Gas Taxes Should Go Up To Boost Green-Car Sales, Says GM CEO Akerson

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Dan Akerson, GM CEO as of September 1, 2010

Dan Akerson, GM CEO as of September 1, 2010

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The CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson, told a Detroit newspaper that the Federal tax on gasoline should be raised by 50 cents or $1 a gallon to encourage consumers to buy more fuel efficient vehicles..

In an interview last week with the Detroit News, Akerson said a higher gas tax should be part of a comprehensive energy policy set by the U.S. government--a notable omission thus far from the policies issued by the Obama Administration.

A higher gas tax makes more sense, Akerson argued, than proposals to increase corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulations to as much as 62 miles per gallon by 2025.

Those increases "tax production" in the U.S., he said, which will cost jobs. And he asked for a discussion of the costs and the benefits of different ways of achieving the same goal: increasing the efficiency of new vehicles to reduce fuel consumption.

Making Republicans "puke"

Akerson acknowledged the political impossibility of raising the gas tax, especially with gas prices at record levels of $4 a gallon or more in some parts of the country.

The very idea, he said, "will make my Republican friends puke."

The GM CEO is hardly the first auto industry executive to advocate higher gas taxes. Rick Wagoner, GM's CEO in 2009, said the idea was "worthy of consideration."

Akerson's counterpart at Ford, CEO Alan Mulally, has also called for a higher gas tax.

So have Bill Ford Jr., chairman and previous CEO of Ford, and Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, the country's largest auto dealer.

All of them say that directing market forces by raising the cost of consuming gasoline is a far better way to move the needle than relieving consumers of all responsibility and putting the entire burden of higher gas mileage on automakers.

In addition, rising gas mileage has reduced total gas-tax revenue, increasing the deficit in the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Two years ago, that shortfall was estimated at $400 billion for the period 2010 to 2015. Nothing has changed since then.

Akerson: the new Lutz?

With the retirement of GM's former product czar Bob Lutz, Akerson may be assuming the Lutz role as the GM executive who says exactly what he thinks, no matter how much chaos it causes.

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'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Bob Lutz arrives in a Chevy Volt

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Lutz once notoriously called the concept of climate change "bull$&^t" in a live interview.

Akerson's interview on the gas tax came on the heels of one in which he said of Cadillac's long-time competitor, Lincoln, "you might as well sprinkle holy water; it's over."

He also damned two upcoming Cadillac models with faint praise, saying they wouldn't "blow the doors off," though they would be "very competitive."

Detroit = East Berlin

Not the sort of stuff you heard from the previous parade of uniformly bland, media-trained GM CEOs.

Other Akerisms?

On the state of the battered city of Detroit, GM's CEO said he hadn't "seen a city in this bad a shape since I went to East Berlin in 1969."

[Detroit News]

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