The new head of the Paris-based global auto industry lobby, Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles, backtracks on his recent criticism of the U.S. auto industry.
“My job is not to criticize the U.S. auto manufacturers,” Patrick Blain says in an email to WardsAuto. “There is no ‘bad’ U.S. auto world vs. a ‘good’ European one.”
The about-face comes after discussion between Blain and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an OICA member organization that represents the interests of auto makers – American, European and Asian – that sell vehicles in the U.S.
The discussion was prompted by a recent WardsAuto story citing highly charged remarks made by Blain, who said the U.S. industry has been dragging its feet on advancement while government-industry partnerships in Asia and Europe have spawned innovations such as electric-vehicle technology.
“In a new auto world, with so many different power technologies (electric, hybrid, classical) things are getting more and more complex, and we must understand each auto world,” Blain now says.
“Every government, every nation has its own automotive culture. What I wanted to highlight is that manufacturers, with different technologies, gas prices, taxes, government incentives are all reducing, in a drastic way, (carbon-dioxide) emissions. That is definitely not what I explained,” he says. “Some started sooner, some later, but they drive all in the same direction.”
In an earlier, wide-ranging interview with a WardsAuto correspondent, Blain suggested’ Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, which launched last year and now is struggling to meet U.S. sales targets, is “just another example of the American industry being too late.”
He added: “They have missed many trends.”
Ironically, the Opel Ampera – the Volt’s European-market mechanical twin – has not yet launched. But Adam Opel’s top sales executive told WardsAuto last month the auto maker expects to sell more than 10,000 Amperas in its first year, up from an 8,000-unit projection.
In his earlier remarks, Blain offered some faint praise when describing the latest U.S. corporate average fuel economy target of 54.5 mpg (4.3 L/100 km) by 2025.
“At last, they are entering into the natural discussion,” he said. “Fighting like hell against technical regulations that make some sense to save the planet is a mistake. I think they have been fighting for too long, and they have been paying the price.”
Mitch Bainwol, AAM president and CEO, rejects Blain’s view in the story posted on WardsAuto.com. “The comments were neither factual nor appropriate,” Bainwol says in a statement.
“They certainly didn’t reflect an understanding of our marketplace, our consumers or our system of policymaking,” he says, adding the AAM and Blain “had a chance to speak and talk about these realities.”
Elected OICA president in February after serving as chairman and CEO of France’s industry lobby, the Comité des Constucteurs Francais d’Automobiles, Blain worked for. His background is in engineering and economics. After his election, he said promotion of CO2-reduction projects would be a key priority of his administration.
“Around the world, the automobile industry has undertaken tremendous technical efforts and is investing billions of euros every year to reduce the CO2 emissions produced by its vehicles,” he said, adding auto makers “have clearly embarked on a new path, focusing on fuel-efficient and low-CO2-emission vehicles.”
Founded in Paris in 1919, OICA comprises 40 member organizations. Among several “missions” listed on its website, OICA “supports a comprehensive global and economic approach regarding the reduction of CO2 emissions.”