US: Detroit would benefit from new CAFE rules - study

By just-auto.com editorial team | 25 July 2007

Detroit-based automakers stand to gain market share and increased profits under proposed new fuel economy policies for the US, according to a new study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

Under the highest proposed fuel economy standard of 35 miles per [smaller US] gallon, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler stand to make $US14.4bn by 2017 - over $6bn more than the competition - the study said.

"The Impact of Attribute-Based Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards on the Automotive Industry is the first rigorous analysis of the economic impacts of current legislative proposals to raise CAFE under the reformed 'attribute-based' structure, said the director of UMTRI's automotive analysis division, Walter McManus.

His preliminary analysis evaluated three scenarios that represent alternatives under consideration in the US Congress. Whereas historic CAFE standards set one benchmark for every automaker, the reformed system fundamentally alters the impact of the standards on individual companies by setting standards based on a vehicle's attributes, such as size.

"The new, attribute-based CAFE is not one-size-fits-all," McManus said. "It takes into account the differences between vehicles and light trucks, which will have lower targets than cars. The new system doesn't penalise the 'Big Three' for making large cars and trucks, but it does require that they improve the fuel economy of those vehicles. In so doing, they will gain market share and boost profits."

Among the study's findings:

"Many in Washington are discussing the old form of CAFE and are not directly dealing with the new reformed, attribute-based CAFE that legislative proposals would actually create," McManus said.

"As the House of Representatives considers CAFE legislation, members should be aware of this important distinction and the impacts on costs and profits it will create."