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Pollution clouds GM's "forward look" in autos

Last Thursday and Friday, General Motors had two of its concept cars on display in front of the Student Center. The Chevy Express was a technology demonstrator. Powered by a turbine engine, it was never intended to be mass produced and was essentially a rolling test bed.

On the other hand, the black Cadillac Voyage was much closer to the type of car that GM plans to introduce to its show rooms in the future. The promotional pamphlet spoke of the awesome power developed by the V8 engine and all of the advanced features that have been included in this car. The pamphlet also stated that "at higher speeds, aerodynamics are vitally important for stability and fuel economy." I asked the GM employee with the car what the fuel economy actually was (a figure that was conspicuously missing from the specifications), and he proudly assured me that it was over 20 miles per gallon. He thought that it was about 22 MPG. Gas mileage that low is disgraceful!

We are facing the worst pollution-related environmental problems ever, including acid rain, the greenhouse effect and cities choking in smog, and GM is working on 3800-pound gas-guzzling land yachts. Many cars on the road today get gas mileage of 30 or even 40 MPG while GM is threatening to close plants because of "unreasonable" Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements of 26.5 MPG (for the average of all cars they sell in 1989).

GM failed to meet CAFE requirements from 1983 through 1985 and then in 1986 successfully lobbied to have them lowered. The requirements will go up again next year, and GM plans to fall behind again. The descendants of the Cadillac Voyage will not hit the production lines until 1995, and GM is still planning to use the same engine as is being used in Cadillacs today. The six-year lag between conception of a new model and the start of production ensures that an effort to improve now would not be seen for years to come.

GM's blatant disregard for the environment is distressing because huge corporations like GM can make the needed difference, but their "spirited look toward the future" is looking as dirty and polluted as ever. It is unfortunate that GM is making no effort to set a good example and it will probably take another oil crisis before they consider making more efficient cars.

Andrew Heafitz '91->