White House Wants To Slap Fuel Efficiency Grades On Vehicles

By proposing the assigning of letter grades onto cars to rank fuel efficiency, the Obama administration either wants to shame car manufacturers into making their cars more efficient or stop larger vehicles from getting into Ivy League schools.

The Wall Street Journal reports only electrics and plug-in hybrids will receive A grades, while most SUVs and pickup trucks would get Cs. The lowest grade possible would be a D.

How big a factor does fuel efficiency play into your car buying decisions?

U.S. Wants Report Card for Cars [The Wall Street Journal]

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  1. digital0verdose says:

    The only time fuel efficiency plays any role in car buying is when there is a lot of news about gas prices rising and rapid, noticeable changes in prices at the pump. Nothing will cause a majority of car buyers to worry about fuel efficiency otherwise.

    It also doesn’t help that the cost of entry into fuel efficient hybrids and the like are significantly higher than a non-hybrid/electric in the same power class.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      You’re focusing on costs again. We’ll never get anywhere with energy conservation so long as the only thing people focus on is cost. Yes, it’s more expensive to buy a hybrid. Will the cost come down as production spools up? Probably. But if we really want to do something about all the energy we waste, we need to realize that progress costs money most of the time. Get over it.

      • digital0verdose says:

        I am not focusing on cost, I am simply saying what the primary motive is for most consumers. I have a 32 MPG car.

        Also, cost will come down, but the lower the demand, the longer it will take and the longer it takes, the more likely you are to have manufacturers back out of their production models.

        • partofme says:

          Aha! I can totally one-up you. I have a thirty-THREE mpg car! Granted, it’s ten years old and I bought it like three years ago… for like $3,000. And one of the biggest reasons I bought it? I could pay cash for it. So yea. You’re right. Cost is important.

          • Bystander says:

            Right on.And I have an old Chevvie pickup (Gas Guzzler?) with the Vortec V6, overdrive automatic, and two wheel drive. I get 19-20 MPG local and sometimes as much as 30 MPG on long trips. And I will take anyone for a ride in it to prove my point (when I get the brakes fixed) and I bought it for $750. And it has 260,000 miles on it.

      • partofme says:

        digital0verdose is focusing on the majority of car buyers… who in turn focus on costs. Either one of you could “really want to do something”, but it won’t matter, because the majority of people “kinda want to do something… so long as they feel like it won’t be too expensive”. Deal with it.

        • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

          And those “kinda want to do something” people need to be FORCED to commit one way or the other, either through legislation or manipulation of the market.

          People don’t do the right thing until they’re forced to.

          • digital0verdose says:

            Who are you to say what is right or wrong. People have individual priorities and they may not always fall in line with hugging a tree.

            The Johnsons have 5 kids. Sure they could get a Prius, but what they really need is a van, but unfortunately the fuel efficient Hybrid is going to cost them $7k more not including the really good deal they are getting on this used one that gets 23 MPG.

            Life isn’t as clear cut behind a monitor where you can’t see life and all the choices that need to be made.

            If you want to get pissy at somebody, do so towards the manufacturers. If they cared about the environment in the slightest, they would produce the fuel efficient vehicles at a comparable price.

            • pecan 3.14159265 says:

              I completely agree with this. Bash people all you want for driving less fuel efficient cars (FTR: I have a crossover), but some people have families to drive around and it’s idiotic for someone to tell them they shouldn’t have a vehicle that fits their needs just because it doesn’t fit your ideal of healthy living.

          • Maximus Pectoralis says:

            How about if we FORCE the welfare parasites that “certain groups” love so much to get off their ass and get a job, then reduce taxes for everyone else so they can afford to buy expensive hybrid/electric vehicles? Of course those same people are probably the #1 market for Escalades and other low-efficiency vehicles…

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            “People don’t do the right thing until they’re forced to.”

            Because if it’s one thing that the US government knows, it’s what’s best for all people all of the time in every single circumstance, and they are informed, able and prepared to act on it without a single thought to their own political career or agenda.

            Oh yes. Doubleplusgood.

