WASHINGTON -- Window stickers will soon show how new vehicles rate on a scale of 1-to-10 on fuel economy and emissions, the Obama administration said today as it dropped a proposal to use letter grades.
The new labels, which go into effect starting with the 2013 model year, drew praise nearly across-the-board from dealers, automakers, consumer advocates and environmental groups.
The stickers also will show how much more or less consumers will spend on fuel over five years compared to the average new vehicle in the national fleet. Current labels limit the comparison to the class of vehicle; an SUV, for example, is compared only with other SUVs.
The Obama administration said the changes are the most significant in the stickers since the program began more than 30 years ago.
"The new labels will provide one of the more powerful consumer-information tools that buyers have ever had at their disposal," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.
The stickers also will introduce a gallons-per-100 miles figure that will enable comparisons among electric vehicles, hybrids and gasoline-powered vehicles, according to EPA and the U.S. Transportation Department.
In addition, each vehicle’s environmental impact is included on the label for the first time.
Same as it ever was
The new stickers, like current labels, will feature most prominently mpg, with breakdowns for city and highway.
“We are pleased that the actual fuel-economy number is prominently displayed, as it has been all along,” National Automobile Dealers Association spokesman Bailey Wood said.
NADA, as well as automaker groups, had vigorously opposed the use of letter grades based on fuel economy and emissions.
The administration had tested the letter grades on consumer focus groups, which split over whether they were confusing or helpful, Jackson said.
The new label will contain two numerical ratings based on calculations: one for fuel economy and greenhouse gases compared to other vehicles, the other for smog.
“Nothing’s more accurate than a number in comparing vehicles,” Wood said. “The letter grade was more subjective.”
The new federal rules carry out a 2007 law that requires labels to put new vehicles in fleetwide context for fuel economy, greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants.
Consumer and environmental groups praised both the numerical ratings and the fuel-expense comparisons with a fleetwide average rather than just the class of vehicles.
“You’ll see extraordinary market pressure on car companies to make changes,” Consumer Federation of America spokesman Jack Gillis said. “Those vehicles that get ratings of just `1’ or `2’ will be stigmatized.”
Mark Cooper, the consumer group’s research director, said use of the fleetwide average “will enable customers to carry the number around the showroom and look at different classes of vehicles.”
While the labels must start appearing in 2013 models early next year, automakers can voluntarily adopt them for 2012 vehicles, the EPA said.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, whose members include Toyota, General Motors and Ford, praised the administration’s rules for using a single national label.
Automakers have been required to apply a separate label with emissions information for California vehicles, the Alliance said.