Detroit wins major plum in CAFE deal Big pickups exempted in 54.5 mpg plan

Detroit wins major plum in CAFE deal
Big pickups exempted in 54.5 mpg plan
Neil Roland
Automotive News | August 1, 2011 – 12:01 am EST

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s plan for a 54.5 mpg efficiency target by the 2025 model year would double the current standard, but the Detroit 3 won a major exemption for their highly profitable full-sized pickups.

The administration’s corporate average fuel economy proposal, details of which still must be worked out, would exempt full-sized pickups from any fuel economy increases from the 2017 model year through the 2019 model year, automotive representatives said.

After that, annual increases begin at a rate still to be determined, until they reach an annual rate of 5 percent a year in the 2022-25 model years.

Most automakers that sell vehicles in the United States attended the president’s announcement Friday in support of the new standard. The administration won over the Detroit 3 by acceding to concerns about full-sized pickups.

The dramatic increase in fleet mpg will force automakers to accelerate efforts to make vehicles smaller and lighter while building more hybrids and continuing powertrain improvements such as turbocharging and direct injection.

The new standard requires a 5 percent annual increase in car fuel economy from the 2017 model year through the 2025 model year. Under current law, fleets must improve to 35.5 mpg in the 2016 model year, from 27.3 mpg now.

The plan for 5 percent annual increases could be changed if a midcourse review, planned to begin in 2018, determines that it would adversely affect industry costs and vehicles sales.

The vast majority of full-sized pickups sold in the United States are made by General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler — including the top-selling models in the United States, the Ford F series and Chevrolet Silverado. Some Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan models also might be considered full-sized pickups under federal criteria still to be worked out.

“The administration recognized that trucks need to be treated in a way that allows them to retain the utility and durability that their drivers require,” said Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents the Detroit 3 in Washington. “They haul, move and tow supplies.”

Under the plan, which is to be proposed formally in September and made final next July, the Detroit 3 would get credits toward meeting CAFE targets by increasing the use of hybrid technology in pickups.

The Detroit 3 won the exemption in meetings between individual companies’ executives and White House officials, including manufacturing czar Ron Bloom.

The exemption for full-sized pickups caused consternation among some foreign automakers that make SUVs and crossovers that are classified as light trucks but would not receive as lenient treatment.

More than a dozen automakers endorsed Obama’s plan, but Volkswagen and Daimler did not.

“The largest trucks carry almost no burden for the 2017-2020 time frame and are granted numerous ways to mathematically meet targets in the outlying years without significant real-world gains,” VW spokesman Tony Cervone said.

An administration official said one reason for the special treatment of full-sized pickups is that they were “significantly challenged” by the 2012-16 mileage targets.

Light trucks other than full-sized pickups would have to achieve 3.5 percent annual increases in mileage standards in the 2017-21 model years and 5 percent increases in the 2022-25 model years.

The 54.5 mpg standard is a mathematical formula used throughout the government that will translate into about 42 mpg on the window sticker, said an administration official who asked not to be identified.

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