WASHINGTON -- An important bloc of import-brand automakers is telling Congress that the companies can accept a fuel economy standard of 35 mpg.
But the automakers continue to ask for more time to meet the higher standard than congressional Democratic leaders envision. The group includes Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and 10 other import-brand automakers.
Mike Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, told reporters today that the 35 mpg figure has become a pretty sacred number on Capitol Hill.
So his members reason there is no point in fighting it, Stanton said. Why beat your head up against the wall? he said.
They are asking lawmakers negotiating new energy legislation to give them several years beyond the current 2020 target to meet that standard, Stanton added. New cars and trucks now average about 25 mpg.
The associations concession is the latest in a series by automakers and industry groups. It adds to the likelihood that Congress will pass a tough fuel economy measure this year.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents the Detroit 3, Toyota and five other automakers, favors a milder fuel economy alternative. The legislation they prefer calls for separate car and truck standards that, averaged together, would be at least 32 mpg but not more than 35 mpg by 2022.
Charles Territo, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Stanton's statements do not put import-brand automakers at odds with alliance members.
All agree that adequate lead time is needed to achieve tougher fuel economy standards and that those standards should be based on sound science, Territo said.
The import-brand association remains divided over whether car and truck standards should be merged into a single regulatory program.
The association wants to ease a proposed mandate that would require many more vehicles to run on mostly ethanol fuel. It also wants to end a long-standing rule that each automaker ensure its imported and U.S.-made cars comply separately with the fuel economy standard for cars.
Democratic leaders in Congress are believed to be making a behind-the-scenes push to pass energy legislation this year that includes a tough fuel economy standard.