Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

New Gas Mileage Rules for Era of Hybrids ; U.S. to Introduce Changes to Resolve Disparities in Market of Green Cars

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

New Gas Mileage Rules for Era of Hybrids ; U.S. to Introduce Changes to Resolve Disparities in Market of Green Cars

Article excerpt

The Environmental Protection Agency said it would update its labeling rules, as Ford Motor said it was cutting the miles-per- gallon rating on one of its popular hybrid models.

U.S. regulators are planning changes to vehicle fuel-economy ratings after Ford Motor said that it was cutting the miles-per- gallon rating on one of its popular hybrid models.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it would update its labeling rules -- which date to the 1970s -- to resolve disparities among the growing number of hybrid and electric vehicles on the market.

"E.P.A. welcomes this emerging trend and will be working with consumer advocates, environmental organizations and auto manufacturers to propose revised fuel-economy testing regulations to ensure that consumers are consistently given the accurate fuel economy information on which they have come to rely," the agency said in a statement Thursday.

The move comes as more consumers and analysts are challenging the accuracy of government fuel-economy stickers on new models. At the same time, automakers are pushing to improve fuel economy as strict new government mileage standards are phased in.

In Ford's case, the automaker said it would reduce the stated fuel economy of its C-Max hybrid utility vehicle to 43 miles per gallon, or around 18 kilometers per liter, from 47 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving.

A Ford executive said Thursday that the company was voluntarily reducing the rating and would offer cash payments to C-Max owners as reimbursement for additional fuel consumption.

Raj Nair, Ford's head of global product development, said that reducing the rating would allay the concerns of consumers who are not achieving the previously stated fuel-economy number.

"We are taking actions with our popular C-Max hybrid so that customers are even more satisfied with their vehicle's on-road fuel efficiency performance," he said.

Ford said it would make a good-will payment of $550 to any customer who bought the current C-Max model and $325 to consumers who leased one.

Industry analysts said Ford had to address the growing concerns over the reliability of its fuel-economy claims. "Ford wouldn't take such a drastic step if it didn't feel that it was absolutely necessary, even if it's just to protect its image," said John O'Dell, green-car analyst at the auto research site Edmunds.com.

It is not clear how much the consumer campaign will cost Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker behind General Motors. Mr. Nair said the company had sold about 32,000 C-Max hybrids since the model was introduced last year.

Like most conventional hybrids, the C-Max hybrid is alternately powered by a gasoline engine and a battery. The system allows the vehicle to consume considerably less fuel than a car equipped solely with a gas engine.

The current fuel-economy rules specify that automakers can use the same fuel-economy numbers for similar-size vehicles equipped with the same engines and transmissions. …

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