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NHTSA closes comments on CAFE change

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has ended the public commentary period for a ruling that would change the definition of a truck under the government's fuel economy program. The final rule for Model Year 2004 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for all light trucks manufactured is set at 20.7 mpg, the same level that is now in effect. The ruling was issued April 1 and public commentary ended last Wednesday. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today issued a final rule for Model Year 2004 light truck. The final rule sets the Model Year 2004 light truck standard at 20.7 mpg, Under federal law, NHTSA had to issue a final rule by April 1, 2002. However, the agency could only begin examining fuel efficiency standards after a six-year long statutory prohibition was lifted in December 2001. Given this time constraint, NHTSA said it lacked sufficient time to complete its research and lay the factual and analytical foundation needed to change the existing standard. "The functional distinction between cars and trucks has broken down, initially with the introduction of minivans and more recently with sport-utility and crossover vehicles that are used almost exclusively for passenger transport," NHTSA said. NHTSA added that it also could establish a series of truck categories, and could set, for example, different fuel economy standards for pickups, minivans, small sport-utilities, large sport-utilities or any number of other subgroups. According to Automotive News, any change would have powerful implications for automakers, which openly take advantage of the flexible truck definition. They offer a wide range of multipurpose passenger-carrying vehicles that they call trucks to avoid the tougher fuel economy standard for cars.

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