1369. The Effect of Government Regulations on Vehicle Weight


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M H Allmacher: 1369. The Effect of Government Regulations on Vehicle Weight. In: 39th Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, May 12-14, pp. 23, Society of Allied Weight Engineers, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, 1980.



The domestic automakers are currently going through a revolutionary change, not just an evolutionary change, whereas the corporations are changing in their outlook on vehicle size, performance, fuel economy, and organization. General Motors has already spent over $1 billion on the 'X' body vehicles and is planning to spend billions more in the development of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Ford has spent $700 million to develop a new, smaller pickup truck for 1980, and has a front wheel drive passenger car slated for the market in 1981. Chrysler Corporation has the 'K' car developed and ready for the market. This is dependent on whether or not they can survive long enough to recover from their current economy problems. American Motors, already streamlined and downsized, along with their partnership with Renault, has a very bright future in the auto industry. However, they too have to survive through the next few months or until this recession abates. Volkswagen, the newest entry of domestic automakers, also has a very bright future in the U.S. with one plant assembling cars and trucks to capacity and a second plant scheduled to open in the very near future. The next few months will also be critical to them with respect to economic conditions.
The primary reason for the domestic automakers' revolutionary changes is due to the need for vast amounts of fuel-efficient vehicles in a very short period of time. It appears that the American public has changed their thinking on vehicle size faster than the auto industry can supply their needs. With the price of fuel continually going up, the domestic buyer has set aside his fondness for the large car and opted for the more fuel-efficient, smaller vehicle. He has, however, not given up his desire to own a personalized vehicle that is loaded with convenience options. For this reason, and because the Federal Government has mandated corporate average fuel economy standards, the automobile industry must downsize their vehicles to meet the demand of today's market. GM, just recently, has laid-off 18,000 white collar workers or 10% of their white collar work force, just to keep money available for their future programs, which they say will not be sacrificed because of the present economic conditions, if at all possible. The NHTSA, in regulating motor vehicles, has affected virtually every portion of the automobile. The following pages reveal some of the standards that affect vehicle weight and what portions of the vehicles were affected by these standards. It shows, although weight was affected, this weight increase was necessary to bring vehicles within the compliance of the law. Since the enactment of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy law (CAFE), which is also the responsibility of the NHTSA, regulating of motor vehicles will be scrutinized much closer than in the past for weight impact. This dual responsibility would lead you to believe that the NHTSA inner departments will be working closer together during their rulemaking activities. Also, because of the fuel economy requirements, and the new regulations that are coming, internal departments within the domestic automakers will naturally be working closer together. If closer, informal communications and cooperation could now be established between the NHTSA and the industry, it would be reasonable to expect future new models to be safer while at the same time more fuel efficient.


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