Detroit 3 estimated to face ~$10B in fuel economy fines through 2032

The Detroit 3—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis—are estimated to face up to $10 billion in fuel economy fines under U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). 

In a letter seen by Reuters, The American Automotive Policy Council—which represents General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford—wrote to the United States Energy Department (DOE) about the Biden administration’s CAFE requirements. The Council proposed that the DOE revise its “Petroleum Equivalency Factor” as it would result in “disproportionately higher compliance costs for U.S. automakers

In July, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a boost in the CAFE requirements, covering the 2027 to 2032 model years. In 2022, the agency finalized rules for 2024-2026 model years, which required a fleet average of 49 mpg by 2026. The recently proposed boost would increase fuel economy standards by 2% per year for passenger cars and 4% per year for light trucks. It also proposed an increase of 10% per year in fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans from model years 2030 to 2035.

The Council calculated that General Motors would pay $6.5 billion in fines. Meanwhile, Stellantis—formerly Fiat-Chrysler—would be fined $3 billion, and Ford would need to pay $1 billion in fuel economy fines under CAFE requirements. Volkswagen would also need to pay $1 billion in fines, the largest among foreign automakers. 

In its letter to the DOE, the Council argued that the Detroit three automakers would face compliance costs of $2,151 per vehicle compared to $546 per car on average sold by other automakers. The Council states that the policy “would reward those auto manufacturers resisting the transition to a fully electric future the most.” 

The NHTSA calculated that its new fuel economy standards would save 2032 vehicle owners about $1,043 per vehicle in lifetime fuel costs and increase vehicle costs by $932. The agency stated the new rules would “encourage manufacturers producing (internal combustion engine) vehicles during the standard-setting timeframe to achieve significant fuel economy, improve energy security, and reduce harmful pollution by a large amount.”

Meanwhile, the DOE wants to revise how it calculates petroleum-equivalent fuel economy ratings for electric vehicles in the NHTSA’s CAFE program. The DOE sent a letter to the Detroit 3 requesting information on the challenges of production development lead time. 

“Encouraging adoption of EVs can reduce petroleum consumption, but giving too much credit for that adoption can lead to increased net petroleum use because it enables lower fuel economy among conventional vehicles,” stated the DOE earlier this year.

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Detroit 3 estimated to face ~$10B in fuel economy fines through 2032
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