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GM's outlook includes improved fuel economy

Andrew Heafitz's portrayal of General Motors as having "blatant disregard for the environment" and "making no effort to set a good example" does my company a great disservice ["Pollution clouds GM's `forward look' in autos," Oct. 20]. Allow me to explain just some of our regard for the environment and the progressive example we set.

GM is committed to satisfying the customer. That commitment leads to being a full-line manufacturer of cars and trucks, from small cars to big cars and small trucks to big trucks. Yes, big cars do get less economy than small cars. But at GM, we currently sell the highest fuel economy vehicle in the United States, the Geo Metro at 58 MPG highway, and our large cars have competitive economy with any other manufacturer in the world.

It bothers me deeply to see my company depicted as obstructing the achievement of society's goals. To the contrary, GM has led the way in the development of most of the progress in modern automotive technology and engineering.

We have increased our passenger car fuel economy by some 130 percent since the mid-1970s, 50 percent of which was achieved before any regulations. Can you name another industry whose products have made such a contribution to our nation's energy efficiency?

We have reduced tail pipe emissions to the point of approaching perfect combustion. That's what makes eliminating the last little bit so difficult, so costly, and not a cost-effective solution for society. With the oldest half of today's fleet accounting for some 85 percent of car emissions, as new cars replace old ones, the air we breathe will become cleaner.

GM has devoted more resources to automotive safety and research -- and has developed more safety devices -- than any other automobile manufacturer in the world. Can we adapt all of this safety technology today to every car and truck we build? No, because in some cases it's not ready yet. But it will be.

Since the mid-1970s, we have reduced our vehicle weight by some 1200 pounds (27 percent), gone from 99 percent rear wheel drive to about 90 percent front wheel drive, improved aerodynamic efficiency by one third, reduced tire rolling resistance by 50 percent, and reduced brake drag by 75 percent. Need I go on? These are all things we have done and there is much more to come.

I think GM recognizes the opportunities of responding to the changing expectations of society. We are committed to holding our lead in providing cars and trucks that are clean, safe, efficient and desirable. In addition, we will never lose sight of the element that makes everything else possible: the wants and needs of our customers.

Emission, economy, and safety are complex issues. I don't believe there are any "silver bullets" to resolve these issues. There are a lot of alternatives including intelligent highways, multi-valve engines, multi-speed transmissions, diesels, gas turbines, alternative fuels, aerodynamic efficiencies, and lightweight materials. We will end up using some mixture of all these technologies. Hopefully, it will be a cost-effective mixture based on what the market tells us. The exact mixture is not important. What is important, however, is that industry and government get on the same side of the solutions. D. L. Runkle SM '76->

Vice President,->

Advanced Engineering Staff,->

General Motors Corporation->