Fuel Efficiency Standards to Rise by 2016

May 19, 2009 6:53:47 PM PDT
President Obama moved today to federalize auto industry standards. Fuel efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks will jump from 25 to 35-and a half miles per gallon by 2016. With the new standards, oil consumption would be reduced by about 1.8-billion barrels through 2016. It's expected to eventually add $1,300 dollars to the cost of a vehicle. But it's believed consumers would save more than that amount over the lifetime of the car.

Auto industry officials say the changes should help U.S. automakers. A single federal standard means they won't have to deal with different requirements in different states.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Governor said, "This has been a huge victory for the State of California, and as the President said, it wouldn't have been for the great leadership of our great state this would have never happened."

The United Autoworkers and 10 auto companies have agreed to link auto efficiency with emissions for the first time. The president's plan may help end a lawsuit involving the valley air pollution control district.

By 2016 new cars must average 35-miles a gallon. Consumers will end up paying for the push for more fuel-efficient cars. But a Valley dealer says a compromise plan was needed.

Popular Ford F-150 pickups sit a lot longer than they used to at Freedom Ford in South Fresno. General Manager Mark Rapin welcomes the call for better fuel mileage but he specializes in heavy-duty trucks. "You're trying to double the fuel economy in a lot of the product line and that is a big challenge."

Mark Rapin also said the timing of this plan is not good, "Sales in California are off by 43% and we're probably the largest sales tax generator in the state. So it's difficult to put added burden on our industry right now and expect us to pull through for them

But the President's plan may help end a legal feud between automakers and several states. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District was involved in one such lawsuit.

Jamie Holt with Air Pollution Control District said, "The Air District joined with the California Air Resources Board to sue the Bush Administration to allow California to set their own fuel standards."

Holt said fuel-efficient cars help clean the Valley's heavily polluted air, "We're hoping that we have new stricter standards that will be in effect nationwide and those standards are on par with what California wanted to see."

Mark Rapin said vehicles will need to get smaller and lighter. But the plan will help stabilize a struggling industry, "California has been pushing this agenda to improve fuel economy and the industry can't handle a patchwork of individual standards across the nation."

Mark Rapin said a single nationwide standard will keep automakers focused.

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