          • partofme says:

            I’ll admit, you kinda surprised me when you went there. Regardless, I hope you’re happy with that line of logic being equally applied. Because there have been a lot of times when people with power thought they knew what the “right thing” was. I’m not going to give examples, as then the issue will get obfuscated, but you surely know some of the things I’m talking about. So, really, what you meant to say was, “people who aren’t me or a subset of people who think like me on a particular issue don’t do the right thing (as defined by me) until they’re forced to.”

            Thanks to the other commentators who went one further, assumed the “right thing” was the “right thing in the large scale”, and then proceeded to show that there are always mitigating circumstances, so that the “right thing in the small scale” is a confluence of competing factors, and does not necessarily agree with the “right thing in the large scale”. Now, unless you’ve devised a new method of balancing multi-scale considerations (I’ve done a fair amount of reading of published literature on social choice theory… and all of the approaches are still lacking in this regard), I’d like you to explain why you think there should be anything other than what we have: a general, large scale trend in the more efficient direction with lots of small scale variation based on a myriad of input parameters. In which case, guess what? Costs are an input parameter. Deal with it. Yes, try to reduce costs and influence the general trend, but deal with the indisputable fact that costs will be a relevant metric for small scale considerations.

          • RxDude says:

            Wow, so your avatar is not ironic.

          • FrugalFreak says:

            I forced myself to buy older cars. Force exists in a police liberal state, not in a free liberty one. I will go along with your FORCE if the same government will FORCE you to pay me to support your cause.

      • aja175 says:

        But in this mess of an economy the bottom line takes a higher priority. A $15,000 car that gets 28mpg looks a lot better than a $35,000 car that gets 40.

      • Maximus Pectoralis says:

        When everyone is a millionaire hipster kid with a trust fund, then we can all go out and spend $50k on an electric car or $25k on a wimpy hybrid. Until then, a larger car with a much more powerful engine for 20-30% less up-front cost will still remain attractive to most people.

      • apd09 says:

        one of the easiest ways to increase MPG and lower the cost all at once is to decrease the horsepower of vehicles. did you know simply knocking a third off the horsepower of new U.S. passenger vehicles would, in about a decade — as efficient new vehicles replace wasteful old ones — eliminate approximately the amount of oil the United States imports from the Middle East?
        Not too mention it would make the roads much safer because it would decrease the road rage of people who cannot speed and weave through traffic.

        No one needs 280HP in a car, they will never drive it that hard or fast, and if you notice people market cars based on the HP it provides because that is the american way. If they decrease the horsepower, MPG goes up, and the cost will come down.

        • TouchMyMonkey says:

          Europe taxes cubic centimeters of displacement. Thus, there is an incentive (in addition to the higher price of gas) to favor smaller engines there. A car with a smaller engine is lighter and therefore needs fewer horsepower to get up to speed. A Toyota Camry, for example, would probably drive just fine with the smaller 1.8 liter engine found in the Corolla, especially after gearing it down a bit to compensate. But would we buy them without compelling reasons to do so? You don’t know because Toyota (or anyone else, for that matter) won’t sell a car like that here.

          • partofme says:

            Taxing displacement would be interesting. My guess is that you would still have people wanting more performance, meaning the tradeoff would no longer be just economy/performance, but you’d have displacement in there, too. That would likely lead to higher compression ratios… which means more cars requiring premium fuel and more engine parts breaking. Not saying it wouldn’t help, just something to think about.

      • 99 1/2 Days says:

        So the energy that is used to charge the batteries, is that free?

    • Maximus Pectoralis says:

      Yeah for some people. the choice between a Toyota Prius and a 300+ HP Chevy Camaro (or, a non-hybrid midsize sedan for 30-40% lower cost) can be a clear one.

    • cleek says:

      take a look at the top ten cars traded-in vs purchased as part of the ‘cash 4 clunkers’ program.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_Allowance_Rebate_System#Program_results

      people traded-in trucks, SUVs and minivans for fuel-efficient subcompacts and Japanese sedans.

      • digital0verdose says:

        Did you not know that C4C was a way of getting gas guzzlers off the road by offering more money for them? That program is no way indicative of how consumers shop for cars under normal circumstances.

        • TouchMyMonkey says:

          So? Using public money in the form of rebates, tax breaks, etc., is standard practice in providing incentives for people to change their behavior without actually forcing them to do anything. Believe it or not, but it often works to the public’s benefit. You “free market” people act like President Obama just took a leak on the Alamo or something.

