For automotive manufacturers, all roads lead to 35.5 mpg by 2016

Feb 01, 2010 | 05:50 AM |

A new era of lightweight automotive manufacturing is being ushered in by tighter fuel economy standards, emission limits and safety regulations, a situation that analysts say will only intensify.

New Corporate Average Fuel Economy (Cafe) rules announced by the Obama administration last spring will require passenger cars and light trucks to get an overall average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016—accelerating by four years the standard passed by Congress in 2007—compared with current standards of 27.5 mpg for cars and 23.1 mpg for trucks.

For automakers, it is a do-or-die time to reduce the weight and improve the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles.

"The U.S. is pushing these new fuel economy rules, which are going to be difficult to meet to say the least. And Europe is no different," said Paul Lacy, manager of technical research for the Americas at IHS Global Insight Inc.'s Global Automotive Markets division. All automakers "are looking at ways to lighten a vehicle without sacrificing content. The overall objective is not just increasing fuel economy, but the reduction of carbon dioxide," he said, noting that the emissions goal is 250 grams of CO2 per mile for a vehicle fleet by 2016.....

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