Talk about embarrassing. When high-level officials in an administration that's provided more support and political cover than any in recent history advise their staff to purchase vehicles from your foreign rivals, you know you're in trouble. That was the situation facing Detroit's big three automakers - GM, Ford and Chrysler - when it was revealed last week that the brass at the Department of Health and Human Services had told their staff members they'd be better off buying a car from Toyota, Honda or Hyundai if they wished to cut back on their fuel costs.
As part of a newsletter promoting "energy efficiency behind the wheel," officials at the department trumpeted the merits of hybrid vehicles and even included a list of the top 12 "green" cars as compiled by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) - all of which were either Japanese or South Korean cars (your usual suspects: the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic hybrid and Honda Fit, amongst others). Following angry complaints from the American carmakers - who argued that it displayed "a simplistic approach that showed a prejudice against American vehicles" - the department retracted the newsletter, apologizing for having "offended anyone". As pathetic as it was for the department to buckle under the pressure exerted by the automakers, it was still instructive seeing that even members of the Bush administration embrace more fuel efficient vehicles - even when they come from foreign companies. As for the Detroit Three... we've got three words for you: better CAFE standards.
Via ::Financial Times: US backs down over car advice (newspaper, subs. required)