What's Wrong With This Picture: The High Cost Of High Fuel Economy Edition

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

As the industry (or at least parts of it) and the federal government face off over forthcoming 2017-2025 CAFE/emissions standards, a Center for Automotive Research study is getting more play than ever from an industry that seeks to portray the high cost of fuel economy improvements as being not worth the additional costs to consumers. CAR has yet to publish its full study, but it’s clearly intended to counter an offensive from groups like the Consumer Federation of America, which uses its own study to show that CAFE regulation will actually save consumers money. This battle, over the cost to industry and consumers of passing a 62 MPG standard for 2025, has been playing out for months now, and will continue to go back and forth over the rest of this summer. And sure enough, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Resources Defense Council have both hit back against the CAR study, calling it “industry-advocate propaganda” in the Detroit News and arguing that it underestimates future reductions in technology costs.

Meanwhile, another report from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute shows that CAFE increases could yield big dividends to Detroit (although we have our doubts about that one). The point is that the 2017-2025 emissions standard seems to be turning into something of a Rorschach Test, as there’s research out there showing nearly every possible outcome, good and bad, coming from a standards hike ( here is one way the government estimates cost increases). We encourage anyone who is interested to avail themselves of the data and make a case one way or the other in our comments section. Ultimately though, since California’s Air Resoures Board is leading the federal government on this issue anyway, expect CAR’s research to be ignored (or used to create some kind of “CAFE compensation”) as a 62 MPG 2025 standard is likely too far along to stop at this point.

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  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Jun 15, 2011

    Look at it this way, Why do Europeans drive smaller cars with smaller motors? To get the most of their fuel economy since gas is around $6 dollars a gallon if not more already. Hens the preference for A/B/C segment cars that get the equivalent to 38-45mpg highway and 30-32 city at the very least. I'm looking at getting a small car that does around that myself and I live in the US and yes, I DO take the bus to work but use my car for pretty much everything else when I don't have to drive into work and I have a bus pass FROM work to compensate for the bus fare.

  • John Horner John Horner on Jun 16, 2011

    When has the "Center for Automotive Research" ever gotten anything right? They are nothing but a special interest lobbying group which will spin things to support their position.

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...