Many Issues, but Only a Few are Critical

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Congress > Auto Lobbying


By Harry Stoffer
Automotive News / July 12, 2004

WASHINGTON -- In its most recent disclosure to Congress, General Motors said its lobbyists are working on more than 100 bills, regulations or issues.

They cover familiar automotive topics such as fuel economy and airbags. But they also include electric utility restructuring and the U.S.-Singapore trade agreement.

Much of what government does affects automakers' welfare. But lobbyists consider only a handful of pending Washington decisions crucial to their companies. on these issues, each company is out for its own interests rather than working toward a common industry goal.

Here's where they are focusing their attention.

Taxes

The House and Senate have passed different versions of a bill that would modify a U.S. subsidy for American exporters. The legislation has become a vehicle for many business tax issues.

Lawmakers soon will negotiate a final version. At stake for automakers is whether buyers of advanced-technology vehicles will get tax credits; whether manufacturers will get lower corporate tax rates; and how the Internal Revenue Service treats profits earned overseas.

CAFE

The Bush administration seeks to overhaul rules that govern the corporate average fuel economy program, which is nearly 30 years old. The White House is thinking of setting different standards for weight classes and updating the definition of a light truck. Because each automaker's fleet mix varies, each has its own interest in how the rules are changed.

Safety

The House and Senate passed different versions of bills to authorize highway spending for the next six years. Automakers' main concern is a list of new safety regulations in the Senate version that the administration would be required to adopt. The industry and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration argue that regulations should be based on research, not directives from Congress. Negotiations are under way on a final bill.

Alternative vehicles

Automakers seek federal tax credits for buyers of hybrid-powered vehicles and - when they become widely available - fuel cell vehicles. But because companies are pushing competing technologies for those vehicles, the legislation is stalled.