October 1999

Senate Threatens CAFE Standards

The current freeze on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will expire this fall if Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Slade Gorton (R-WA), and Richard Bryan D-NV) have their way. The result could have a lasting effect on consumer vehicle choice in the light truck and SUV market.

Enacted at the height of the oil crisis in 1975, CAFE was designed to conserve energy. The program requires automakers to meet U.S. government mandated average gas mileage standards for all cars and trucks sold in the U.S. CAFE is the only such government standard in the entire world. Failure to meet CAFE standards results in fines to the automakers. Light truck standards are currently frozen at the 1996-1997 rate of 20.7 mpg.

Raising passenger car CAFE standards in the late 1970's and 1980s nearly killed the full-size car and station wagon market, pushing many consumers into the, now very popular, light truck and SUV market. Ironically, now CAFE standards for the light truck market, currently 47.5% of new vehicle sales, stand to be lifted. As earlier CAFE restrictions destroyed the larger car market, many consumers chose to purchase light trucks to get the performance, utility, comfort, and safety, no longer available in passenger cars. Now, a raise in CAFE standards threatens the overwhelmingly popular light truck market in the same fashion.

Joe Micciche, of the Sport Utility Action Network, notes that unfreezing the light truck CAFE requirement is "truly maddening." "More and more vehicles, including the Ford Expedition, are reaching Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) status. Technological advance in engine design and exhaust technology will help all manufacturers attain LEV goals [without the help of raised CAFE standards]. And isn't pollution reduction the true goal? We favor cleaner-running vehicles, but adamantly oppose legislation that insidiously outlaws SUV's, work-trucks, minivans, and other utility vehicles that today' s family drives. Our legislators need to understand that underpowered utility vehicles serve no one, and subcompact cars are not practical for everyone.

SEMA has joined the major automotive manufacturers, the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and other pro-auto consumer groups in opposing any unfreezing of CAFE standards. For more background on this matter contact the Coalition for Vehicle Choice via the Internet at www.vehiclechoice.org.

Updates, Ongoing Efforts in Illinois, California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas

Despite the fact that Autumn usually signals an end to many State legislative sessions, SEMA's monitoring of government threats (and the positive stuff, too!) continues. Here is a synopsis of a few bills and programs that we are currently monitoring. Some of these topics have been covered in previous editions of the Driving Force.

Illinois Scrappage Program Looms.

Despite arguments against it, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will be formally releasing their scrappage proposal in the near future. SEMA presented the case against scrapping older cars, and even suggested alternatives to IEPA officials. Unfortunately, to date, IEPA has not responded to our material. All Illinois SEMA member companies and SEMA Action Network clubs and enthusiasts have been contacted about this program. We are particularly grateful for the efforts of Dale Workman, Shelby Club of America-Northern Illinois Region, Northern Mustang Corral, Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts, Illinois Bentley Drivers Club, Chicagoland Walter P. Chrysler and Buick Clubs, Northern Illinois Impala Club, Cruisin' Tigers GTO Club, and the Pontiac-Oakland Club, Illinois Region or their efforts in opposition to this regulation. Many of their letters to elected representatives have resulted in legislative inquiries to the IEPA to justify scrappage.

New Jersey's Pro-Hobbyist Inoperable Vehicle Bill.

At the request of New Jersey hobbyists, especially Bill Berenato of the Antique Automobile Club of America, South Jersey Region, SEMA has agreed to help aggressively pursue a bill that would prohibit localities from instituting an ordinance or land-use regulation that prevents automobile enthusiasts from pursuing their hobby. A bill of similar merit was introduced last year, however no action was taken on it. New Jersey's Classic Vehicle Advocate Group is aware of and supports this effort and the SAN is also working with other New Jersey clubs to come up with supporters for this measure in the State legislature..

California Stalls Visual/Functional Testing Bill.

Hobbyist-supported legislation to ease emissions testing burdens for owners of aftermarket equipped vehicles by limiting visual and functional testing will not be considered this year. The sponsor of this "tailpipe testing only" bill, Senator Maurice Johannessen, hopes to garner additional support for the bill in the coming months and has put the measure on track for consideration next year. The bill is opposed by the California Air Resources Board, which claims that it will reduce the efficiency of their emissions testing program and make air quality goals more difficult to achieve.

