The Auto Industry's Second-Biggest Fear

What bothers carmakers most after the threat of recession? How to adhere to CAFE fuel rules without losing customers
General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

Ask auto executives what keeps them up at night, and right after the 50-50 chance that the U.S. economy will slide into a recession is the new set of fuel-economy rules handed down by Uncle Sam in December. They all say that they will meet the new rules, but the question is how? What scares them is that to meet the new rules, they will have to make automobiles either more expensive or smaller and less powerful, two types of cars that have traditionally been about as popular as a Greenpeace delegation at a National Rifle Assn. convention.

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