The Future of Cars
States, particularly California, are mandating cars that emit less CO2. And since California is such a large car market, many auto manufacturers build their cars to comply with rigid California emissions standards by default. California also has tougher-than-average safety standards, such as mandates for daytime running lights.
Higher-mileage cars typically emit less CO2... so aside from being environmentally friendly, they are also mor eeconomical to drive. And if oil prices remain high, drivers will likely seek high-mileage vehicles. Auto makers may be encouraged to expand their offerings of hybrid technology, adding it to large cars, minivans and even SUVs.
The winner of the upcoming presidental race will surely have a say in car safety and emissions. President Bush has encouraged technical solutions to reduce CO2, but has not pushed hard for regulation. John Kerry, on the other hand, may be more environemtnally aggressive. However, the environment is not high on anybody's radar screen right now.
The auto industry argues that further safety and environmental regulations would increase the sticker price on cars. However, they discovered in the 1980s that consumers were willing to pay more for safer cars, as evidenced by the success of Volvo and other cars that stressed their safety features. So it may go with emissions controls and higher-mileage vehicles; consumers may see those as investments that protect the environment while also saving them money in the long run.