Texas Warranty Performance Obligations.

SEMA recently wrote in support of a proposed regulation offered by the Texas Department of Transportation that amends warranty obligation language to include the additional cost of aftermarket parts and accessories owed to vehicle owners due a refund under state lemon laws.

Maryland Streetrod Designation.

SEMA is working with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration on draft legislation that would allow cars constructed of non-original material to be titled as street rods. This legislation would include those streetrodders who have fiberglass or steel reproduction bodies on their cars. This legislation will be shared with the Maryland street rod community to insure accuracy and to protect the sport.

Fighting A Roadblock Via the Web

By Melissa Balk

On August 28, 1999, Ryan Smith was enjoying a late night meal with his girlfriend at the In and Out Burger in Milpitas, California when he noticed four police officers on motorcycles entering the roadway with their lights flashing. After he finished his burger, he discovered what they were doing. It turns out that, because the parking lot of the In and Out Burger is a popular hangout for the area's young import car enthusiasts, the Milpitas police had decided to set up a safety and emissions inspection checkpoint there. Every vehicle driving by, or in the parking lot of, the In and Out Burger was subject to an inspection.

The road block angered Smith, who is the webmaster of Street Racing Online (www.streetracing.org). "The people have to know that they are being discriminated [against] because of the cars that they drive. We cannot have the police or any other people helping to discourage something positive like this. To a lot of younger people, fixing up their cars is a sport and a great hobby that keeps [them] out of trouble. I am sure that gang activity has gone down in the last two to three years because younger people have something more positive to focus on," said Smith.

So Smith dedicated a page on his website to making other people aware of the road block. His written account of the events that night is supplemented by pictures he took at the scene. "I always try to keep my video camera with me," he explained. The webpage is effective; a picture of a long lines of cars waiting to be inspected is alarming.

The webpage seems to be hitting home with other auto enthusiasts. At press time, less than three weeks after being posted, the page had been viewed more than 11,000 times; hundreds of comments had been submitted from around the world.

Smith is pleased, but not surprised, by the huge response. "A lot of people may have been harassed before and want to fight for their rights. Others may not want this type of thing to happen to them in the future. A lot of people work hard to buy [legal specialty equipment]." said Smith. "This [affects] everyone, enthusiasts, manufacturers, and shop owners."

Smith hopes that the webpage will help to unite auto enthusiasts in fighting laws and unfair police action. "We all have to get together and educate people and officials that this is a positive sport," he said. In the meantime, however, "if these events happen more, we will post them on the site...to be arrested or given tickets when you are just minding your own business is wrong."

Clubs Encouraged to Follow 'Golden Rule'

Once again, SEMA has been contacted by the Valvoline Co. and Eagle One premium products to solicit nominations for the Eagle One "Golden Rule" award, created in 1994 to recognize the community-spirited and charitable work of automobile clubs nationwide.

Regional car clubs in the West, Midwest, South and East, judged by Valvoline to have the most outstanding program in support of community and charitable causes, will receive a custom designed recognition plaque and a large supply of Eagle One products for fund-raising purposes. Valvoline, Eagle One's parent company, will add a generous supply of SynPower motor oils and other automotive products. Runner -up clubs will receive an award of merit and a supply of products from both companies.

Because we are fully aware of the fantastic charitable and community involvement of SAN clubs across the country, we're happy to pass on this information. Last year, 6 out of the 8 clubs Eagle One honored with winner and runner-up awards were members of the SEMA Action Network, including the River Cruizers of Bullhead City, Arizona, Los Angeles Roadsters, United Street Machines Association of Clawson, MI, Lost in the 50's Custom Car Club of Baltimore, MD, Villa Capri Cruisers of Moscow, PA, and the Fort Lauderdale Mustang Club.

To obtain an entry form, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Eagle One Golden Rule Award, c/o Alex Litrov & Associates, 15720 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 409, Encino, CA 91436, or fax requests to 818-501-2690. The entry deadline is January 10, 2000.

