Petition urging automakers to make more FFVs seeks signatures

By Erin Voegele | May 14, 2019

A grassroots effort is underway to help convince automakers to continue to produce flex fuel vehicles (FFVs). To date, nearly 750 people have signed an online petition. Organizers of the effort are asking members of the ethanol industry to help grow that number to at least 10,000.

Chris Schwarck of Mason City, Iowa, is spearheading the effort. In addition to being a corn farmer, Schwarck has been active in the ethanol industry for nearly two decades. He has sat on seven different ethanol boards and is financially involved in eight ethanol production facilities.  

Schwarck said the idea to start the petition was prompted by recent efforts to purchase FFVs and hearing of General Motors’ retreat from FFVs at a recent industry event.

“Last year, I went to buy [an FFV] for my wife, and had a hard time finding one,” Schwarck said, noting he had to visit several dealerships. Just before attending an ethanol convention earlier this year, he wanted to buy a new FFV pickup for his own use. Schwarck said he had to visit three different dealerships before he found a vehicle to purchase.

“The dealers would always say 'we don’t have it' ... 'they’re not making it' ... 'they’ve changed their engines and we don’t have any [FFVs],'” he said, noting he told the dealers “if you don’t have a flex fuel [vehicle], I won’t be buying one.”

“We figure if we make the fuel, we should be using it,” Schwarck added.

He attended an industry conference earlier this year during which a representative of General Motors spoke. That representative said the company is moving in the direction of electric vehicles.

“I thought, something needs to be done about this,” Schwarck said. At the event, he spoke with several colleagues and decided they should start a petition.

While Schwarck said incentives tied to current corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards are cited as the reason for the auto industry’s apparent move away from FFVs, he pointed out the cost of making an FFV is very low.  It only costs about $300 for a manufacturer to make a vehicle an FFV, he said, indicating that value pales in comparison to the thousands of dollars of accessories featured in most vehicles.

The petition is aimed at all automakers, not just General Motors. Schwarck said the hope is that executives at these companies will see the petition and decide “if they don’t want to make [FFVs], we will.” To date, nearly 750 people have signed the online version of the petition. Schwarck said the goal is to grow that number to 10,000 to 20,000.

“We want a level playing field,” he said. “Let consumers decide what they want to buy ... We think the American people should have the right to make that choice of what kind of fuel they want to use—and will hopefully choose something made in America, not made by our adversaries.”

Schwarck noted the ethanol industry—and the agriculture industry—are at a crossroads. He said the trade war, fight for year-round E15, and impact of small refinery exemptions are all hurting producers. The auto industry’s move away from FFVs is one more thing that could negatively impact ethanol producers and corn farmers.

Schwarck is encouraging those in the ethanol industry and the farm community to sign the petition. The ethanol industry has been the greatest thing to ever happen to agriculture if you’re a corn farmer, he said.

Most vehicles on the road are replaced every seven or eight years, Schwarck said, noting we’ve already lost about a year and a half of FFV production. “I don’t think it’s out of the question to ask [automakers] to make the vehicles that we want to buy,” he said.

Visit to sign the petition.