Updated Window Stickers To Include Environmental Grade

What grade will your new car get in fuel efficiency? A government proposal may be adding report card style letter grades to showroom window stickers on new cars and trucks to reflect a vehicle’s overall fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are considering two changes to the energy and environmental information on new car window stickers beginning with the 2012 model year. The government is considering updating the design of the current sticker to include letter grade comparisons of a vehicle’s fuel economy and emissions. The stickers have not significantly changed in 30 years, and the government wants the labels to reflect and account for greenhouse gas emissions.

“From electric to plug-in hybrid vehicles, we think a new label is absolutely necessary to help consumers make the right decision for their wallet and for the environment,” said Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s top air pollution official. The changes are required under a 2007 energy law.

Using the letter grade approach, an average vehicle on fuel efficiency and emissions would receive a B-. Electric vehicles would receive an A+, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would earn an A and three gas-electric hybrids — the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius — would get an A-.
The best-selling passenger car in America, the Toyota Camry, would receive a B or a B-, depending on the vehicle’s engine, while hybrid versions of the Camry would earn a B+. The top-selling pickup truck, the Ford F-150, would receive a C+ or a C, based on the engine. Luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz Maybach 57 and Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorana would get a D+ while the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti would earn the lowest grade — D.

Automakers questioned the proposed letter grades, saying it could impact sales. Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said “the letter grade inadvertently suggests a value judgment, taking us back to school days where grades were powerful symbols of passing or failing.”

McCarthy said the letter grade option was not meant to be a judgment on the vehicle, but a “metric that consumers can use” when car shopping. The letter grade would include an estimate of how much money a motorist would save in fuel costs over five years.

The second option would maintain the current label’s focus on a vehicle’s miles per gallon rating and annual fuel costs but update the design and add new comparison information on fuel efficiency and vehicle tailpipe emissions.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator David Strickland said there was “no preferred option” and the government hoped to hear from the public during a 60-day comment period. The public can e-mail comments on the plans to newlabels@epa.gov and a final plan is expected in early 2011.

Environmental groups said they generally supported the plan, noting it would help consumers make meaningful comparisons between vehicles and choose vehicles that will help them save money at the gas pump. “You shouldn’t need a Ph.D. to buy a car. These proposed new labels will make it much easier for consumers to comparison shop,” said Vickie Patton, Environmental Defense Fund’s general counsel.