The debate over fuel economy standards for the 2017-2025 model years is moving forward rapidly as administration officials plan to present their plan to the Office of Management and Budget by the end of July, The Detroit News reported.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote in an e-mail to Automotive News that she didn't know of any "firm date" for when the administration hopes to submit its fuel economy standards to the OMB.
Representatives of the Detroit 3 met separately with White House officials last week as the administration asked the automakers to analyze the impact of a 56.2 mpg fuel economy average by 2025, Bloomberg reported. That would amount to an annual increase of about 5 percent in each company's fleetwide average during the eight model years from 2017 to 2025.
The White House is conducting conference calls with representatives from Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co. and other foreign automakers today and Wednesday, according to the News.
The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plan to publish their recommendation for fuel economy standards by the end of September and want to finalize the proposal by July 2012.
"We continue to work closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop an important standard that will save families money and keep the jobs of the future here," White House spokesman Matt Lehrich wrote in an e-mail. "A final decision has not been made, and as we have made clear we plan to propose a standard in September."
In an interview at an event in Detroit on Monday, General Motors North America President Mark Reuss said it would be difficult for the automakers to meet the 56.2 mpg standard.
"It's very challenging, but I think the challenge for us as automakers and engineers is to dig in and support things that enable clean air and fuel economy and unleveraging ourselves from foreign oil," Reuss told reporters. "I think those are things that everyone is concerned about. That's the task."
Earlier this month, the National Automobile Dealers Association cautioned against higher standards, saying: "If fuel economy standards are set too high or kick in too soon, dealers will be forced to stock vehicles with unduly high prices that will fail to meet consumer demand."
The NADA comments were in response to a Center for Automotive Research study that said raising fuel economy standards to 62 mpg by the 2025 model year would cause vehicle prices to increase to an amount that would exceed consumer fuel savings over a five-year time span.
A study done by the EPA last year said that increasing fuel economy standards to 62 mpg would increase the cost of the vehicle by an average of $2,100.
Still, environmental activists praised the government's push for stricter fuel economy standards. The Natural Resources Defense Council said the tighter regulations will allow the carmakers to be more competitive.
"We're cautiously optimistic," Roland Hwang, director of the council's transportation program, told Bloomberg about the 56.2 mpg proposal. "That's a good number as long as there aren't any loopholes by the automakers."
Neil Roland contributed to this report