Fuel economy standards are working

Chuck Frank

Since the federal passenger vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards agreement was brokered in 2011, the automotive industry has made strong advances in technology and we are well on our way to meeting the 2025 standards.

As the standards are reviewed and potentially updated in the coming weeks and months via a mid-term review process, the Obama administration and its successor should continue to push for more fuel-efficient cars and trucks due to the related economic, climate and consumer benefits. After all, the auto industry is expected to break sales records this year, for the second year in a row. American families are being offered a wide-range of vehicles with fabulous features and performance at ever-increasing levels of fuel efficiency at affordable prices.

Put simply: the standards are working.

The Bush administration agreed to raise federal fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon (mpg), and the Obama administration pushed the standard to 54.5 mpg by 2025 and added an emissions standard to these efforts. The standards put the car industry on notice that it was to change its ways and embrace efficiency. Automakers had to stop insisting that in order to turn healthy profits, they needed to sell a lot of low-mpg cars and trucks.

Today, the gas guzzlers of just a few years ago are becoming uncommon. A recent analysis by the Consumer Federation of America found that vehicles that get less than 16 mpg now represent a mere four percent of available models.

In 2008, these inefficient vehicles made up nearly one-third of the models available to the American car buyer. And even last year’s Ford 150 — the biggest-selling truck in the United States — has models that already meet or exceed increasing fuel economy standards for pickups until 2021.

When it comes to reducing our oil use, Americans are still showing strong interest in advanced vehicles that are clean and run on less gasoline — or that don’t need gas at all. In fact, April 2016 marked six months of record sales for electric vehicles in the U.S. Tesla’s Model 3 isn’t even out yet, and already nearly 400,000 customers have paid $1,000 deposits to be included on a waiting list. And, the world just passed the one-million electric vehicle milestone.

Despite all of the sales records being broken, we are now hearing an old, familiar complaint from automakers and dealers. “We can’t meet the standard,” they say. “It’s too expensive, and we can’t develop the technology.”


I’ve watched for decades as my industry fought against airbags, catalytic converters, seat belt requirements, fuel economy — you name it. Every single time, the auto industry said new safety or clean air requirements would spell disaster. Every single time, automotive engineers and executives have risen to the task, with virtually no impact on consumer choice or profits.

We must not turn back the clock on innovation, profitability and smart investments. The current fuel economy standards should continue to advance because they provide measurable economic, climate and energy independence benefits, while protecting consumer choice, vehicle safety and performance. Our auto industry can reduce U.S. dependence on oil and clean up our air while at the same time turn a healthy profit.

Chuck Frank, an auto dealer for 27 years, was president of Z Frank Chevrolet in Chicago, one of the largest dealerships in the nation.