WASHINGTON -- A federal research agency that says raising fuel economy standards will cost millions of vehicle sales has criticized the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers for using the agency's findings to predict a corresponding loss of jobs.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which provides statistics and forecasts to the government, in April projected that a 62-mpg standard for 2025 would cut sales by 2.5 million units, or 14 percent, that year, compared to what they would have been if 2016-model standards had remained in place.
But it says the alliance's contention that a matching 14 percent job loss would result is unsupported -- and wrong, because it doesn't factor in the job-creating impact of sophisticated technology.
The Obama administration, which is preparing 2017-25 standards, has floated possible mpg increases of 3 percent to 6 percent a year, culminating in targets of 47 mpg to 62 mpg.
The Energy Information Administration found that costly technology to boost fuel economy would raise vehicle prices and cut sales.
At the low end, if mpg standards were to rise 3 percent a year, sales would be 1.4 million, or 8 percent, lower in 2025 than they would have been if 2016 standards of 35.5 mpg had remained in place, agency data show.
Looking at the entire 2017-25 period under study, the sales question looms even larger.
Aggregate sales would fall 7.8 million, or 5.3 percent, under the lowest mpg targets and 13.1 million, or 9.0 percent, under the highest targets, compared to what would happen if the 2016 standard had remained in place, agency data show.
The federal agency has no objection to the alliance's use of its sales estimate. But in a letter to the Obama administration last month, the alliance went a step further and said a 14 percent sales decline would produce a 14 percent reduction in auto jobs.
The alliance, whose members include General Motors, Toyota and Ford, did not provide any analysis to support the claim.
"It is reasonable that a 14 percent drop in sales will become a 14 percent loss of jobs, though the actual range could be 10 percent or 20 percent loss of jobs," alliance spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said in an interview this month.
She continued: "Just adding technology doesn't reduce potential job loss if that technology doesn't sell because it is too expensive and people can't afford to buy it."
Jonathan Cogan, a spokesman for the Energy Information Administration, said last week that the alliance's employment estimates "do not reflect either EIA's views or the results of its modeling."
Use of more fuel-efficient technology is likely to increase the number of employees needed to manufacture a vehicle, the agency said.
Cogan wrote in an e-mail to Automotive News that the alliance's "implicit assumption that employment per vehicle does not increase as vehicles incorporate additional technology to become more fuel efficient does not seem reasonable."