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Automakers May Get U.S. Grades in Fuel-Economy Revamp

Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Automakers may get letter grades from the U.S. government for fuel efficiency in the first overhaul of new-car rating stickers in 30 years.

Electric vehicles that get 117 miles per gallon or more would rate the highest “A+” under the proposal, while Ferrari SpA’s 612 Scaglietti getting 12 mpg would earn the lowest, a “D.” The grades would replace information on vehicle stickers that focus on models’ miles per gallon.

“This update is long overdue,” David Strickland, who leads the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said today on a conference call. “These old petroleum-centric labels just aren’t good enough anymore.” Automakers selling cars in the U.S. faulted the concept of issuing vehicle grades.

U.S. auto regulators, after boosting fuel-economy standards 30 percent in April, are examining whether a grading system would better communicate those targets to consumers. The government, in seeking public comment, may instead keep the traditional label that for almost three decades has focused on a model’s miles per gallon.

The grades, from “A+” to “D,” would be based on the vehicle’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, with no vehicles getting an “F” because all must meet clean air standards in order to be sold in the U.S., said Gina McCarthy, an Environmental Protection Agency assistant administrator.

“The proposed letter grade falls short because it is imbued with school-yard memories of passing and failing,” said Dave McCurdy, chief executive officer of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, in a statement. The Washington trade group’s members include General Motors Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

‘Meaningful Information’

McCurdy said the group would “support providing our customers with meaningful information for decision making on vehicles.”

The grades would follow “a pretty standard bell curve,” based on 2010 models, with a “B-” being the median rating, McCarthy said.

Ford’s Fusion hybrid, Honda Motor Co.’s Civic hybrid and Toyota’s Prius would get “A-,” according to the proposal. General Motors’ Cadillac CTS, the Land Rover Range Rover, Nissan Motor Co.’s Titan and the Toyota Tundra are among models that would receive a “C-.”

“We are asking the American people to tell us what they need to make the best economic and environmental decisions when buying a new car,” Lisa Jackson, who leads the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement.

The administration in April set the first national regulations targeting climate change, boosting standards to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 models. The new label requirements would take effect with 2012 models, following a 60-day comment period.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Hughes in Washington at jhughes5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net.

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