WASHINGTON -- A new government rule that makes across-the-board cuts in the fuel economy ratings of new vehicles is likely to roil an already volatile U.S. market.
The EPA says it expects the rule that it announced last week to lower highway ratings for most cars and trucks by 5 to 15 percent. City ratings will decline 10 to 20 percent, and even more for hybrids, the agency estimates.
The change will pressure automakers to boost the efficiency of their vehicles, industry analysts say. Cost-conscious shoppers likely will broaden their searches for vehicles that meet their needs but still achieve the fuel economy they expect, the analysts predict.
"Performance and safety have been the things that really sell," says Steve Mazor, manager of the automotive research center of the Automobile Club of Southern California. "But now we see that economy is getting more important as gas prices just get so high."
At the least, the EPA plan probably will force automakers to diminish some of their claims. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers boasts that car companies that operate in the United States build more than 100 models that get more than 30 mpg on the highway.
That may no longer be true when the ratings change takes effect in the 2008 model year.