Street Cars of Desire Car Club

By Erin Mulholland

In Maryland, a club that calls itself the Street Cars of Desire Car Club has made car shows benefitting local charities a work of art, as well as work of the heart. Open to any car enthusiast, the Street Cars of Desire Car Club (SCDCC) was formed in 1990 by Joey Calatl and David Cohen. Although the club has attracted over 140 family members, it's real claim to fame has been the club's ability to actively raise funds through the seven annual shows it hosts, including the 'Largest Indoor Car Show in the World,' called simply enough, the 'December Car Show.'

The 1998 December Car Show attracted over 7,000 spectators, had over 350 competing cars on display, and raised over $60,000 (gross) for the Maryland based Johns Hopkins House for Children. Like Ronald McDonald House, the John Hopkins House provides housing to family members of seriously ill children at the famous John Hopkins Hospital. Many different charities have benefited from the show in the past, including local March of Dimes and Epilepsy Foundation charities. Each year, the SCDCC takes in applications from charitable organizations, and after a careful review, selects one lucky charity to benefit at this enormous car show.

The cost to put on the December Car Show has managed to stay around $18,000. "We host the show, but we try to work along side charities and businesses to obtain sponsors to cover the costs associated with the show, to maximize our charitable gift each year," says Warnsmann.

Held at Baltimore County's Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timomium, Maryland, the December Car Show boasts vehicles from 1972 and older. Says original member Richard Warnsmann, "It takes an entire year of hard work to put together just the one December show. However, we are busy year round with about 6 other annual shows which raise money for several local charities. It is a lot of responsibility." As former president of the club, Warnsmann is taking a break this year to be "only a judge," at the December Car Show along with 8 other member volunteer judges. Legislatively, the SCDCC takes an active role, and works with other car clubs to ensure Maryland car club members' rights are protected, "We have donated money to the SEMA affiliated COVA [Council of Vehicle Associations]," says Warnsmann. However, SCDCC's main focus has always been on raising money to help those in need.

When club members are not busy putting on shows to benefit their community, they are enjoying family outings to fun spots such as Myrtle Beach, and attending car shows in other states, such as the Fiesta of the 50's show in Marshall, Michigan. Plans for this year include going to a Goodguys show, and hosting their own shows for MADD, the John Archer School for Handicapped Children, and several others, including a youth program in Westminster, MD and a local school for dyslexic children. At the 1999 December Car Show, the SCDCC will host the legendary Candy Clark, as well as the '55 Chevy from the movie American Grafitti. Hemmings Motor News has made a commitment to support the show, a big first for all involved. "We are excited," says Warnsmann, "to set a goal to raise more than $60,000 this year. It should be a piece of cake."

Letter to the Editor

I was looking through the August edition of the Driving Force, particularly at the editorial on the probable scrappage program in my home state of Illinois [The Regulators Vs. Common Sense - Driving Force, August 1999]. I have to admit, I don't quite get the [Illinois] EPA's logic. How do they propose to clean the air when every molecule of pollution they save the citizens of Illinois by crushing an old car will essentially be sold via credit to the highest industrial bidder so THEY can continue doing their OWN polluting? Are they trying to tell us that pollution from older cars is bad, but industrial pollution is good? Seems like pollution is pollution to me, no matter where it comes from.

Initially, I had a hard time getting my fellow car club members (we're a difficult bunch sometimes) to take this regulation seriously. Then I started to hit them with the fact that this silly scrappage will not only be of no help pollution-wise, but will make parts and parts cars more scarce and more expensive. Then, the message started to leak through.

Not much makes sense here. Scrappage makes no environmental sense AND threatens to make an already difficult hobby even more difficult to pursue. I hope all Illinois car clubs step up to the plate: Let your legislators know that this program needs to be halted before it starts.

Burt Snow,
Aurora, Illinois

"Can I get a witness?!" Couldn't have said it better myself, Burt. Take Mr. Snow's advice. Write/email/fax/call your IL Senators and Representatives. Tell them to get the Illinois EPA to drop this scrappage nonsense for the good of the hobby. If you don't know who your legislators are, call the Illinois General Assembly Information Line at 217-782-2000 or access the information via the internet at www.sema.org/fedleg/legislatorrequest - Ed.