The race to meet 35-mpg CAFE standards officially started today as the Department of Transportation laid out the first five-year plan to boost nationwide fleet fuel economy.
The DOT said today that from 2011 to 2015, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) for both passenger cars and trucks would rise 4.5 percent each year. The "ambitious" proposal, in the DOT's words, would represent a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy provided automakers will meet the targets.
The average fuel economy for the passenger-car fleet would rise from 27.5 miles per gallon to 35.7 miles per gallon by 2015. Trucks would see average fuel economy rise from 23.5 miles per gallon to 28.6 miles per gallon by the end of the five-year phase.
The DOT estimates the new rules will save nearly 55 billion gallons of fuel consumed by vehicles, but did not supply a dollar amount for the toll extracted on the auto industry, which is struggling with the weakest sales year in more than a decade.
Automakers were generally silent on the new rules, though GM did issue a press release. The world's biggest automaker for now said that "GM intends to meet the tough, new national CAFE standards of 35 mpg for cars and trucks combined by 2020, a dramatic increase of 40 percent. NHTSA’s proposed rule lays out the first set of standards toward this target. GM will work with NHTSA throughout its rulemaking process on the yearly targets and the sensible mechanisms needed to meet this challenge.”