Federal regulators will grant the auto industry’s requests for relief from certain aspects of the U.S. government’s light-vehicle fuel economy program.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will postpone a steep increase in penalties that was supposed to be applied to 2015 model-year vehicles but will now be held off until 2019. NHTSA acknowledges that each automaker has already completed compliance plans through 2018, so applying the higher penalty before then wouldn’t result in meaningful changes to overall fuel economy. The move comes in response to a petition from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
“These steps reflect our ongoing commitment to dialogue with stakeholders throughout implementation of this important program,” NHTSA said in a statement.
NHTSA also granted the automakers’ request for a formal rule-making process that will help to sort out the differences between the greenhouse-gas standards imposed by the EPA and the fuel-economy standard set out by NHTSA. The automakers want to make sure that they will not be penalized under one set of rules for trying comply with another.
A law that was enacted last year directed all federal agencies to increase their civil penalties, jacking up the price from $5.50 to $14 for each 0.1 mpg that an automaker falls short of its target, multiplied by the number of vehicles sold that year. This move was made to force automakers to comply, but the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers called it “draconian,” denouncing it from the beginning as a step that would make the goal of 54.5 mpg average by 2025 even harder to meet.