          • digital0verdose says:

            Wow, way to complete go somewhere I wasn’t. I completely support Obama and the C4C program. All I was saying is why the top turn ins were gas guzzlers.

            You need to back of the political hate because now you can’t even see who is with you.

            • Buckus says:

              The top turn-ins were gas guzzlers because there was no rebate for any vehicle if its fuel efficiency was more than 22mpg.

            • operator207 says:

              And you need to pay attention to what the C4C did. It pulled a lot of cars off the road that got ok gas mileage, and were cheap to own or fix up when they broke. It also put a lot of cars on the road that, yes are more efficient, but caused more debt to the owner, and got rid of an entire section of rebuildable parts and after market (read AutoZone, Pep Boys etc) revenue.

              This may have slightly improved the environment (not enough to count in the grand scheme of things) but this also pushed many into further debt. As for the rebuilt parts industry, this only means the rebuilt (it’s really recycling) parts will cost more money, as there are fewer to actually rebuild.

              • digital0verdose says:

                I think you are giving C4C way too much credit. Yes it was a busy program but it was not so effective that is decimated used parts or after market businesses.

                Also, people were offered a program to get relatively decent prices on new vehicles. Any debt they incurred that they could not handle is not the fault of the people that designed the program, sold the car or signed off on the loan.

                • huadpe says:

                  It is the fault of the people who designed the program, at least because it heavily encouraged new debt. To qualify for C4C you had to buy a NEW car. New cars are substantially more expensive than used cars, and therefore require much larger loans. The new car requirement was a gift to car companies (i.e. subsidiaries of the US Government), who wanted to make more sales of cars that, without a massive subsidy, were not good ideas to manufacture in the first place.

          • smo0 says:

            I LOL’d but you’re right.

            If you gave people incentive, you could conceivably get the American public to do anything.

            But then you’d have the challenge of getting them off their fat, lazy ass. So goes the issue with the converter box for the tv… some people couldn’t be bothered – and they ended up on a waiting list with no more “vouchers” left, then complained.

            You could even keep people living in a knowingly toxic environment if you gave a hefty pay out… this is (was) usually done by major corporations.

          • Traveshamockery says:

            You mean like when the program ended and car sales hit record lows? That kind of benefit?

  2. Anonymously says:

    “The lowest grade possible would be a D.”
    Namby-pambies. I say go all the way to F.

  3. longdvsn says:

    So many people are apparently not smart enough to read a number, according to the White House. They need it boiled down to 4 categories for them. Personally, if someone can’t understand mileage ratings on the window of a vehicle, they shouldn’t be driving – and frankly, probably don’t have the money to afford the vehicle anyway.

    • ARP says:

      I disagree. When you have hybrids and electrics, the numbers aren’t as clear. Hybrids and electrics have higher initial costs, but for many, will cost much less in the long run. I think they’re trying to express the long term cost of vehicles as a way to encourage more fuel efficient cars.

      • leprechaunshawn says:

        Have you purchased a new vehicle lately? The Monroney label clearly spells out the esimated annual fuel cost of a vehicle. I’ve never shopped for a hybrid (never will but that’s a different story) but I would assume since it is a vehicle sold in the U.S., the same Monroney laws would apply. I would have to agree with “longdvsn”, the information is available. If you can’t do the math to figure out the cost of ownership, you probably shouldn’t be making major purchases like a car.

    • sumocat says:

      Or you can look at it as a way to clarify vague marketing. 30mpg is still being touted as “great” gas mileage, despite being 50-60% what a Toyota Prius or similar high-efficiency vehicle can get on the open road. There is also the ploy of advertising miles per tank without mentioning the capacity of the tank. Reading numbers is simple, but car companies complicate it by throwing a lot of numbers out there.

    • craptastico says:

      the grading system is completely redundant and unnecessary. if a car gets 22 mpg it gets 22 mpg. does is really matter if that’s a C or a B? it’s a sad world when people can’t be expected to figure out the differences between actual numbers and need to be given an artificial grading system

    • physics2010 says:

      You vastly overrate the intelligence of the folks this is aimed at. “They” are out there… :-(

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    This is really shortsighed thinking because most people don’t base their purchase solely on fuel efficiency. When people spend thousands of dollars on vehicles, they look for reliability, safety, comfort, etc. and not just fuel efficiency – grading only fuel efficiency is ineffective because anyone can tell you that a Honda Civic gets better gas mileage than a mid-size SUV – no one needs stickers for that.

