Readers of this site will be shocked to learn that there is a loophole in the new fuel economy
standards that the House of Representatives is due to vote on soon. One of the changes to the original Senate bill was the restoration of the separate fleet average calculations
for domestic- and foreign-built vehicles. Nissan
had actually opposed this, preferring to have all their vehicles lumped together. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement all vehicles built in North America (US, Canada
and Mexico) are counted as domestics if their parts and labor content exceeds a percentage of the total cost of the vehicle. Nissan assembles the Sentra
in Mexico but prefers to have it counted as an import to offset their other import models like the more powerful Infinitis
. They actually received a waiver that allowed them to count Mexican-built cars as imports until 2010. The new energy bill extends existing waivers until 2013, at which point a new credit trading system will go into effect. When a manufacturer's average exceeds the requirement, they will earn credits that they can use to offset shortfalls in other years. After 2013, car makers will be able to trade credits between their fleets. They will also be able to buy and sell credits with other companies. The internal trading basically makes the separate averages for import and domestic fleets irrelevant unless there are limits to how many credits they can trade.
[Source: Automotive News - Sub. req'd]