Midterm review could alter fuel-economy rules
Nobody knew in 1999 what the auto industry would look like today.
That's the thinking behind including a midterm review in the government's fuel-economy standards for the 2017-25 model years.
In 2017, just as automakers will need to begin meeting the new requirements, regulators and the industry will examine the process to see how closely their original assumptions match reality.
The review will offer a chance to see whether the standards are too expensive or difficult before finalizing the targets beyond 2021.
Everyone will have a better idea then of what vehicles consumers are buying, which companies are ahead of the game and whether the requirements are having the desired effect.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, whose 12 members include General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., says many important questions that are impossible to answer now will need to be studied during the review:
Are the costs of advanced technologies declining as expected?
What's happening with fuel prices, and how are consumers responding?
What impact are the new requirements having on sales and employment?
How are the new rules affecting vehicle safety?
"Regulations are built on a host of assumptions, especially when the rulemaking reaches 13 years into the future," the alliance said in a statement after the standards were proposed.
"A strong midterm review, coupled with regular checkups, will show if assumptions about consumer buying patterns, for instance, are becoming reality."
Including such a review was key to persuading automakers to support the rules. Environmentalists fear they will use it to get the targets relaxed, regardless of whether they are proving to be more of a challenge than anticipated.
"I don't think it will be a struggle," says Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign in Washington. "It will only turn into a struggle if the industry says, 'We're happy doing things the way we did in the 1990s.'"
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