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Praise, outcry over sticker redesign

November 1, 2010

The sticker that consumers find on new-car windows is more than 30 years old and focuses on fuel consumption and annual fuel costs. But the miles-per-gallon information isn’t an effective measure anymore because some electric models, for example, don’t use any gallons of fuel at all.

During a recent public hearing in Chicago, representatives of automakers and auto dealers agreed a new window label was necessary but said assigning a letter grade across vehicle categories would be akin to comparing apples and oranges. And the auto industry has said that a grading system is imbued with school-time memories of passing and failing.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are looking at two label designs, both of which would provide additional information on fuel economy and emissions to help consumers compare makes and models, be they electric, plug-in hybrids, gas or diesel.

The EPA wants to feature a new fuel-economy sticker beginning in 2012 model year vehicles. A 60-day window just ended for the public to comment to the EPA on two proposed label designs. Because there are broad differences between the two, Assistant EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the final design may not be precisely like either of them.

One of the proposed redesigns has environmental groups applauding and the auto industry crying foul because only the most fuel-efficient models, regardless of vehicle category, can score well. The most controversial component of that design is a prominent letter grade ranging from A+ to D that takes up nearly half the label and reflects the vehicle’s fuel economy and tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric vehicles that get 117 miles per gallon or more would rate the highest A+ under the proposal, while a car like Ferrari’s 612 Scaglietti that gets 12 mpg would earn the lowest, a D. Based on the population of new vehicles available in showrooms today, McCarthy said the median score in the proposed new rating system would be a B-.

 

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