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Feds agree to delay penalties for automakers failing to meet fuel efficiency goals

Federal regulators acted Wednesday to postpone penalties automakers would face for failing to meet congressionally mandated miles-per-gallon goals. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)
Federal regulators acted Wednesday to postpone penalties automakers would face for failing to meet congressionally mandated miles-per-gallon goals. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)
By Ashley Halsey Iii Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators acted Wednesday to postpone penalties automakers would face for failing to meet congressionally mandated miles-per-gallon goals.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acknowledged that the automotive industry works years in advance in planning its model years and concluded that they are on their way toward producing vehicles that will comply with the mandate.

“Therefore increasing penalties for noncompliance before model year 2019 vehicles likely would not result in increased compliance or improved fuel economy,” NHTSA said in a statement Wednesday.

Congress last year required that penalties paid for violations of laws and regulations be adjusted for inflation. NHTSA complied with the mandate this year by increasing the civil penalty rate for noncompliance with fuel consumption standards from $5.50 to $14 for each tenth-of-a-mile-per-gallon in noncompliance.

In 2012, President Barack Obama set a target of 54.5-miles-per-gallon in 2025 for what are known as light-duty vehicles. Concerns were raised more recently as the improving economy and lower gasoline prices encouraged people to buy more gas-thirsty pickup trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers had petitioned NHTSA, contending that before NHTSA issued its ruling in July, automakers already had completed vehicle designs for models to be produced through model year 2018.

That led NHTSA to conclude that increasing penalties for noncompliance before model year 2019 vehicles likely would not result in increased compliance or improved fuel economy.

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