    If the White House thinks that adding grades on cars will convince car manufacturers to only produce A grade cars, it’s sorely mistaken. There will always be a market for vehicles that are larger and people are going to buy them whether the grade is A or C because – guess what – some people need larger vehicles. Manufacturers don’t yet have a magical way of making SUVs and trucks as fuel efficient as a Prius and still be able to haul a family of six adults or lumber, nor do they have the ability to make these larger vehicles as affordable as a small sedan.

    • rbb says:

      Actually, they do have a way of making minivans and SUVs more fuel efficient and still remain affordable – it’s called diesel. But the manufacturers won’t bring them in quantity to North America.

      • Maximus Pectoralis says:

        QFT. I was excited when Cadillac announced their CTS Wagon which would be sold with an available diesel engine. Unfortunately the diesel verison is only available in Europe…

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        If manufacturers could find a way to make European-spec diesel engines pass USA clean air standards, without incredibly complex and expensive emission systems, I’m sure they would.

    • Trollez says:

      You fail to see the underlying motive here. First they grade the cars on fuel economy, regardless for the reasons of purchase, and then they tax you higher on your grade of your car. Wait. This is just the first step. Government doesn’t care about the reasons you bought your car.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Yup. You nailed it. Whenever someone says, “But the government is just looking out for the citizens!” my wallet automatically feels lighter.

        • ARP says:

          Oil is expensive. Foreign policy and environmental damage caused by oil is expensive. The gulf oil spill will cost a few hundred billion dollars in environmental damage and lost jobs/productivity? The Iraq war is closing in on $1T? Foreign aid to governments that hate us is a few billion. If we actually passed all those costs to each gallon of gas, it would probably be $6+ gas.

          So, my view is that they should either price gas at its true cost or tax those vehicles that get poor mileage.

          • partofme says:

            Ok, now I’m confused. Is gas artificially cheap, or are oil companies gouging us? I can’t keep up. Are there shenanigans going on when there’s lots of money to be thrown around? Of course. But doesn’t it make more sense to think that there are some form of market forces at work, and that political forces go beyond such a trivial commodity as oil? Furthermore, don’t examples like the cost of the oil spill directly support the idea that oil companies should have been making billions of dollars in the last decade… because then what the true cost of gas was doing was accounting for such risks?

            • ARP says:

              Honestly, both is going on. Oil from Iraq was entering the global market, driving down overall costs (even under the Oil for Food program). However, since oil companies didn’t get a “piece of the action” like the do in most other Middle-Easter/Persian countries, it made sense. So yes, oil companies do account for some geopolitical risk. However, they don’t have to really pay for the muscle of asserting our rights it in these areas.

              • partofme says:

                I was reminded of this comment when I read this article. In particular, this section: “Conspiracy theories, especially in the Islamic world, hold the United States attacked Iraq out of a vicious desire to slay Muslims or a venal desire to seize oil or as a ploy to control the Middle East. The first two proposed explanations are nonsense (in Kosovo the United States fought to save Muslims, and Washington could have purchased all the oil in Iraq for far more cheaply than by seizing it).” Now, I don’t agree with everything TMQ says, but extraordinary claims like “we invaded Iraq so big oil could get a piece of the action” need extraordinary evidence. Otherwise, they look pretty much ridiculous. Big oil had made and is making a crapload of money. But they’re liable for huge bills on things like major spills, which is part of why it’s priced fairly expensively (but, of course, not near as expensive as it is in other areas of the world). Why? Because it’s mostly supply and demand. Conspiracy is hard. And there’s no conspiracy necessary.

      • Kavatar says:

        It sure is fun to slide down slippery slopes, isn’t it?

    • smo0 says:

      “some people need larger vehicles”

      You’re right… unfortunately, every Soccer mom in the US seems to think they fall into this catagory as well. That’s where the problem is.

  5. smbizowner says:

    So how accurate are those fuel efficiency numbers anyway? I guess if you drive to work on a treadmill you might get the mpg they advertise.

