When I delved into Tom Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999), I was impressed by how he roped together complex and disparate information to generate a well-rounded picture of the intricacies of globalization. Not that I totally agreed with him (plus he’s a bit too preachy for me).
In his column today in the NYT (now free!), Friedman asserts that Toyota may be attempting to “slow down innovation in Detroit” by uniting with the Big Three US auto manufacturers to keep “shielding Detroit from pressure to innovate on higher mileage standards”.
Tut tut. Friedman’s capable of more complex, robust, and insightful analyses than this.
Since, as Friedman notes, Asian and European MPG standards favor far more energy-efficiency than US standards, all these manufacturers must have staff working on high-efficiency compliance (engineering, etc.) willy-nilly. So, it would seem to me, the issue is not what the US law says, so much as allying with other manufacturers. Toyota achieves more by standing together with its automaker brethern, rather than, at this point, seeking to “enhance its own reputation and spur the whole U.S. auto industry to become more globally competitive,” as Friedman puts it.
But, really, that’s not up to Toyota. Globalization (remember the Lexus in his book’s title?) is already doing that. Regardless of the US laws.
The marketplace overrules US standards in this matter, but only as far as engineering and innovation. Meanwhile the world loses ’cause we pollute more than we should here, because we’ve got a lotta vehicles running a lot of miles across this nation.
Speaking of preachy, lemme move on….