WASHINGTON (Oct. 17, 2008) — Tire and auto parts makers got what they wanted when Congress recently passed bills authorizing loans to auto makers and suppliers, and strengthening intellectual property rights.
The Senate voted 78-12 on Sept. 27 to authorize funding of Section 136 of last year's Energy Independence and Security Act three days after the House of Representatives voted 350-78 in the bill's favor. That provides $25 billion in direct funding or loans to vehicle and automotive component makers to set up, expand or re-equip plants to produce fuel-efficient, advanced technology vehicles and vehicle equipment.
Major rubber-industry suppliers to the auto industry such as Goodyear, Gates Corp., Continental Tire North America Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone joined Detroit's Big Three auto makers in supporting the legislation. President Bush signed the bill Sept. 30.
The Section 136 provision was part of a $600 billion continuing resolution to fund federal government operations through March 2009.
Bob McKenna, president and CEO of the Motor & Vehicle Manufacturers Association, said the direct loan program will make loans available to component manufacturers as well as auto manufacturers, and recognizes the essential role suppliers play in the development of advanced technology vehicles.
Gates also is pleased with the bill's passage, according to a company spokeswoman.
“Passage of this bill offers a two-fold benefit,” she said. “First, it helps the health of the auto and auto supplier industries. Second, it's a great opportunity for the auto industry to explore advanced technology for both energy savings and emissions reductions. It's an environmental issue as well as a financial one.”
The U.S. Department of Energy said it will try to expedite implementation of the automotive provision, but that it might take as long as 18 months to honor all requests for loans.
Meanwhile, the auto aftermarket community hailed the Sept. 26 passage of a bill to strengthen federal laws against product counterfeiting and intellectual property theft. The Senate version of the bill passed unanimously, then was approved in the House by voice vote, the House version already having received overwhelming approval.
Among other things, the intellectual property bill creates a new enforcement coordinator to oversee inter-agency efforts to stop product coun- terfeiting and intellectual property theft, including copyright piracy as well as patent and trademark theft. It also increases tools and resources within the Justice Department to fight intellectual property theft and deletes certain requirements that previously barred the filing of patent or copyright infringement lawsuits.
“The anti-counterfeiting legislation makes important strides in addressing protection of our intellectual property and will ensure that the unique needs of manufacturers are examined more closely,” according to MEMA's McKenna.