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U.S. scraps letter grade plan for new cars

May 27, 2011
A proposal to assign new passenger cars a letter grade from A to D based on fuel efficiency has been dropped.
Instead, updated price-and-mileage labels for new cars include more information designed to help consumers judge a car’s projected gasoline costs and its emissions. But they won’t include letter grades assigned by regulators.
Under a plan announced last summer by the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, the only cars that would receive an A grade would be electrics and plug-in hybrids, which prompted concerns among automakers that specialize in bigger cars and sport-utility vehicles.
“The addition of a large, brightly colored letter grade may confuse the public about what is being graded, and it risks alienating the consumer who has a valid need for a vehicle that does not achieve an “A” based on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Wade Newton of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
But the Washington-based Safe Climate Campaign, one of a number of environmental groups that lobbied for the letter grades, criticized the decision to drop the idea. “It is deeply disappointing that the Obama administration abandoned” the idea of assigning letter grades,” said Dan Becker, the campaign’s director. “It’s appalling that the carmakers, some of whom we bailed out, bludgeoned the administration into submission.”
Becker said the decision means his group will push harder for ambitious fuel economy targets in the rule-making to cover 2017-2025 model-year vehicles. The government has already required all cars sold in the U.S. to average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.