Unintended consequences – European style

As we discussed during a Montana rep’s brief-but-misguided Do-Not-Mail campaign, unintended consequences have a nasty habit of being rather expensive.

Today’s unintended consequences come all the way from the UK, where news surfaced about 2 weeks ago that Chris Davies, a British member of the European Union Parliament, has decided that cars that travel over 160kph (about 100 mph) should be outlawed due to their excessive hydrocarbon emissions.

His contention is that cars that can go fast must be made heavier and thus give off more emissions. Anyone with the slightest bit of engineering or automobile knowledge knows that these 2 things are not always directly connected, but let’s ignore reality for a few minutes and look at the numbers.

As usual, the little guy is the one who will pay for this, so let’s examine the fallout of the proposal.

Quoting from Mr. Davies website,

Controversially he says that new vehicles should not be awarded type approval if they are built to exceed the maximum speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour applying in most European countries by more than 25% (162kmh or 101mph).

Mr Davies said: “Cars designed to go at stupid speeds have to be built to withstand the effects of a crash at those speeds. They are heavier than necessary, less fuel efficient and produce too many emissions.”

At a time when Europe is worried about its energy security it is sheer lunacy to approve the sale of gas guzzling cars designed to travel at dangerous speeds that the law does not permit.”

First of all, it’s hard not to wonder if outlawing vehicles that will exceed 100mph/160kph might kill or neuter Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini, as well as a number of models for other car manufacturers (including most diesel haulers used by “working people”).

Perhaps they’d decide to electronically governor those vehicles. It’s hard to say how they’d react – assuming governors would allow the vehicles to meet the rules in the first place – after all, it’s that nasty weight that causes the emissions (a 2007 911 weighs about 3000 lbs).

Let’s ignore the fact that most cars, even Hyundais, will reach 100 mph these days. We’ll use a fast car manufacturer as an example and to keep it simple, a small one.

Let’s just look at Porsche:

But that doesn’t appear to be enough for Mr. Davies.

Porsche’s are small numbers compared to the 6.597 million cars that Ford Motors (including Land Rover, Jaguar and Mazda) produced in 2006.

Porsche employs 11,000+ workers worldwide at a cost of 1.037 billion euros. The 102,602 cars and other assorted products and services those 11k people produced grossed 7.23 billion euros last year.

Those numbers don’t include the 3rd party / OE manufacturers and contractors who do work for Porsche, or the homes and food they buy – and the jobs they create.

In the US, the number you often hear is that money floats around through 7 pairs of hands locally. Looking solely at Porsche’s employee costs times 7, you end up at over 7 billion euros worldwide.  That’s roughly 3 times the 2006 gross revenue of a little company named Google.

A few of those and we’re talking real money. Wonder if Davies has done the math?

Need an example of the silliness of using speed as a measure?

How many 4000-6000 lb SUVs won’t make it to 100mph? I’m guessing there are a few, and it seems they might be exempt.

Perhaps Davies is thinking of Porsches and Lamborghinis – but that’s not what his proposal says. I wonder if he’s considered that the 50+ mpg Honda Civic and hybrid Toyota Prius are both likely capable of reaching 100mph.

Scratch those puppies off the list, they’re just too wasteful.

The EU’s emission rules are a move in the right direction. On the other hand, adding meaningless and irrelevant hoops to jump through is bad for business and bad for the people employed by the auto business and communities they live in.