The House Energy and Commerce Committee last night approved, 24 to 17, a controversial bill aimed chiefly at Toyota and Datsun auto imports. It would require cars sold in the United States to be built with a substantial amount of U.S. parts and labor.
Proponents of the Fair Practices in Automotive Products Act, seeking to make it more workable and politically more palatable, made substantial revisions in the original version during the markup process. The changes were proposed by the bill's original sponsor, Rep. Richard L. Ottinger (D-N.Y.).
Among other things, they eliminated much of the bill's potential impact on Volkswagen and Honda, which already build cars in America.
"I for one am tired of seeing the U.S. serve up Pablum to the Japanese and Europeans while these countries are flooding our markets with their products while keeping our products out of theirs. Sometimes you have to hit someone between the eyes before they change their ways," Ottinger said after the vote.
The requirements would apply to automakers whose annual sales of cars and trucks exceed $100,000 -- the higher the sales, the higher the requirement. The starting date would be model year 1984, with complete implementation by 1986.
Under the bill, leading Japanese auto importers could be required to build as much as 70 percent of their cars here, down from the 90 percent sought in the bill's original version. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, who have stayed officially neutral on the bill, still would face the original 90 percent requirement.
The formula is tied to sales. For example, after the 1985 model year, a car maker with sales of 600,000 would divide that figure by 10,000 and realize a "domestic content" requirement of 60 percent.
The bill goes next to the Ways and Means subcommittee on trade, and could reach the floor for a House vote a week to 10 days later, committee sources said.
The administration adamantly opposes the bill, calling it a disastrous protectionist measure. Embattled auto workers have lobbied feverishly for passage before the Nov. 2 general election, claiming that more than 800,000 jobs will be created or saved.