Saturn Boycott

March 2001

The National Motorists Association, in cooperation with Drivers Against Daytime Running Lights and LightsOut.Org, is asking its members and the public at large to boycott General Motors’ Saturn products. The purpose of the boycott is to protest G.M.’s practice of equipping its vehicles with high-glare, daytime running lights (DRLs).

The NMA and the anti-DRL organizations believe that widespread or universal use of daytime running lights reduces highway safety. Very bright DRLs like those on Saturns enrage motorists who must share the road with vehicles so equipped, and the dazzling glare can impair other road users’ vision and depth perception, especially if they adjust their mirrors to try to avoid having to stare at the glare.

Since 1997, the NMA has opposed the trend towards equipping cars and trucks with bright DRLs – often based on high-beam headlamps – that are turned on whenever the engine is running. The daytime running lights (DRLs) cannot be turned off by the vehicle operator.

General Motors (required like all carmakers to install DRLs on vehicles sold in Canada) repeatedly lobbied the Federal Government to allow GM to install Canadian-style DRLs on its US cars in order to save the costs of producing separate wiring for Canadian and American cars. The Department of Transportation finally bowed to GM pressure in 1995, and overrode numerous state laws that prohibited the use of these lights.

Saturn automobiles use the “high beam” or “bright” element of the headlights for daytime running lights. Even though the DRLs are operated with lower voltages, the light is reflected directly into the eyes and the rear view mirrors of other motorists.

The NMA petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asking, among other things, that the Saturn products be recalled and that these lights either be disconnected or modified to reduce the glare problem. (See here for the petition.) NHTSA accepted the petition and acknowledged that there may be issues in need of attention. NHTSA’s own tests showed that DRLs, like those on Saturn products, produce more glare than is permitted by even the high glare limits of the US DRL law. However, three years and millions of glaring headlights later, NHTSA has failed to take corrective action even in the face of unprecedented complaints about excessive glare. Nor has GM responded in any meaningful way.

NMA spokesman, Eric Skrum said, “The NMA is calling for a boycott of all Saturn products and we are hoping that even Saturn owners will join us in demanding action to eliminate this source of irritation and distraction.”

The NMA wants NHTSA to recall all vehicles with high-beam DRLs, disconnect or modify the lamps to eliminate the glare being endured by other motorists, and install a driver-controlled on/off switch. The NMA also is calling for a ban on DRLs that use high-beam headlamps, stricter glare limits on other types of DRLs, and driver-controlled on/off switches for DRLs on new cars.

James J. Baxter, President of the National Motorists Association said, “If General Motors is looking for reasons why it is progressively losing market share and customer loyalty, it might just take a hard look at this issue. To save a few dollars on electrical wiring, GM has chosen to alienate millions of motorists on a daily basis. The alleged safety benefits of DRLs are highly questionable, but there is no question that shining bright lights in other drivers’ eyes are distracting, enraging and reduces safety.”

As part of the NMA’s Saturn boycott campaign, the drivers’ rights membership organization is offering free bumper stickers (SUN’S UP “LIGHTS OFF” THANK YOU) and free tags that can be placed on the windshields of Saturn automobiles, to alert their owners of the recall campaign. (Windshield tag text is available at or by contacting the NMA.) The free bumper stickers and windshield tags can be ordered on the NMA web site,, or by calling 608-849-6000.