(Adds reaction from manufacturers' association, EPA background)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON Dec 21 The U.S. National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday it will delay until
2018 a planned jump in fines for automakers who fail to meet
fuel efficiency requirements in response to concerns from the
sector over their impact.
Two major auto trade associations representing carmakers
including General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp
and Volkswagen AG had urged U.S. regulators to
reconsider plans to more than double fines for failing to meet
fuel efficiency requirements, saying the move could have boosted
industry compliance costs by $1 billion annually.
In 2015, Congress ordered federal agencies to adjust civil
penalties to account for inflation and, in response, NHTSA
proposed to raise fines to $14 from $5.50 for each 0.1 mile per
gallon each vehicle is below required standards. Automakers had
said the higher fines could have hit vehicles built since 2014.
NHTSA said applying the higher fines to prior years "would
seem to impose retroactive punishment" and wouldn't boost fuel
savings. NHTSA said that was "not appropriate" and was fair to
give automakers time before higher fines took effect because
product plans are difficult to alter in the short term.
It also said Wednesday in a separate announcement that it
will consider a proposal from automaker trade groups to further
"harmonize" its rules with requirements from the Environmental
Protection Agency. Automakers are seeking further flexibilities
as they face steep increases in requirements through 2025.
The auto industry has been urging President-elect Donald
Trump to conduct a sweeping review of the Obama administration's
fuel efficiency requirements and other regulations for the
Automakers have paid $650 million in total fines over the
past 30 years through 2015, according to NHTSA.
Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of
Automobile Manufacturers, welcomed the decision saying "the
sudden raising of these fines by almost a three-fold magnitude
meant some automakers faced potentially large fines."
In 2011, President Barack Obama announced an agreement with
major automakers to raise fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 mpg,
which the administration said would save motorists $1.7 trillion
in fuel costs over the life of the vehicles but cost the auto
industry about $200 billion over 13 years.
Last month, the EPA moved to lock in fuel efficiency
standards central to Obama's climate policy before the Trump
administration takes over in January.
Under the law, the EPA had to decide by April 2018 whether
to modify the 2022-2025 model year vehicle emission rules
requiring average fleet-wide efficiency of more than 50 miles
Instead, the agency said it will end the public comment
period by Dec. 30, and is expected to finalize the rules after
then and before the Obama administration leaves office on Jan.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and