Friday, December 10, 2010

US Government's New Car Ratings

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation issued two new labels for the fuel-economy stickers that will be affixed to new car windows. The designs are scheduled to appear in 2012.

One design would feature a large letter grade for a car's fuel economy and emissions levels. The other design would feature numbers that include the car's miles-per-gallon score and the estimated annual cost of filling its gas tank or battery.

The agencies were acting on the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which charged them to rate vehicles for fuel economy, greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants.

According to the agencies, almost 80 percent of 2010 vehicles will land between C+ and B. So far, the only vehicles getting an A (defined as 40 mpg equivalent or better), are hybrids and electric cars. There is no F rating, the agencies said, because all vehicles will have met Clean Air Act standards.

Letter grading could affect sales of some of the best selling cars and trucks. Of 675 pickup and SUV models in 2010, only eight models reach B+; most get B- or below.

The EPA sought the advice of the automotive industry, academics, expert panels and consumers. Agency focus groups, reviewed reports on how consumers shop for new vehicles and ran an online survey on the different labels. The expert panel's message was to keep it simple.

With the exception of Nissan, the automotive industry did not like the letter grade. Nissan likes the letter grade, because the 0 emission Leaf will very likely to get an A.

Academics, expert panels and consumers all seemed to prefer the letter grade. The label with the letter grade helps makes the value of fuel efficiency clearer.

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