Tesla to gain edge as NHTSA increases fines for fuel economy standard violations

Tesla's Fremont Factory. (Credit: peekaystudio/Instagram)

A recent decision from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could very well provide Tesla with yet another edge in the auto sector. On Sunday, the NHTSA opted to implement a sharp increase in penalties for carmakers whose offerings from the 2019 model year and beyond do not meet fuel efficiency standards.

The NHTSA has noted that the decision “increases the accountability of manufacturers for violating the nation’s fuel economy standards.” The agency further stated that the increased penalties incentivize vehicle manufacturers to make improvements in their products’ fuel economy. The higher fines are expected to cost affected carmakers hundreds of millions of dollars, but it could also benefit Tesla, the US’ premier electric vehicle maker. 

During the final days of the Trump administration, the former US President delayed a 2016 regulation that increased the penalties for automakers that do not meet the country’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements from the 2019 model year. The NHTSA’s recent decision reinstated the higher fines and extended them for the 2022 model year. The NHTSA’s top official, Steven Cliff, signed the final rule on Thursday. 

The potential fines for noncomplying automakers are substantial. For the 2019 to 2021 model years, the fine would be $14, up from $5.50, for every 0.1 mile per gallon that vehicles fall short of required fuel economy standards, multiplied by the number of noncomplying vehicles that were sold. As per a Reuters report, the penalties would rise to $15 for the 2022 model year. 

But while the higher fines will likely cost noncomplying carmakers a significant amount, it also benefits automakers whose vehicles achieve higher fuel economy standards. These companies, such as Tesla, could then sell credits to automakers that do not meet regulations. 

Tesla, with its all-electric fleet, is among the automakers that have boosted itself with the sale of regulatory credits over the years. And while the company is now profitable even without the sale of regulatory credits, the NHTSA’s recent decision would likely make the company even more financially formidable. 

So far, Tesla has not issued a comment about the NHTSA’s recent decision. The agency, however, estimated that for the 2019 model year, automakers would owe about $294 million with the updated rates. Under the prior rate, this amount would only be around $115.4 million. 

*Quotes courtesy of Reuters.

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Tesla to gain edge as NHTSA increases fines for fuel economy standard violations
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