Pictured: A dirty, dirty gas-guzzler.

It used to be that automakers had to (that’s a soft “had to”) meet a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025, but now it seems that the EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) are rethinking that number.


The auto industry has been zealous in implementing fuel-saving technology in its new cars. To the point where the government is surprised: “Car makers and suppliers have developed far more innovative technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce GHG emissions than anticipated just a few years ago,” Automotive News reports, quoting a release.

That sounds great! But unfortunately nobody is buying those splendid miserly economy cars. Among many reasons, including the cheap price of fuel, people just choose to buy SUVs and trucks instead. The regulators didn’t anticipate that. The SUVs and trucks will hit between 50 to 52.6 mph average fuel economy, the government estimates. Apparently that’s what is causing this reconsideration.


Which is strange when you look back to just last year, where these regulations were seen as something that wouldn’t budge. They were considered historic and groundbreaking when they came out in 2012. Failure to comply with the mileage restrictions resulted in CAFE fines of $5.50 for each tenth of a mile below the required fuel efficiency standard multiplied for each vehicle the company sold in that model year, as NHTSA explains on their background of CAFE. Here is a brief summary of what those fines look like, as published by NHTSA back in ‘14.

Why the government is now backing off from the 54.5 mpg corporate fuel mandate is unclear, because as you can see from the PDF above, a lot of money was made in fines.