ARKANSAS, Oct 2 (Future Headlines)- The automotive industry in the United States is currently facing significant challenges due to proposed revisions in fuel economy standards by the Biden administration. These changes could result in substantial penalties for automakers, particularly General Motors (GM) and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler. In a letter addressed to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the American Automotive Policy Council, representing GM, Stellantis, and Ford Motor, expressed serious concerns about the expected penalties associated with not meeting the proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled a proposal in July to increase CAFE standards significantly by 2032. Under these new standards, automakers would be required to achieve a fleet-wide average of 58 miles per gallon (mpg) by implementing a 2% annual increase for passenger cars and a 4% annual increase for pickup trucks and SUVs. This ambitious target aims to enhance the fuel efficiency of vehicles across the board, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

In response to these proposed changes, the American Automotive Policy Council sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy expressing its concerns about the financial penalties that automakers would face for non-compliance with the new CAFE requirements. The letter specifically highlighted the potential consequences for GM, Stellantis, Ford, and Volkswagen, as well as the broader implications for the automotive industry.

The letter estimated that if the proposed CAFE standards were implemented, GM could face fines amounting to $6.5 billion, while Stellantis might incur penalties of $3 billion. Ford was expected to face approximately $1 billion in fines, and Volkswagen, among foreign automakers, could potentially face the highest penalties, exceeding $1 billion.

The letter raised concerns about the “Petroleum Equivalency Factor,” a key element in calculating compliance costs. According to the American Automotive Policy Council, revisions to this factor would result in disproportionately higher compliance costs for U.S. automakers. Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers—GM, Stellantis, and Ford—would face compliance costs of $2,151 per vehicle, significantly higher than the average of $546 per vehicle for other automakers.

The letter argued that the proposed policy could unintentionally discourage automakers from transitioning to fully electric vehicles. By imposing higher compliance costs on traditional automakers, the policy might incentivize resistance to electric vehicle adoption, ultimately hindering the industry’s shift towards a sustainable and electric future.

The Department of Energy responded to concerns raised by automakers by highlighting the importance of encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles to reduce petroleum consumption. However, the DOE also acknowledged the need to strike a balance, as giving too much credit for EV adoption could lead to lower fuel economy among conventional vehicles. The DOE emphasized that the effective date of the policy and potential lead time challenges are under consideration.

The proposed CAFE standards and associated penalties have significant implications for the entire automotive industry. A group representing nearly all major automakers recently estimated that the industry as a whole could face fines totaling $14 billion. Automakers have the option to either buy credits or pay fines if they cannot meet CAFE requirements.

In June, it was reported that Stellantis and GM had already paid a combined total of $363 million in CAFE fines for failing to meet U.S. fuel economy requirements for prior model years. The proposed revisions to CAFE standards could significantly increase these penalties for automakers in the coming years.

As discussions continue between automakers, regulators, and policymakers, finding a balanced solution that incentivizes cleaner technologies without placing excessive financial burdens on traditional manufacturers will be crucial. The outcome will not only impact the competitiveness of individual automakers but also shape the future of the U.S. automotive industry and its contribution to global sustainability efforts.

Reporting by Moe Khaled; Editing by Sarah White