Reaction to the White House’s new vehicle sticker proposal: “If we get below a C do our parents have to sign off on it?”

So said my 24 year old son when he saw the announcement that the White House/EPA was planning a major overhaul to the window stickers that appear on new cars to include a grade based on fuel efficiency and emissions.  To be fair, the EPA has put forth two proposals, one without a “grade:” 150w" sizes="(max-width: 280px) 100vw, 280px" />

and one with a grade: 68w, 137w" sizes="(max-width: 183px) 100vw, 183px" />

According to the EPA’s website the “EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are updating this label to provide consumers with simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons across all vehicles types.”

Fair enough, after almost thirty years with very little updating, it’s probably time to make some improvements to the industry’s new car stickers.  I’m all for providing consumers more and better information to enable them to make the vehicle purchase decision that is best suited to their needs and desires.  I doubt that anyone in the industry would disagree.

Here’s the rub, the option with the letter grade is a not too thinly veiled attempt on the Government’s part to pass a value judgment on your decision to purchase a vehicle. Should you make the decision to purchase an EV like the Nissan Leaf you’ll get an A+.  Should you choose to buy an “average” car like a Toyota Camry (the most popular car in the United States) you’ll get a B-.  Should you have the temerity and the cash to buy a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 57 or a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorana you’re going to get a D+ from the Feds.

This is an attempt to coerce consumers to buy vehicles that the government deems more responsible (e.g. EVs). Buy a vehicle that the government considers responsible and you’ll get a better grade and not be subject to ridicule from your peers.  If you make the wrong choice, you’ll get a bad grade and people will be talking behind your back.

The auto industry has reacted:

“Dave McCurdy, chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group, said the rating system “falls short because it is imbued with schoolyard memories of passing and failing.” (NYTs 8/30)

“Automakers questioned the proposed letter grades, saying it might affect sales.”  ( 8/31)

Ironically, that’s the point.  The government wants to “affect sales” and they’ve decided that telling us if we’re “passing or failing” is a good way to get us to make the right “choice.”

By all means provide more information and data for consumers to consider while making a vehicle decision.  Make it easy to understand, enable comparisons between vehicles based on MPG, emissions and potential fuel savings.  This is all good, well-intended information, that should be available to consumers for consideration. But the Feds should not be passing judgment on consumers’ choices.

Well-informed consumers will make good choices for themselves and their families.

Rather than spending time grading our vehicle choices, our politicians could spend our tax dollars more wisely by developing a coherent energy policy.  That would be a real step forward and address the real problems rather than the symptoms.

If you would like to weigh-in on the new window stickers, the EPA is asking for consumer input at:   Click on “Submit comments.”

In the meantime, I’m starting a new business, I’m going to manufacture and distribute large red letter grade decals, “C” and below, that the automotive Hester Prynnes among us can proudly display on our vehicles.

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  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by DriveAlternatives, Cameron McNaughton. Cameron McNaughton said: Reaction to the Govt's new vehicle sticker proposal: "If we get below a C do our parents have to sign off on it?" […]

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