mainly because lead is such a health hazard.

The batteries for hybrid and all-electric cars are far more powerful and much larger, with some weighing up to around 250 kilograms, or 550 pounds. They also can be the car’s most expensive component, mostly because of the complexity in making them, rather than the value of the materials.

Complicating the question of disposal, a large amount of energy remains stored even in partially discharged batteries. These could deliver harmful shocks and pose a serious fire hazard if mishandled.

For now, automakers are going their individual ways.

Toyota Motor, whose experience goes back to 1998, shortly after the introduction of the RAV4 all-electric vehicle, has established partnerships in Europe and the United States to recycle batteries, including from the hybrid Prius. This year, it began shipping some batteries from Prius models sold in the United States to Japan to take advantage of a more-efficient recycling process at home.

Honda Motor recycled nearly 500 batteries during 2009 from the electric hybrid models it began selling in Japan more than a decade ago. But it still is exploring ways to structure that part of its business as it rolls out models like the Insight and the CR-Z.

General Motors and Nissan Motor, whose Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf are newer to the market, are taking a different tack. They have agreements with power companies to develop ways of reusing old batteries, perhaps for storing wind or solar energy during peak generating times for later use.

Bayerische Motoren Werke, known for its premium BMW line, still is carrying out research on whether to recycle or reuse the batteries from its Mini E, an all-electric car it began leasing on a limited basis in 2009.

Meanwhile, some governments have begun to get involved to ensure their car industries are not undermined by sourcing or safety issues.

In the United States, the Department of Energy has granted $9.5 million to Toxco to build a specialized recycling plant in Ohio for electric vehicle batteries. It is expected to begin operations next year, handling batteries from a variety of makes and models.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b3f556573a8644ba870002a0e53ffacd

Toyota Raises Profit Forecast by Nearly 40 Percent

TOKYO — Citing a quicker-than-expected recovery from Japan’s devastating earthquake, Toyota Motor raised its full-year profit forecast by almost 40 percent on Tuesday, though it warned that a strong yen continued to weigh on its bottom line.

The world’s largest automaker said it expected a net profit of 390 billion yen, or $5 billion, for the business year that ends March 31, 2012, compared to an earlier forecast of 280 billion yen.

The revised estimate came as Toyota posted a 1.1 billion yen net profit for the April-June quarter, a tiny fraction of the 190.4 billion yen it earned a year earlier.

Japanese automakers have staged an impressive recovery from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, which damaged factories and severed supply chains vital to auto production.

Manufacturers are also contending with electricity shortages brought about by crippled or idled power plants.

Toyota plants in Japan were halted for about two weeks after the quake. In April, the automaker started production at all of its domestic factories, but at a sharply reduced capacity.

Since then, the recovery has been impressive, as parts makers swiftly repaired their factories or switched production lines. Toyota now expects to lose 150,000 units in global output because of the March quake, compared with an earlier estimate of 450,000 units, according to Bloomberg.

Robust sales elsewhere in Asia were also contributing to Toyota’s recovery, the automaker said in a statement.

Still, the dollar’s drop against the yen to near-record lows is eating into profit at Japanese exporters. A strong yen makes Japanese exports like cars and electronics more expensive overseas, and therefore less competitive. The higher yen also erodes the value of Toyota’s overseas earnings when repatriated into the home currency.

Toyota shares fell 0.3 percent to 3,160 yen at the close of trading in Tokyo, before the earnings were announced. The shares have dropped over 10 percent since the quake.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5e468ac32cc649c9ac5dca73b856c0d4

Bucks: All About the Charitable Lead Trust

July 22

Friday Reading: Pondering the Reuse of Electric Vehicle Batteries

Automakers consider reuse of electric vehicle battery packs, hiding from annoying people on Google+, bloggers unite for cheap food and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=daa73190da37b021c95e1a076a14f85e

Carmakers and White House Haggling Over Mileage Rules

Depending on the stringency of the standard, the deal could also reduce global warming emissions by millions of tons a year and cut oil imports by billions of barrels over the life of the program, cornerstones of President Obama’s energy policy.

The administration is proposing regulations that will require new American cars and trucks to attain an average of as much as 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025, roughly double the current level. That would require increases in fuel efficiency of nearly 5 percent a year from 2017 to 2025.

The standard would put domestic vehicle fuel efficiency on a par with that in Europe, China and Japan, saving consumers billions of dollars at the pump and creating for the first time a truly global automobile market.

The automakers say the standard is technically achievable. But they warn that it will cost billions of dollars to develop the vehicles, and they express doubt that consumers will accept the smaller, lighter — and in some cases, more expensive — cars that result.

“We can build these vehicles,” said Gloria Bergquist, vice president for public affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the leading industry lobby in Washington. “The question is, will consumers buy them?”

The talks have heated up and will continue through the summer, with the proposed new standard expected in September and completed early next year after public hearings.

The auto companies are asking the government to phase in the standard gradually, to allow credits for using certain technologies and fuels and to include a review period that could lower the target if it proves too costly, industry and government officials said. They are also seeking assurances that the government will help build the charging stations needed for electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, which will help to meet the new standard.

A senior administration official, insisting on anonymity because the negotiations were continuing, said the 56.2 m.p.g. goal represented the government’s opening bid, and might not be the final figure. The official said there was still some disagreement within the government, and the final outlines are far from certain.

The United States has the world’s most lenient vehicle emissions and mileage standards, lagging as much as 10 m.p.g. behind the rest of the world. Europe is expected to reach about 60 m.p.g. by 2020.

The official added that arriving at a new mileage rule was particularly difficult because the auto industry has not yet fully recovered from the recession and the government was trying to force technological change more than a decade in the future.

On that, industry and government agree.

“It is very challenging,” Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, said of the 56.2 m.p.g. goal at a press event in Detroit last week. “But it’s up to us as engineers to provide high value to the customer and support the environment.”

The auto companies and the government are returning to a familiar battleground, which the industry dominated for three decades beginning in the 1970s, using its clout on Capitol Hill and within the federal bureaucracy to keep fuel economy standards low. But two years ago, when Chrysler and General Motors were clinging to life and the rest of the industry was slumping, carmakers agreed to aggressive new nationwide fuel economy standards covering the years 2012 to 2016. That deal, announced by President Obama in May 2009 as a dozen auto executives looked on, raises the domestic car and light truck fleet fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Now, the government wants to extend that mandate nine years, but is confronting a much healthier and feistier industry.

The lobbying is already in full swing. The auto companies are seeking a standard at the lower end of the range proposed by the government, citing studies that say that meeting the stiffer regulation will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a new vehicle and require a significant downsizing of vehicles in all classes.

They also want certainty that there will be a single national standard and that California will not be permitted to pursue a tougher standard on its own.

Bill Vlasic contributed reporting from Detroit.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=31b4d22647e0318006247ca8c1416c37