As Washington keeps yanking money from Americans’ wallets, car prices are set to rise beyond the reach of low-income drivers. And from there, things grow deadly.
At fault is a regulatory regime called Corporate Average Fuel Economy, commonly called CAFE standards. Congress mandated these rules in 1975, during a seemingly decade-long energy crisis. Washington generally has hiked CAFE standards in an ongoing effort to boost automobile efficiency. Lacking magic wands, car manufacturers spend money to obey these laws. And then — surprise! — up go sticker prices.
The National Automobile Dealers Association calculated April 12 that a Chevrolet Aveo, the most affordable vehicle it studied, would climb from $12,700 to $15,700 by 2025. This $3,000 hike (in 2010 dollars) would prevent 6.8 million humble drivers from qualifying for car loans.
“Fuel-economy improvements must be affordable,” New Mexico Ford dealer Don Chalmers told journalists at the estimate’s unveiling. “If my customers can’t buy what I’ve got to sell, there are no savings at the gas pump and there is no environmental benefit.”
Is this what EPA chief Lisa Jackson calls “environmental justice?”
Team Obama is fueling these anticipated price hikes by boosting CAFE standards from 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016 to 54.5 MPG by 2025.
As they have for 37 years, car companies will follow these new rules by making cars thinner and lighter. Smaller, slighter vehicles get better mileage. But that hardly matters when a car smacks into a sycamore or slams head-on into another vehicle. That’s when most drivers would trade lower MPG for protective layers of thick steel.