How would fuel effiency labels affect car sales?

One of the new proposed EPA labels for gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: If you happen to be in the market for a new car, you know how the variables can be endless. Electric, increasingly; hybrid, gas-only. What's greenest versus what's cheapest versus what can fit all the kids and the groceries? The Environmental Protection Agency has a new system that ranks cars by emissions and the cost of gas to run them. It says assigning an A, a B or a C to your car's MPG would just make things easier.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: The EPA hasn't changed the way it rates fuel economy in more than 20 years. The proposed new stickers would show energy use and emissions.

Kenny Berns is sales manager at Hollywood Toyota. He says gas mileage is already prominent on each car's sticker.

Kenny Berns: I'm looking at a Corolla, which is 26 in the city, 34 in the highway and between those two numbers is a shaded fuel pump like at a gas station.

The EPA says that's not enough information. It wants to tell consumers how much and what kind of energy a car uses. One idea is to give grades for overall fuel economy. That Corolla would get a big letter B on its tag. It's cousin the Prius Hybrid? An A-. And beefcake brother the Tundra truck? A D. There are no F's.

Kenny Berns says grades could affect how cars get sold.

Berns: If it's an A or a B, sales will use it as a selling point. If it's less than that, I don't think that's gonna be something that they would be pointing out.

He says people who buy trucks or SUVs know they're not fuel efficient. So a C or D won't change their minds.

Jon Linkov is managing editor at Consumer Reports. He says the grades could influence people.

Jon Linkov: There are people who may shun a vehicle simply because it gets a C, such as a minivan. And then go for a vehicle that's an A or a B and end up not being happy at the end of the day, because it doesn't fit their needs.

Linkov also says the main reason people buy more efficient cars is to save money on fuel. While zero-emissions electric cars get an A+ for emissions and cost from the EPA, that grade doesn't include the price of a charging station, which could run a few thousand dollars.

In Los Angeles, I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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