* Automakers send letter to Obama administration
* Fuel regulation for 2017/2025 still in the works
By John Crawley
WASHINGTON, May 12 Major automakers on Thursday
pushed back against congressional pressure to nearly double
vehicle fuel efficiency through 2025, saying "overly
aggressive" targets could hurt sales, employment and safety.
The lobbying group representing General Motors Co (GM.N),
Ford Motor Co (F.N), Chrysler Group FIA.MI, Toyota Motor Corp
(TM.N)(7203.T) and European manufacturers are chaffing at
proposals for 6 percent annual efficiency requirements that
would push fleet averages above 62 miles per gallon.
"The alliance believes it is inappropriate to be promoting
any specific fuel economy/greenhouse gas at this point," the
group's acting chief executive, John Whatley, said in a letter
to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Lisa Jackson,
administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Whatley cited U.S. Energy Department data showing a 62 mpg
standard would undercut vehicle sales and industry employment,
which is rebounding in a sluggish economy.
On safety, Whatley said the sharp change could also have
the potential to affect vehicle design that could influence
safety, which government figures show is improving as more and
more vehicles are driving many more miles on U.S. roads each
Auto companies in the past have responded to tougher fuel
standards by making lighter cars and trucks.
Whatley's points were prompted by a letter signed last
month by 18 U.S. senators and sent to the two Obama
administration officials who oversee fuel and emissions
The mostly Democratic group concluded that the record
target, if imposed by transportation and environmental
regulators later this year, would be "technically feasible and
cost effective for consumers."
"The recent spike in oil prices remind us once again of the
importance of your cooperative efforts to reduce America's
dependence on oil," the group, led by California's Dianne
Feinstein and Olympia Snowe of Maine, said.
The administration is weighing a range of targets for the
next round of fuel and emissions efficiency proposals, which
are expected out soon.
The options would boost fuel efficiency 3 percent to 6
percent annually from 2017 to 2025, or 47 mpg to 62 mpg. The
top standard would save 45 billion gallons of oil -- equal to
almost 1.1 billion barrels -- and reduce carbon pollution by
450 million tons by 2030, according to environmental advocates
at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Government standards imposed in 2009 require automakers to
achieve 35.5 mpg by 2016, up 42 percent from current levels.
U.S. passenger vehicles emit about 20 percent of the
nation's carbon emissions and consume about 44 percent of its
oil, figures show.
Automakers would rely on numerous conventional engine,
transmission and component technologies and lighter vehicle
designs to meet new targets. These would include gasoline and
Gasoline-electric hybrids, a growing but still fractional
segment of the market now, would play a prominent role in
meeting 62 mpg. Plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles would
also be a component of the fleet mix.
President Barack Obama hopes to see 1 million plug-in
electric cars on the road by 2015.
(Editing by Maureen Bavdek)