Despite falling gas prices, fuel economy targets likely to remain high

Right now, fuel prices are low. Around the Autoblog offices in metro Detroit, there are more than a couple filling stations that have fallen below the magical $2-per-gallon mark, with the most expensive 87-octane petrol retailing for no more than $2.20 to $2.30. In fact, the average cost of gas across the whole of Detroit, according to, is just $2.02 per gallon.

This is causing consumers, a group famous for their utter lack of foresight, to flock towards thirstier vehicles and shun fuel sippers, hybrids and EVs. While that is making lots of money for the manufacturers with a solid lineup of SUVs, crossovers and pickups, Ward's Auto reports, it also means that more efficient offerings aren't selling, and therefore, they aren't going to have a major impact on CAFE targets. That fact is fueling concerns over the future fuel economy standards.

"We think [the midterm review] is a great opportunity to talk about the feasibility and the timeframe to meet those requirements," Ford's Mark Fields told Ward's, which reports the company is on pace to hit 2025's 54.5-mile-per-gallon target. "What I expect is we'll have a very robust midterm review and be very data-driven around it."

Both common sense and analysts suggest that these low fuel prices aren't likely to be the new normal, which in turn could swing the tide back towards fuel-efficient vehicles. Considering that, Ward's reports that it's quite unlikely that longer-term goals, like the 2025 standards, will be tweaked. That can't be blamed exclusively on the fluctuating cost of fuel, though.

Instead, it will likely be the automakers' desire to maximize economies of scale that forces it to retain the current 2025 targets, Ward's reports. According to Continental's CEO for the NAFTA region, Samir Salman, "we feel the point of no return already is there. Many companies are global. They want common engines, common this, common that. It gets complicated if you want to make changes. If you would change it now it would create more sunk cost than anything else."

So, really, there's nothing set to change here – while fuel prices are plunging to lows we haven't seen since the depths of the Great Recession, the long-term impact on CAFE standards is looking to be minimal.

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