In defense of US automakers

The opinion-page article "Detroit Misses the Mark, Again," Aug. 19, is extreme in its vitriolic, unbalanced, and often inaccurate attack on the US automobile industry.As manager of a task force making a major study of the role of motor vehicles in 1975 and 1976, I had many meetings with executives and technical personnel in the automotive industry. Most agreed with the conclusions of the report, which included the prospect of a fleet average of 27 miles per gallon by 1985. The industry did not take the position that improved fuel economy was "absolutely impossible." The authors state that "in safety the Big Three have cloaked their record of delinquency, obstruction, and delay in the mantle of 'free consumer choice and they accuse the industry of fighting the air bag. The industry resisted the air bag primarily for two reasons: It would not protect occupants as well as the lap-shoulder harness in non-head-on accidents, and the lap-shoulder harness would provide broader protection at far less cost to the consumer. The fact is that they had spent considerable sums of money over many years studying how to make cars safer and adopting the results. The authors would have had a better case if they had accused the industry of being slow in improving quality control and reliability and slow in learning how to build good small cars. Hamilton Herman, New Canaan, Conn.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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