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EPA to hold Oct. 14 hearing in Chicago on vehicle grading proposal

November 15, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing in Chicago Oct. 14 on a controversial proposal to assign new vehicles a grade of "A+" through "D," based on fuel efficiency.

The proposed grades have drawn criticism from some automakers and the 17,000-member National Automobile Dealers Association, among others. Environmental groups, however, praise the idea as a way to prod Americans into buying more fuel efficient models.

The system would start with the 2012 model year.

The agencies have proposed another option: a more modest redesign of the current sticker, without grades.

The agencies say the 34-year-old stickers need updating. Updates, but not grades, are required by a 2007 energy law.

Under the grading proposal, a fully electric vehicle would get an "A+." A handful of other plug-in or hybrid vehicles would get an "A" or "A-."

The median grade would be a "B-" though larger vehicles such as SUVs and vans would get worse grades on average than smaller more fuel efficient vehicles. No van would get better than a "C+."

"We think a new label is absolutely necessary to help consumers make the right decision for their wallet and for the environment," Gina McCarthy, an assistant EPA administrator, said this month.

Unlike a similar system used in the United Kingdom, vehicles wouldn’t get an "E" or "F" in the U.S. format.

The trade group that represents Detroit’s automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and other manufacturers, has expressed concerns the grades would be too judgmental.

"Automakers support providing our customers with meaningful information for decision-making on vehicles that meet their particular needs," said Dave McCurdy, CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "But the proposed letter grade falls short because it is imbued with school-yard memories of passing and failing."

People also can e-mail comments about the proposals to So far, the EPA has gotten more than 600 comments. The EPA hearing will be held in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.