    • digital0verdose says:

      My car’s sticker was advertised at 28-30 MPG city driving and 32-34 highway. My car has never fallen outside of either range.

    • AliceAitch says:

      My Ford Flex falls within one MPG on city, and the average MPG also falls within one MPG. It’s hard to know whether the highway MPG is accurate at this point, because all the road trips we’ve taken that involve long distances at highway speeds have also involved lots of mountains. Our first flatland trip will be next month.

  6. apd09 says:

    This seems like more congressional chest puffing. For years people campaigning for congress and the presidency have been claiming we need to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, they claim they are going to make a stand and invest in technology to make the US a more fuel efficient country. The american auto companies have been spending millions of dollars annually on lobbyists fighting fuel efficiency, and is the reason why Toyota and Honda passed by US auto’s. A grade on a car is no different than just researching the MPG on various auto’s before purchasing. Every person when they buy a car looks at the sticker on the window and knows the MPG, how is a grade going to make them change their mind? It isn’t, and auto makers will gladly accept the grade over actually having to make improvements.

  7. rbb says:

    Well they better come up with better grading standards than they have now. Current standards favor gasoline powered vehicles at the expense of diesel powered vehicles. The mileage ratings for gas vehicles get plussed up and diesel powered vehicles get lowered. In real life, the diesel vehicles get better than the EPA mileage and gassers get less. And, the newer clean diesels pollute less than gassers.

  8. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    This is idiotic, as it provides less data than the MPG. What they should do, which would be very easy to do, is require that price stickers include total cost of ownership for low, medium, and high usage estimates at 1, 2, five, and ten years, including fuel (and maybe required maintenance). A table like that should be fairly easy to understand at a glance.

    • Maximus Pectoralis says:

      I hope that will also include the required battery replacement on hybrid and electric vehicles. The batteries on a Prius can easily cost 1-2 years worth of gas…

    • partofme says:

      No no no.. they wouldn’t want to do that. Why? Because it would reveal the fact that most of the time, extra fuel efficiency isn’t going to save you all that much. Sure, it will save you some, but most people are surprised with how low it is when the do the actual calculation. I did a quick calculation at 15000 miles in a year… going from 30mpg to 40mpg (assume gas is $3.. which is quite high for my area). You would save $375 in a year. That is all. The number jumps to just over a grand if you start from 20mpg. But at that point, you’re not considering a comparison between a regular midsize sedan and a hybrid midsize sedan. You’re considering a truck or SUV of some sort (and hopefully have a purpose for it) vs a hybrid midsize sedan.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Yes, the best gains per MPG are on the low end of the scale: http://www.edmunds.com/advice/fueleconomy/articles/137851/article.html

        They should also do away with MPG and change it to GPM.

        • partofme says:

          Agreed completely. The general population can’t understand functions that aren’t linear. Singularities really mess them up. Actually doing the calculations might move some people who use the most gas to change their ways (unless, again, they have a really good reason to need to haul lots of things or people), but it’s not going to really inspire Johnny-Corolla-driver to become Johnny-Prius-driver. If anything, the savings will underwhelm them, and they’ll be more likely to buy based on some other factor. People who only care about driving fuel usage down don’t like this, so they’d rather just slap a letter grade on a vehicle and avoid the whole “costs” discussion.

      • ARP says:

        I think you’re working at the high end where there are diminishing returns. Let’s compare a more realistic situation. The fuel economy of a Taurus is 18/28, the fuel economy of a Chevy Malibu is 22/33. I’m going to average them all to 25 (assumes equal highway and city driving). Now let’s run your numbers against a Prius 48/51= 50.

        Now the cost savings differential is $900 per year. Assuming 5 years of ownership and you have approx $4500. A Prius is approx $26k, a Taurus is $28k, and a Malibu is $22k.

        Now if gas is higher priced or if you do a lot of city, driving the cost savings is higher.

        • partofme says:

          There is nothing wrong with what you’ve done. It’s accurate. I don’t know that I would put the Taurus in for comparison, because it’s definitely a larger class of vehicle. The point is, after seeing those numbers, it’s clear that I would probably make a decision based on some other factor (ya know, if I wasn’t a poor student who couldn’t afford to buy a new car anyway), because while there is savings… it’s still not THAT much. I’m talking about people who haven’t done a single calculation for comparison’s sake. A lot of people don’t, they just see the high MPG number and think “oh man, that’ll save me like a bajillion dollars!” Those people, when presented with the actual numbers, will probably care less about fuel efficiency.

