In a move designed to win automaker support for a new round Corporate Average Fuel Economy increases that would see the minimum combined fleet average jump to 56.2 mpg by 2025, The Wall Street Journal reports the Obama administration has offered to create a reduced standard for larger light trucks and SUVs. Under the plan, vehicles like the Ford F-Series and Chevy Tahoe would be subject to a 3.5 percent per year hike—30 percent lower than the rate of increase for cars and smaller light-duty trucks.
The proposal comes in the midst of an Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers campaign to pressure lawmakers to oppose the new standard on the grounds that consumers will refuse to buy more efficient cars and trucks. The AAM has pounded the new proposed mandates in radio ads, editorials, news reports, and even on the Facebook page of an apparent astroturf group calling itself Americans for Vehicle Choice. Carmakers say they can meet 56 mpg, but that vehicle costs will rise, sales will fall, and jobs will be lost. (Though the Natural Resources Defense Council and others who have studied data on the issue disagree.)
Particularly important to automakers are sales of light duty trucks, which have remained strong in the face of high fuel prices in large part because of demand from private businesses. Allowing a partial exemption on heavier models of those trucks would allow the industry a little more leeway in adding fuel saving technologies and keep cost increases for those vehicles lower.
But is that really what consumers want—be they fleets, independent contractors or plain old truck enthusiasts? Judging by sales of the Ford F-150 EcoBoost model, it isn’t. Early sales of the truck have stunned even Ford executives, who reported that EcoBoost-equipped F-150s made up 40 percent of all sales of the model, despite an added cost of between $750 per vehicle. The truck sports a twin-turbocharged V6 engine providing 365-horsepower (that’s 63-hp more than the entry level V6 model, with no diminished towing capacity,) and fuel savings of nearly 25 percent.
There’s no word yet as to whether the proposed exemption has the administration and carmakers any closer to a deal, but with or without industry consent, the White House is scheduled to release its final fuel economy proposal in September.