Hey, carmakers: Is this a country of Americans or Ameri-can’ts?

By By Andy Thompson

By Andy Thompson

The auto industry is again showing its true colors this month in Vermont, and they’re definitely not green.

With General Motors and DaimlerChrysler leading the pack, a consortium composed of car dealers and industry representatives are in U.S. District Court this month suing the Green Mountain State for passing legislation that would reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2016.

Vermont’s legislation followed California’s initiative to reduce global warming and improve fuel efficiency.

Eight other states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington — also enacted identical regulations. (Lawsuits filed by the industry against California and Rhode Island are forthcoming.)

These states have heard the rhetoric from the Bush administration about energy conservation and technological development, all while it sits back and hopes that the omniscient “market” will guide the planet.

After the federal government halted any further increased oversight on industry’s (not just Detroit’s) pollution in 2001 when it elected not to participate in the Kyoto Protocol, these states are taking matters into their own hands.

Like a team of new executives called on to address negative earnings, they have stepped in to stop the deluge — whether it’s global warming, poor air conditions or an impending oil shortage.

The states are setting incremental goals for the auto industry to attain that will alleviate the country’s dependence on foreign oil and lessen the impact it has on the environment.

And the carmakers are pissed. Behind the flashy advertising — they spend more on commercials than any other industry — Detroit is a dinosaur refusing to adapt.

Innovation is spurred by necessity. Obviously, the auto industry doesn’t see any imminent need to begin developing this “technology” that the White House claims will save the world from floods and famine. The industry needs a swift kick in the ass to get in gear. These outdated behemoths are not just going to voluntarily spend money on progress if they don’t have to.

Not only do General Motors and DaimlerChrysler think the states’ actions are unfair, the plaintiffs said that the goals set by the legislation are “just not possible.”

The latter was testimony from DaimlerChrysler’s vice president for powertrain engineering, Robert Lee, to the District Court on April 13.

Sure doesn’t sound like the good old-fashioned can-do ambition that built this country.

No one said this predicament (in large part caused by General Motors and its counterparts) would be easy to solve, but it’s not impossible.

DaimlerChrysler could start by implementing the 36 miles per gallon its European fleet averages to its American cars and trucks. (DaimlerChrysler’s American fleet currently gets 25 miles per gallon.) General Motors and Ford can follow suit.

The car industry should quit spending all its money on lawyers and stop parading chief engineers to the witness stand.

Go to MIT, recruit the best and the brightest, give them a lab coat and tell them to get to work — their country (and the world) depends on it.