Drivers aren't the only ones desperate to get more mileage from a gallon of gas.
Under the landmark energy bill that Congress passed last year, automakers must meet tough new mileage targets. The rules will be finalized later this year and go into effect starting in 2011. And based on new data, it looks as if a few automakers will struggle to meet the targets—or miss them altogether, which would trigger expensive fines.
The automakers aren't publicizing their mileage shortcomings, but U.S. News found the data in recently published government documents. Under the new law, cars sold in the United States need to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020—a 40 percent increase over today's standards. But Congress left lots of devilish details for others to figure out, and the repercussions of the mileage changes are just starting to emerge.
Each automaker, for instance, will have a different mileage target, based on the mix of cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks it sells. It's up to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine each automaker's target, along with a phase-in schedule. NHTSA just recently published its first draft of those targets, including internal company data that show each automaker's estimates of its own fleetwide mpg in 2011.
U.S. News used those data to determine which automakers are closest to their required targets for 2011 and which have the farthest to go. (You can view our sources and methodology here.) The findings reveal that companies like Volkswagen, Subaru, and Suzuki may have to significantly shift their product plans—and do it fast, since building cars is a complex process, with design and manufacturing plans often locked down two or three years ahead of time. Other manufacturers could gain an advantage from the new rules. Here's what our analysis shows:
Some surprising laggards. Volkswagen, Subaru, and Suzuki are far from their 2011 targets—even though they tend to build smaller cars with better mileage than their competitors. This seems to be an anomaly of the new rules. Each automaker's target is computed based on the "footprint," or relative size, of each model it sells, along with the sales volume for each model. Automakers with a bigger average footprint, therefore, tend to have lower mileage targets.
average mpg, 2011
average mpg, 2011
|How much mpg
must be improved
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Average Fuel Economy Standards, Passenger Cars and Light Trucks, Model Years 2011-2015;" "Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis, Corporate Average Fuel Economy for MY 2011-2015 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks."
Notes: Manufacturer production plans are preliminary in some cases and are based on "adjusted baseline" numbers, as computed by NHTSA, which account for certain manufacturers making minor technological changes to meet government requirements.