and the automotive industry aren't happy about the hefty increases in fuel
economy ratings that the Obama administration wants. The issue with automakers
isn't that they don't want to increase fuel efficiency in their vehicles, but
that they fear the costs
of making the vehicles more efficient will cut into sales.
The automotive industry still points to a report from the Center for Automotive
Research that found raising fuel efficiency to 60.1 mpg across the fleet would
increase the price of a vehicle by 22% and cut sales 25% while eliminating
220,000 jobs from the automotive sector. However, the NHTSA has said that it is
researching the impact of increasing fuel economy on vehicle prices on its own.
Right now, the agency says that its investigation is focusing
on the impact of raising economy 2% to 7% annually. The
"tentative conclusion" is that 7% is the highest annual increase that
is technically feasible for automakers. That increase would put the fleet wide
increase in fuel economy in the 47 mpg to 62 mpg range by 2025. Those numbers
are similar to what has been offered in previous reports.
The NHTSA notes that before it makes the changes into law, it is performing a
study to look at multiple factors including the costs that would be placed on
the automakers and the consumer, as well as safety factors. One route to better
fuel economy will undoubtedly be for automakers to produce lighter vehicles,
but lighter vehicle designs can’t compromise on passenger safety. Finding that
delicate balance between powertrain efficiency, lightweight materials for vehicle
construction, and cost will be weighing heavily on automakers in the coming
The Detroit News reports that the
cost of meeting the 47 to 62 mpg efficiency number would cost $770 to $3,500
per vehicle. On the high side of that range, about 14% of the vehicles
would need to be full electrics according to the government. The estimates are
that the driver would save enough fuel within four years to pay the higher cost
of meeting the more stringent 7% fuel economy standard.