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USA: Feds roll out details of 54.5 mpg standard

They specify that all new vehicles sold in the U.S. must average the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, up from 29.7 now and 35.5 mpg by 2016.

It is “a monumental day for the American people,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in announcing that the rules now are final.

The announcement comes as the Republicans open their national convention in Tampa. LaHood several times praised President Obama, a Democrat, for efforts to boost fuel economy and save consumers money.

LaHood said the regulations might boost the price of a new vehicle $1,800 in 2025, but the lower fuel expense could save drivers $8,000 over the life of the cars.

Auto dealers disagree. The National Automobile Dealers Association said the higher mpg standard “will hike the average price of a new vehicle by nearly $3,000 when fully implemented. This increase shuts almost 7 million people out of the new car market entirely and prevents many millions more from being able to afford new vehicles that meet their needs.”

What you won’t see is anything close to 54.5 mpg on the window sticker of 2025-model cars and trucks.

Why your real-world mileage will vary:

The government mileage rating on the new vehicle window stickers will be in the high 30s to around 40 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The window-sticker mileage rating is arrived at using a formula meant to match real-world driving. By contrast, the federal mileage rule — so-called CAFE, for corporate average fuel economy — is based on lab tests for combined city and highway driving.

Automakers, through their lobby group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said: “After years of billion-dollar investments by automakers, consumers have a lot of choice in fuel-efficient cars and light trucks, and automakers are working to sell these high-mileage vehicles in high volumes.”

LaHood called such cars “wildly popular.”

The category where most high-mileage cars are found — the group defined as small cars and including everything from the tiny Fiat 500 to the bigger Toyota Corolla compact — are selling 18.3% faster through July than they were a year ago, according to tallymaster Autodata.

However, that’s not a huge lead compared with all new vehicle sales, which are up 14%. And midsize cars are even more popular than small ones, up 21.8% from a year earlier.

“Compliance with higher fuel-economy standards is based on sales,” the Alliance said in a statement, drawing a distinction between what buyers will accept and what automakers might be forced to build to meet the tighter regulations.

The Natural Resources Defense Council applauded the final rules.

“We’re very happy. This is a good rule, a strong rule. This is the biggest step this country’s taken to reduce pollution and our dependence on oil since the original 1970s” Clean Air Act, says Roland Hwang, NRDC’s transportation director.

The final rules say the government will review progress in five years. It could revise the regulations, if necessary. “Automakers will be looking for a rigorous midterm review with periodic check-ins since it is difficult to predict three years in advance, let alone 13 years,” the Alliance said.


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