BALTIMORE -- It's official: Automakers must increase average light-truck fuel economy by more than 10 percent over the next five years.
The Bush administration adopted regulations on Wednesday that establish light-truck fuel economy standards for the 2008-11 model years. By the end of that period, trucks must average about 24 mpg.
The standard for 2006 is 21.6 mpg; and for 2007, 22.2 mpg. Those levels were set in early 2003. The car standard remains at 27.5 mpg.
As expected, the rules include a provision to vary the standards according to the sizes of vehicles. Bigger trucks will have less stringent standards. Smaller trucks will have tougher standards.
The size provision is the biggest structural change in the 30-year-old corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, program. The change is expected to reduce automaker incentives to downsize vehicles and potentially make them less safe.
It also means that by 2011, each car company will have its own fuel economy standard based on its product mix.
The provision is widely viewed as a break for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group, which rely more on larger trucks for sales and profit. But Toyota and Nissan have been expanding their offerings of larger trucks.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced the adoption of the CAFE rules at the Baltimore Ravens' football stadium. The stadium overlooks Interstate 395, a branch of the East Coast's most heavily traveled corridor.
"The new standards represent the most ambitious fuel economy goals for light trucks ever developed" in CAFE's history, Mineta said in a statement.
Among the key provisions:
- Manufacturers truck fleets will have to average 22.5 mpg in 2008, 23.1 mpg in 2009, and 23.5 mpg in 2010.
- By 2011, all automakers will use the size-based system.
- For the first time, fuel economy standards apply to some trucks with gross weights of more than 8,500 pounds. Pickups and cargo vans of that size remain exempt.
During the public-comment period on the administration's new rules, automakers called them challenging. But some companies acknowledged they will be able to comply using available technology.
Environmental groups argued that much tougher standards are needed.
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]