Major automakers are ramping up their fight and exerting pressure to delay or seek adjustments to the Obama administration’s aggressive fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission targets by 2025.
In a prepared statement made public on Wednesday, Mitch Bainwol, head of the industry trade group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said that low gasoline prices and weak demand for battery electric vehicles may require significant revisions to the rules.
The issue isn’t whether fuel economy will improve, Bainwol said, “but rather how will automakers meet the aggressive standards currently in place, by when and at what cost to consumers, industry and the economy as a whole?”
The trade group represents Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler and other major car companies.
The 2017-2025 federal fuel economy standards were agreed to by automakers under jurisdiction of the U.S. EPA and National Highway Transportation Administration.
Built into the agreement is a midterm evaluation in 2018 to see how things are going, and whether standards for 2022-2025 need to be amended.
Arguments from the industry that federal standards are too high include the record low gas prices that were not expected when talks were underway in 2010-2011 and the fact consumers are buying pickup trucks and SUV rather than cars and electrified vehicles.
In addition, Bainwol cited administration figures showing that reaching the goal of roughly doubling average vehicle fuel economy by 2025 will cost the industry $200 billion over 13 years.
Bainwol and John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, also took issue with California’s electric vehicle sales mandates, saying the program is costly and undermines the U.S. administration’s goal of giving the industry one national greenhouse gas emissions standard.
The association represents Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and others.
Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have totaled only 448,837 since 2011, less than half of President Obama’s goal of putting one million such vehicles on the road by 2015.
In response to the industry, federal officials in their written testimony state that the fuel economy policy is working.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration general counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh and Environmental Protection Agency official Janet McCabe both said that fuel saving technologies are entering the market quicker than anticipated.
The Consumer advocacy group Consumers Union on Wednesday issued a statement saying the 2025 fuel rules should remain in place to “ensure that consumers can keep transportation costs down.”
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee has a hearing today and will listen to arguments from both sides.
Meanwhile, American consumers are continuing to vote with their wallets in favor of larger, less fuel efficient SUVs, crossovers and trucks.