U.S. Weighs Grades For Car Fuel Economy Cars with higher fuel economy and very low tailpipe emissions would get an A, while less-efficient cars could get a D. But critics say the proposal doesn't address all of the complex reasons people buy cars.
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U.S. Weighs Grades For Car Fuel Economy

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U.S. Weighs Grades For Car Fuel Economy

U.S. Weighs Grades For Car Fuel Economy

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

President Obama's administration wants people to buy more fuel-efficient cars. And so yesterday, the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency came up with a plan to have cars graded. They would have letters based on a car's fuel efficiency and emissions, kind of like the ones we get at school: A, B, C, D. Can't wait to see what a Hummer gets.

The grades would be posted on the price and mileage sticker normally posted on the window of new cars.

NPR's Jeff Brady has more.

JEFF BRADY: If grades make your palms sweat and you're a car manufacturer, here's the good news: all cars will be graded on a curve, and no one gets an F. The EPA says that's because vehicles already have to meet Clean Air Act regulations, so there's no need for a failing grade. Electric vehicles would get an A-plus. The Toyota Camry, a B or B-minus, depending on the engine. Many sports cars would be in the D range. All this makes manufacturers uneasy.

Ms. GLORIA BERGQUIST (VP Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers): It does seem a little bit like a government stamp of approval.

BRADY: Gloria Bergquist with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says while letter grades will be easy to understand, they don't address all the complex reasons people buy cars.

Tim Jackson with the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association agrees.

Mr. TIM JACKSON (Colorado Automobile Dealers Association): If consideration for the size of the vehicle and the utilitarian nature of the vehicle is not accounted for, presumably, all the large vehicles, which are good for big families and small businesses, would be rated poorly.

BRADY: And the EPA says it will consider such arguments before putting a final rule in place.

Gina McCarthy is an assistant administrator with the EPA. She says the stickers need to be updated to reflect the changing car market, including electric and hybrid cars. McCarthy says the goal is to encourage people to buy cars that are less harmful to the environment.

Ms. GINA MCCARTHY (Assistant Administrator, EPA): This isn't a grade to try to assess how good or bad a vehicle is. It's a metric that we're hoping people will take a look at to make their own individual decisions. If someone's going in to buy a Ferrari, I doubt that the D is going to convince them that they should buy an electric vehicle.

BRADY: The letter grades would be in addition to the traditional city and highway miles-per-gallon numbers we're used to seeing. After a 60-day public comment period, the agencies hope to put a final rule in place that would apply to all 2012 model cars.

Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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