          And good luck with even more direct comparisons. Say I want a Camry. According to feuleconomy.gov, I can get a hybrid which gets 31/35… or a gas one which gets 22/33. It doesn’t give sticker prices, but that doesn’t matter, because what is their calculated annual fuel costs? $1227 versus $1559. I don’t think any of those people who thought “ohhhh, a hybrid will save me a bunch of gas money” will be beaming with joy over that comparison. I’m not saying there’s no benefit. I’m simply saying that it’s not near what people *think* it’s going to be. Therefore, if your goal is to ….persuade… people to always buy the more efficient choice, you’re better off just slapping on letter grades that ONLY take mpg into account than you are by really making sure people know what the cost comparisons are.

        • partofme says:

          Additionally, go to fueleconomy.gov. Do a search for the vehicles in the past five years with over 40mpg combined usage. There’s basically prius/insight/civic hybrids. And you’ll be shocked about the number of them that are in the lower 40’s rather than the upper 40’s. Only a couple hit 50: the 2010 Prius and a couple years of the Insight. So, if your more realistic comparison is to include a larger Taurus and put it against the most fuel efficient vehicle the government identifies for 2010, then good luck selling cars. Using their comparison tool for the Malibu vs. Prius gives a savings of about $700/year. If you “upgrade” your Malibu to a Malibu hybrid, you get a whopping $150/year in savings. Your realistic situation is kinda breaking down unless you think a few hundred dollars a year to be the only deciding point for absolutely everyone in America to buy Priuses? Prii? They don’t let you search for “between 30 and 40mpg.. just >=30mpg, so do that. And you’ll see a much much more diverse set of listings. I wasn’t going to argue with your “realistic” situation until I spent time there and realized that it’s not really realistic at all. In fact, my quick initial calculation of a person thinking about a 30mpg vehicle and comparing to a 40mpg vehicle seems quite realistic. Your shopping results may vary.

          • ARP says:

            Looking at the chart, its about $744 per year in savings for a 4 cyl Malibu (a more apt comparison, compared to the Taurus, I admit) compared to a Prius. Malibu’s are about $4k less than Priuses. So, in 5 years you break even. This assumes gas at 2.68 per gallon and a 45/55 highway/city split. If you raise the price of gas, or add more city driving, the numbers trend much better for the Prius. So, high gas prices and lots of city driving favor the Prius, which is who the vehicle is marketed to (city and suburban persons near major cities).

            I was focusing solely on the financial component of the cars. Now if you take the intangible factors, it gets interesting, since there are just as many people who will by a prius for its “green cred” as people who don’t like the shape, performance, etc. Environmental impact favors the Malibu initially due to the additional complexity and batteries of the Prius. Over time, the usage of less gas overtakes the Malibu in environmental impact. So again, within about 3-5 years, the Prius is ahead in the Environmental impact category.

            • partofme says:

              I would love to just leave this at “people need to run the numbers for their own situation”, but you keep coming back with bad claims.

              “If you raise the price of gas, or add more city driving, the numbers trend much better for the Prius.” Let’s actually run the numbers. I want to dispute the word “much”. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my engineering education, it’s that “much” is a qualitative word that is used when someone doesn’t want to run the numbers. You say that a Prius costs about 4k more than a Malibu. Given your numbers (and confirmed in my calculations), the Prius gives a gas savings of around $3720 in five years. What happens if you drive 10% more of your miles in the city (35/65)? $4043. What happens if you have $3/gal gas (at 45/55)? $4157. What happens if you have $3/gal gas and drive 35/65? $4808. Given that you spent an extra 4k up front, you have an entire $800 of possible savings in the first five years. You have to get a fair amount further from the average to have the numbers trend “much” better. Are you financing this vehicle? If so, you’ll probably pay more in interest on the extra 4k up front than you’ll spend on extra gas for the Malibu (Pro tip: I used the word “probably”, which means I didn’t want to run the numbers… which means I’m actually probably wrong. But it sounds good.) Additionally, hybrids are much more complicated mechanically. I know they don’t require much additional regular maintenance, and the prices of replacement batteries are going down, but you’re still adding MANY additional points of failure (and hours of labor on any repair bills).

