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25 August 2017

Tough Fuel Economy Rules Save Consumers Money


Consumers Union To Trump Administration: Tough Fuel Economy Rules Save Consumers Money

If Americans want to save money, higher fuel economy standards can only help, says Consumer Union.

The word by the consumer advocacy behind Consumer Reports comes after research, surveys, and having been in on talks for years on the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

It also comes as those rules for 2022-2025 are now under review by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the direction of the Trump administration.

The CAFE standards for 2022-2025 were actually settled ahead of deadline by the Obama administration as the former president was leaving office, but at the behest of automakers, the new administration is reconsidering them.

It’s also even mulling whether it should amend 2021 standards although the rules in question – which get incrementally stricter each year – were only under the present law to be for the “midterm” period of 2022-2025.

Taking the line of what’s best for consumers, Consumer Union cites “strong consumer interest in more efficient cars and trucks” which should prompt the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to enforce tougher standards, it said.

“New technology advancements that boost fuel efficiency open the door to lower costs and greater savings for consumers,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “NHTSA should recognize the significant value to consumers and the economy of further strengthening automotive efficiency standards out to 2025.”

Today’s statement is the latest in a series by the consumer watchdog and comes as stakeholders look to what may happen. The position is part of CU’s stance for the federal Notice for Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM), which is the next step in the regulatory process and which is to lay out NHTSA’s initial 2022-2025 plan – as well as whether it will also adjust 2021 rules.

At present, it is unclear if 2021 rules will be touched or even when the NPRM will be issued. Once it is, it’s believed there will be a comment period for external stakeholders to weigh in for either 30, 45, or 60 days. After the public weighs in, it could be several months before NHTSA issues the final rule.

In a nationally representative survey published in June 2017, Consumers Union found that fuel economy is the number one attribute vehicle owners would like to see improved.

Other stakeholders have included environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, and several others.

In short, the prospect of upholding tough emission and mpg rules – which stand to raise window sticker averages to the high 30s in 2025 from around 26 mpg today – are being supported for multiple reasons.

It is automakers which are saying consumers will be forced to pay for their incurred costs spread to all vehicles to recoup expenses forced on them by tough standards.

In February this year, citing billions in costs, and cars it says few people will want, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers asked the U.S. EPA’s Administrator Scott Pruitt to withdraw the Obama administration’s decision to lock in rules through 2025, and this request was granted.

Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the industry group representing 77 percent of U.S. auto manufacturers, wrote to Pruitt the decision was “the product of egregious procedural and substantive defects.” And, he added, it is “riddled with indefensible assumptions, inadequate analysis and a failure to engage with contrary evidence.”

Under rules set by the Obama administration, plug-in electrified cars are not mandated, but are encouraged and the rules as set were partial motivation as the global market shifts toward cleaner passenger vehicles. Otherwise, costs assumed by automakers include improved conventional technology to make gas-burning engines more efficient.

This said, and as stakeholders hunker down for what environmentalists say could become a fight that ends in court, the Consumer Union appealed today to what’s best for consumers as it sees it.

The Washington-based advocacy said factors NHTSA should consider include economic benefits of lower fuel spending, technology advancements that lower the costs of more efficient vehicles, and safety benefits as well.

Highlights from the comments include:

Consumer surveys show overwhelming support for increasing efficiency of all vehicles, including crossovers, SUVs and trucks
• For the vast majority of car buyers who finance or lease a vehicle, savings from lower fuel spending would be realized in the first month of ownership.
Low and moderate income households would benefit more with high efficiency vehicles as they spend more as a percentage of their income on fuel and as efficient new cars make their way to the used car market (which accounts for 70% of all cars sales annually).
• Factors that NHTSA is statutorily required to consider suggest that efficiency standards should be set higher than previously suggested.
• Safety considerations require that light-duty truck standards increase by at least as much as passenger car standards, and stronger truck standards can enhance both safety and fuel savings benefits.

“Automakers have gradually improved the efficiency and safety of vehicles over the past several years and have enjoyed record sales and high profits at the same time. Stalling or rolling back this progress would increase costs and reduce vehicle choices,” said Baker-Branstetter “For the best interest of consumers, NHTSA should set higher fuel efficiency standards for both cars and trucks.”

A full copy of the submitted comment is available here.

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