The EPA's proposal to put bold letter grades on Monroney stickers to show fuel economy and emissions comparability among models misses the mark. The agency needs to go back to the drawing board and devise a more useful system.
The intent of the grading system, which would go from A+ to D, is to help consumers shopping for new cars compare fuel economy and emissions levels with the U.S. fleet average by looking at labels on window stickers.
A 2007 law requires labels to put new vehicles in fleetwide context for fuel economy, greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants. That comparison must cover electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Though well-intentioned, the EPA's grading system goes too far in establishing a lowest common denominator for car buyers. It is too pejorative and potentially too emotional.
There is no doubt that consumers need more information. Currently, Monroney labels carry miles-per-gallon ratings and annual fuel-consumption estimates.
When gasoline-electric hybrids hit the market, they skewed the EPA's fuel economy estimates. Now that electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are on the road, comparing fuel efficiency is even more challenging. Consumers deserve to have the facts when shopping.
The solution is to provide ample clear data so car buyers can rank the cars for themselves.