              My point is not to belabor this particular comparison of a Malibu vs. a Prius. Because that’s not what most people’s car buying decision is going to come down to. My point is what it always has been. People expect HUGE gas savings without actually running the numbers. When they run the numbers and don’t see huge gas savings, they say things like “but if you drive it more in the city!” or “but if you have higher gas prices!”… again, without running the numbers. It really annoys me because this is such a simple calculation to make. I’m more apt to accept unbacked statements like, “within about 3-5 years, the Prius is ahead in the Environmental impact category.” It’s completely unsubstantiated, but I wouldn’t expect you (or me) to be able to just sit down and do it. But these simple gas expense calculations should be achievable by anyone with a high school diploma.

  9. BrianneG says:

    I think it’s a great idea, similar to the idea of putting calorie counts on fast food menus. When you see just how bad your fuel efficiency is, you might wake up and buy a more fuel efficient car.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      But cars already HAVE the fuel numbers. This assigns a letter grade.

      And its possible a plug in hybrid may cost MORE in energy than a fully gas car, but since no gas car will ever get an A, this rating system is flawed.

      • digital0verdose says:

        I have never heard anyone say that electric or hybrid will cost more in energy consumption than a gas car. Do you have any links to back that up?

        As for fuel numbers. You need to keep in mind that a lot of consumers do no educate themselves on what is necessarily good or bad. Yes you could demand a smarter population, but the costs in making that happen are far more expensive than just making things easier to understand.

        • ARP says:

          I think he’s referring to the flawed study that said that a craddle to grave Hummer uses less energy than a Prius (i.e. both costs of production and operation).

          It assumed that a Prius batteries would run 109k miles and the vehicle would operate for 12 years while the Hummer would last 379k miles and 35 years. Prius batteries are getting anywhere from 125-175k miles in real world use.

  10. pantheonoutcast says:

    My Explorer might only get a C, but he could kick your Prius’ ass any day. Plus, he gets invited to all the cool parties, all the popular guys want to hang with him and all the hot chicks want to ride up front.

    Besides, in a few years, no one will care about his grades anyway, and one of his richer, more charismatic friends that he networked with during his formative years will offer him a cushy cabinet position despite being unqualified in every way.

    I seem to remember our last president having a “C” average – I have high hopes for my Explorer.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I saw your Explorer, behind the factory, taking it up the tailpipe from a Daewoo. There’s nothing wrong with the tailpipe business, but a Daewoo? Didn’t you raise him better?

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Hey, if he wants to experiment with his freaky Asian fetish when he’s young, so be it. I won’t judge.

    • Darury says:

      Heck, we don’t even know what type of grades our current president got. Although I’m guessing if it were better than a “C” average like his predecessor, that would have been touted as yet another reason he’s a genius.

  11. Murph1908 says:

    Because those 2 big numbers on the sticker aren’t clear enough?

    Sure, giving it a more ambiguous ‘code’ will clear things right up!

    Dumbest. Idea. Ever.

  12. leprechaunshawn says:

    Let me guess – Vehicles will be graded on a curve so that Obama Motors vehicles receive higher grades than other manufacturers.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      No, those cars will receive the Motor Trend Car of the Year award while they are still in the design phase.

    • ARP says:

      No, I think they’re trying to explain the long term costs of vehicles. So, a hybrid may be more expensive than an ICE, over time, it may have a lower Cost of Ownership.

      Re: Obama Motors. GM only has a few hybrids/electrics (the Volt is the only one that comes to mind). Toyota and Honda (and now Nissan) have the majority of EV’s and electrics, so the ratings will probably favor those automakers. Sorry, your tinfoil hat is on too tight.

      • partofme says:

        Except that this grading system has absolutely nothing to do with total cost of ownership. It’s based entirely on the MPG ratings, which, last time I checked, didn’t really correlate well with total cost of ownership (since we’re applying the metric blindly to all classes of vehicles).

      • leprechaunshawn says:

        The federal government is still the largest shareholder of GM. Do you not see the possible conflict of interest here? This would be like putting Comcast in charge of regulating the cable/satellite industry.

