Over a month ago now, I was told by several people who should know that the 2025 CAFE standard “number” would fall between 60 MPG and 50 MPG. When I pressed for details, the only answer I got was “at or slightly under 55 MPG.” So when the Obama Administration opened the haggling at 56.2 MPG, I wasn’t sure if he would stand fast by that number or come down a little. Certainly the auto industry and its allies have been portraying the 56.2 MPG proposal in apocalyptic terms, running attack ads against it like this one hosted at the Freep [MP3]. And apparently the opposition paid off, as the WSJ [sub] reports that the Obama Administration has caved, reducing its proposal from 56.2 MPG to 54.5 MPG… and that’s not all. According to the report
The plan calls for a 5% average annual increase in fuel economy for cars and a 3.5% increase for light trucks through 2021. After 2021, both cars and trucks face a 5% annual increase… Included in the plan are credits for hybrid vehicles—including large trucks —and measures that will give big pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles more leeway in meeting the target.
We’ll have to wait to see the proposal in detail before we know for sure what happened here, but it seems that the industry has largely gotten what it asked for. Not only is the overall number decreased, but truck compliance has been slowed and “advanced technology credit” loopholes appear to have been expanded. This is fantastic news if you sell a lot of trucks and SUVs, and not so fantastic if you care a lot about dramatically reducing fuel consumption over the next 10 to 15 years. But again, we’ll just have to see what specific proposals are included in the new deal, and how automakers react before we jump to too many conclusions.