For reasons I will explain in my forthcoming book, Courting Carmageddon: Capitalism and Transportation in the United States, manufacturing and selling automobiles is roughly as heedless of and harmful to public health as manufacturing and selling nicotine-delivery devices. Car crashes alone have killed more than 2 million U.S. residents in the past half-century.
Of course, thanks to their physical size and complexity and their enormous infrastructural and convenience implications, cars are far more important to corporate capitalists than cigarettes ever were. Hence, they are also far more off-the-table in terms of public debate and defense.
I say all this as background to news that Mazda is now asking the Supreme Court to shield it from liability for disregarding state-level vehicular safety laws that exceed the federal regulatory standards administered by the always half-hearted (and oxymoronically named) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In explaining its appearance as a friend of Mazda, the Alliance of Automobile Manfacturers explains:
“This case raises issues of enormous importance to auto manufacturers,” said Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The fear, he said, is that federal regulations will be “superseded” by a patchwork of state laws on personal injury claims.
As Automotive News explains its own headline on this story, the enormously important issue is whether automotive manufacturers can continue to deploy “less-than-best” products.
Suggestion: Compare the institutional urgency of this issue against the claims about manufacturing standards and corporate concern made in car advertisements.
Slight gap there, no?
And is there any doubt what the eventual ruling will be in the age of Citizens United?
Note also: It isn’t just car capitalists, of course: