California's Dreaming?

Rebecca Lindland thinks CARB's new ZEV mandate will force consumers in California, and elsewhere, to buy cars they don't want and/or can't afford.

Published: 02-Feb-2012

Last Friday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandated that by 2025, 15% of new cars sold in California must have zero or near-zero emissions – in other words, that they be electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, the Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen car and soon the Tesla Model S.

If you think this won’t impact what you get to drive, think again. New York, Massachusetts, Washington and 11 other states have adopted California’s smog emissions rules. Those 14 states combine for half of all auto sales every year, so this is a sweeping mandate.

But mandates don’t mean people are going to buy these cars, it just means car companies will be forced into making them. Mandating behavior has often resulted in people doing things the government wasn’t expecting. Back in the mid-70's, Americans all bought cars – SUVs and pickups were few and far between. Baby Boomers were just starting to flex their buying power. Then fuel economy standards were mandated and guess what? Consumers started gravitating towards SUVs and pickups because the cars that were being offered by automakers to meet mandated fuel economy standards didn’t meet consumers wants and needs anymore.

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