  13. balthisar says:

    You guys could all leave your comments on the website to try to convince the government the dumbness of this. I did my part yesterday.

    My biggest gripe (phrased more eloquently for uncle Sam): letter grades come from authorities, therefore the dumb public (the ones who need letter grades) are going to think that the grade is an endorsement from the government, rather than an informational metric.

  14. b612markt says:

    Anyone who is truly interested in being environmentally conscious will do their own research before buying a car.

    This grading system is idiotic. Would the scale adjust for increasing fuel economy over the next hundred years? Hyundai says it’ll have a CAFE of 50MPG by 2025. Will all their cars get an A, or would the grading system uptick each year to account for increasing economy?

    What about the environmental horrors of producing the batteries in a hybrid/electric? What about the difficulties involved in end-of-life recycling of a hybrid/electric? There’s a lot more to consider than just MPG.

    The EPA recently fined Tesla Motors $275,000 for lacking an emissions certification. Tesla cars produce *zero* emissions. The EPA has a lot of work to do before I’m convinced they know anything about protecting the environment in a meaningful way when it comes to the automotive industry.

    • ARP says:

      I’ll put the cost of oil extraction and the pollution caused by ICE’s against the cost of extraction and pollution caused by EV’s any day of the week.

      Even dirty coal plants are more efficient than an ICE.

      Hint: The Iraq war gave you a $1T head start. Add to that the Gulf Oil spill and the funding of regimes that hate us, and I think we have you beat.

  15. jvanbrecht says:

    Heh.. my car… is there a Z grade in there somewhere :) 6.2L V8… drinks gas, eats oil.. drives like a flaming bat out of hell :) God bless my AMG..

  16. jvanbrecht says:

    Heh.. my car… is there a Z grade in there somewhere :) 6.2L V8… drinks gas, eats oil.. drives like a flaming bat out of hell :) God bless my AMG..

  17. b612markt says:

    http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy/label.htm#comment is where you should go to voice your opinion to the EPA directly.

  18. AllanG54 says:

    It’s no different than the EPA ratings which are suspect to begin with. What it does do is make it easier for people who don’t care to read the sticker on the car to see quickly where they are. I usually look for a car that gets in the low 20s or better but it’s not the determining factor. If it was in most peoples’ decisions then most SUVs would never have been sold.

  19. cmdr.sass says:

    The fuel efficiency rating is already printed right on the sticker in large, easy-to-read numbers. This new obtuse rating system would accomplish what, exactly?

  20. BigHeadEd says:

    Well why not? Slapping nutrition information on food has done wonders for the obesity rate in the US, so surely this will drive more fuel-efficient car purchase choices.

  21. Dr.Wang says:

    So long as the actual city/highway mileage is not removed from the sticker… I think it’s overall economy and environmental impact is factored into the letter grade. When I bought my current car the decision to buy was based on the fueleconomy .gov web site. I would never be persuaded by the alleged “carbon footprint” of any device I might purchase.

  22. oddnoc says:

    I don’t see how this is better than actual numbers that you can directly compare. Seems like a dumbing-down of the EPA ratings.

  23. Traveshamockery says:

    Ironically, this totally ignores the horrific environmental impact of building lithium ion batteries that go into electric and hybrid cars.

    Protecting the environment is about more than carbon dioxide, government.

  24. DWMILLER says:

    My everyday driver for work is a big factor for fuel. Family car SUV not so much because when I’m driving it I’m either on a day trip or vaction and how many miles per gallon it gets is the furthest thing on my mind.

  25. Jerem43 says:

    Think about this: This maybe a way to grade cars for a future restructuring of the gas guzzlers tax?

  26. huadpe says:

    So people are so bad at math that instead of a number on the side of the car, they need a letter grade?

    This seems awful actually. You will be replacing real information (MPG) with an approximation of real information with some nannyism (i.e., my subcompact that gets 40 mpg highway will get a lower grade than a hybrid SUV that gets 28 highway).

    Also, by having only 4 grades, you make it much less useful. Sedan A getting 26 mpg and Sedan B getting 21 will probably get the same grade. But Sedan A actually gets better fuel economy, as you would know if you can do…any math whatsoever.