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DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler: New fuel economy, CO2 standards mean more affordable, safer and cleaner vehicles

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Cleveland Plain Dealer

By DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler 
April 4, 2020

Three years ago, President Donald Trump pledged to autoworkers that he would reinvigorate American auto manufacturing by rewriting costly, increasingly unachievable fuel economy and vehicle CO2 emissions standards.

Today, the president and his administration are keeping that promise, releasing the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule. The SAFE Vehicles Rule will increase fuel economy standards by 1.5 percent per year from model year 2021 to 2026, an improvement over the costly and unrealistic level of about 5 percent per year under the standards set in 2012.

At a time of sudden economic uncertainty, the SAFE Vehicles Rule provides help for millions of American workers and thousands of businesses in the auto sector and related industries by cutting costs and increasing sales for safe new vehicles.

The last time our nation’s fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks were revised was in 2012. A lot has changed since then. Oil prices have fallen by more than half, domestic energy production capacity has skyrocketed, and Americans are choosing to buy more crossovers and SUVs rather than compact passenger cars.

At the same time, the average price of a new vehicle continues to rise, pricing many families out of the market for new or newer cars, trucks, and SUVs with the latest safety features and technologies. And, due in part to the unrealistic standards set in 2012, the average age of vehicles on our roads has grown from about 10 to nearly 12 years – the oldest fleet in history – and that means most of our nation’s drivers are missing out on the significant technological improvements that are making newer vehicles safer and cleaner than ever.

Automakers have applied new advanced technologies to their vehicles over the last five to 10 years. They have reached the point, however, where the additional technological improvements needed to meet the previous standards would price new vehicles out of the reach of far too many American families.

As of February 2020, the average price of a new passenger vehicle was bout $38,000. Thanks to the SAFE Vehicles Rule, new cars, trucks and SUVs — vehicles with the latest safety features — will be more affordable and our nation’s families can be safer on the roads. We also expect this rule to reduce traffic fatalities by 3,300 people and reduce injuries by 397,000 over the lifetime of vehicles built through Model Year 2029.

Our estimates show that these changes will save the average American family thousands of dollars in new vehicle costs, not only helping more people afford the vehicle that best meets their needs, but also letting them use their savings on other pressing needs. Thanks to this rule, we estimate 2.7 million additional new vehicles will be sold through model year 2029.


As President Trump said three years ago in Michigan, “Let us put American workers, American families, and American dreams first once again.”

The vehicles on our roads can and should be more affordable, safer, and cleaner. By putting more Americans to work, while making new vehicles cheaper and safer for families, everyone in our nation will win.

Read the full op-ed here.