Major automakers signed off on the "footprint" strategy that is part of new federal fuel economy and emissions standards. But not everyone is happy.
The rules are expected to require increased fuel economy in all vehicle segments, measured by the "footprint" -- the area "enclosed by the points at which the wheels meet the ground," according to the EPA.
Even small, entry-level vehicles will need more technology, which will raise prices.
Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager for environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor Co., says Honda has "a fundamental frustration" with the approach.
"If I'm raising technology costs on my small car, in a way, you're disenfranchising the low end of the market," Bienenfeld says.
Also, each company's corporate average fuel economy target is adjusted for sales mix, so selling more small cars will result in a higher overall corporate target. In Bienenfeld's view, it fails to prod automakers to build smaller vehicles.
"There is no incentive to downsize," he says. "We think that's a mistake. We think the fleet needs to downsize."
Federal regulators are drawing up proposed rules, scheduled to be published by March 31. They will set the requirements to meet the national goal set by President Barack Obama of 35.5 mpg for 2016-model light vehicles. The standards also require a national average emission target of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile driven, marking the first such greenhouse gas limit for vehicles in the United States.