House of Representatives votes against CAFE hike
The United States House of Representatives has rejected an attempt to drastically raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, voting down the so-called Boehlert/Markey amendment by a vote of 268 to 162. The amendment would have resulted in a combined car and truck CAFE standard of over 30 mpg by 2010.
The result was applauded by the import brand dealer association AIDA which, earlier this week sent out alerts to dealer members, urging them to contact their local Representatives on the amendment offered to the House Energy legislation debated by Congress this week.
“The vote -- 162 in support to 268 opposing -- demonstrates the support in the House of the automotive industry and NHTSA's efforts to raise CAFE standards through the regulatory system, rather than by an arbitrary amount that could compromise consumer choice and safety,” AIDA said in an email to its members on Friday.
“This would have been a drastic increase over today's standards of 20.7 mpg for trucks and 27.5 mpg for cars. The entire automobile industry united to oppose this amendment,” AIDA added.
“AIADA firmly believes that Congress does not need to interfere in the CAFE programme at this time, and that NHTSA should regulate CAFE standards, taking into consideration safety, technological feasibility, cost considerations, emissions controls, consumer choice and the effects on the automotive industry. AIADA will continue to fight any attempt to drastically raise CAFE standards which could jeopardise consumer choice and safety.”
Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press (DFP) said on Friday that environmentalists and safety groups claim a proposed change in the way the government mandates fuel economy could cause US car makers to make their vehicles even bigger and less fuel efficient.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to release a proposal in the next couple of months that could base corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, on weight instead of vehicle class, the paper said.
Experts told the DFP that a weight-based programme probably would be broken into several weight classes that would have their own CAFE targets with some speculating that the lightest and heaviest classes would have the toughest fuel-economy targets to meet so that vehicle makers would build cars and trucks in the middle range.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the experts say the idea behind the change is to prevent vehicle makers from building less-sturdy light cars to offset large trucks and it's also meant to encourage them to make the biggest trucks and sport-utilities lighter, more fuel efficient and less threatening to other vehicles.
Critics say that depending on how the weight system is structured, some vehicles actually might get larger and less fuel efficient than they are today, the DFP said.
The paper reported that environmental groups claim that, although the fuel economy requirements would be the most stringent at the high and low ends of the scale, the requirements for midrange vehicles would ease as the vehicles get heavier.
The DFP said that could mean, for example, that a midsize sedan weighing 3,300 pounds (about the weight of a Subaru Legacy or Volkswagen Jetta/Bora) might, depending on how the regulations are written, have a fuel economy target that is harder to achieve than a larger 3,800-pound Oldsmobile Aurora sedan.
That, critics claim, might encourage a car maker to make a vehicle larger just to get to the class that has a weaker standard, the DFP said.
The newspaper added that federal regulators have expressed concern about the current CAFE system because they fear increasing fuel-economy standards will just cause car makers to sell more small vehicles that in some cases are less safe than large sedans and trucks because they weigh less.
In recent years US vehicle makers have complained that CAFE gives their Japanese rivals an unfair advantage because they sell a lot more cars than trucks, the Detroit Free Press said.
Several groups, including the United Auto Workers, say dividing the classes by weight might cause vehicle makers to stop making as many small cars, which are far less profitable than large SUVs, the paper added, noting that the UAW also said the demise of small cars would cause thousands of job losses.
The union added that small-car production could be outsourced to foreign companies, the paper said.
Vehicle makers have also told the Detroit Free Press that they aren't convinced about the weight system, either. DaimlerChrysler spokesman Stuart Schorr told the paper it really depends on how the government sets the weight classes and what the CAFE standard is for those weight classes.