Letter grades were once reserved as the collective global bane of school children. Now, multi-national car manufacturers may be hoping for a good letter grade if a new labeling system proposed by the Obama administration is approved.The proposal, revealed Aug. 30, would label every passenger car with a government letter grade from A to D based on efficiency and emissions.
The new rules, released jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, would be the most substantial changes in 30 years to the familiar price and mileage labels affixed to new cars on sale at dealerships. It’s proposed as part of a broader effort by the government to promote electric cars and other advanced-technology vehicles.
Current labels many miles per gallon averages and a vehicle’s estimated annual fuel costs. Under the new proposal, new labels would carry a letter grade assigned by regulators.
Electric vehicles and gas-electric hybrids would get the highest grades. More powerful sport utility vehicles and muscle cars would get lower grades because they burn more petroleum and release more carbon dioxide.
The proposed changes, which come as the Obama administration enforces stringent new rules to ramp up overall fuel economy of the U.S. fleet, prompted industry concerns that the government would be crossing the line between requiring responsible advertising and inserting value judgments on different vehicles.
The new rules wouldn’t go into effect until the 2012 model year. Officials are holding a 60-day public-comment period to determine whether the proposal should move forward or be altered.
The auto industry has been anticipating the changes. Several car companies are preparing to soon begin selling advanced-technology vehicles in the U.S., including the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf.
Article Last Updated: August 30, 2010.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.