Motors’ chief executive, Rick Wagoner, is against any moves to tighten federal
fuel economy standards or re-define the vehicles considered light trucks that
qualify for more lenient rules, the New York Times (NYT) reported.

Citing an interview with reporters, the newspaper quoted Wagoner as saying
that federal regulation of vehicle fuel economy had failed and should be scrapped,
rather than changed.

"Suffice it to say, it hasn’t worked and, in our view, it won’t work,"
he said.



Wagoner argued that Americans won’t want fuel-efficient vehicles for as long
as their petrol prices remain very low by international standards, the New York
Times said.

Under the current CAFE (Corporate Average Fleet Efficiency) rules, cars in
a manufacturer’s range must average 27.5 miles per gallon while light trucks,
including minivans, pickup trucks and traditional sport utility vehicles, which
are mostly based on pickup truck chassis instead of car platforms, need average
only 20.7mpg.

The NYT said that, because vehicle makers are classifying more and more vehicles
as light trucks, overall fuel economy has fallen to 24.5 miles a gallon, the
lowest level since 1980, after peaking at 26.2 miles a gallon in 1987.

These averages are calculated using special rules that allow automakers to
add an extra 18 percent to the actual mileage figures that appear on mandatory
window stickers in showrooms, the newspaper added.



The NYT said that Mr. Wagoner talked about fuel economy after saying that sales
of crossover vehicles, SUV-style machines built on car platforms rather than
light truck chassis, will continue to grow rapidly and attract former car buyers
rather than people who already own pickup trucks or traditional sport utilities.

The newspaper said that the vehicle makers have considerable discretion to
decide what is a car and what is a light truck under rules issued in 1977 by
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of the Department
of Transportation.

The newspaper quoted Joan Claybrook, the safety agency’s administrator when
the rules were issued, as saying that when her staff drafted the lengthy definition
of a light truck, it was intended for commercial vehicles, not passenger vehicles.

It would be politically easier now, she told the New York Times, to more tightly
define a light truck than to raise the mileage standard for all to 27.5 miles
a gallon, as some in Congress have proposed.

To view related research reports, please follow the links

world’s car manufacturers: A financial and operating review

Car and Light Truck Outlook – Segment analysis and forecasts to 2003 (download)