Consumer groups want EPA gas mileage ratios in auto ads

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A coalition of environmental and consumer groups is calling for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to require automobile manufacturers to include only information from government regulators about fuel economy in their advertising.

The groups said Friday that that car companies should use accepted gas mileage standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that their customers have the most accurate information about the fuel economy of cars they are considering purchasing. 

“In our consumer surveys, including the most recent released on June 23rd, consumers clearly want more fuel efficient vehicles,” Consumer Federation of America Director of Public Affairs Jack Gillis said in a statement. 

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“Putting accurate and fair MPG information in advertising will not only help consumers make informed market choices, but add significant competitive market pressure for continued carmaker improvements in fuel efficiency,” Gillis continued. “Auto advertising is a powerful market force that goes a long way to influence consumer purchase decisions. Including accurate, fair MPG rating information will serve both consumers and those manufacturers who have made significant investments in fuel efficiency improvements.” 

The CFA-submitted comments in favor of the requirement that auto companies include gas mileage information in their advertising along with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, Safe Climate Campaign Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

The groups called Friday for requiring that “all fuel economy claims must use only the EPA ratings, prohibiting the use of non-EPA fuel economy estimates in advertisements.” 

They also said that the FTC should “allow only the use of all three (city, highway, combined) EPA rating numbers or, in special circumstances, only the combined number” and “prohibit the use of just the ‘highway’ number in advertisements, as it is rarely achieved by consumers and can be deceptive.”

The final recommendation from the groups calls for auto companies to be required to post the fuel economy rating “of the model that is expected to be most popular, rather than publishing just the numbers associated with the highest rated version of a particular model.  

“This prevents a deceptive situation when there are very few of the highest rated models actually available,” the groups said Friday. 

The debate over the inclusion of fuel economy standards in automobile advertising comes as the federal government is gearing up to ramp up the gas mileages requirements in 2017. The new rules will require that automakers achieve a fleet-wide average of 54.5 miles-per-gallon by 2025.