U.S. may grade car fuel economy

Jeremy Hobson Aug 31, 2010
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U.S. may grade car fuel economy

Jeremy Hobson Aug 31, 2010
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

BILL RADKE: Here in L.A., when you go to a restaurant you see a letter grade in the window. It’s from the health department. So if it’s an A, you go in and order a taco, no questions asked. If it’s a C, eh, maybe you keep driving. Well the Obama administration wants to use that model for the sale of cars.

Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson joins us live from the other coast, from New York with more on this. Hey Jeremy.

JEREMY HOBSON: Hi Bill.

RADKE: So this is about fuel efficiency — what’s the idea?

HOBSON: Well, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation are proposing that car dealers be required to put a big letter grade label on vehicles in the showroom. So, all electric cars, for instance, would get A’s, A+’s or A-‘s. And cars that aren’t so fuel-efficient would get maybe a C or a D. And below the letter would be an amount of money that the consumer would save on gas over a five year period if they were to buy that car.

RADKE: Very interesting. And what’s the reaction to that idea?

HOBSON: Well, one industry group released a statement that’s really not too critical. It says basically that cars are complicated things and giving a passing or failing grade based on just one aspect doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I spoke with Peter Wells, who co-directs the Center for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University in the U.K. He says it’s a step in the right direction, but Americans might need more of a push than this to stop driving SUVs and start driving hybrids.

PETER WELLS: It’s going to require some quite deep-seated cultural changes, I suspect, beyond mere efficiency messages or indeed mere economy messages. You know the American consumer buys vehicles in ways which are different to across — us in Europe or others in Japan or elsewhere.

And Bill, this is not a done deal yet. The EPA and the Transportation Department will have to go through a 60-day comment period to hear from the public on this proposal. But they do hope to have these grades on cars by 2012.

RADKE: And you can see what those car stickers will look like here. Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson, thanks a lot.

HOBSON: Thanks Bill.

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