Why are other automakers against Tesla’s plea for higher fuel economy standards?

In a bold move that’s stirring up the automotive sector, Tesla is urging the Biden administration to adopt more stringent fuel economy standards, a stance that’s causing friction with traditional automakers. This development comes as Tesla continues to innovate, reducing prices and showcasing new vehicle capabilities, while also forging partnerships with major hotel chains.

However, some estimates suggest that the industry could face significant costs if stricter standards are introduced. A study by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) indicated that the industry could face an annual compliance cost of $60 billion to $120 billion by 2030 if CAFE standards are increased to 58 mpg in that year.

Tesla’s Proposal: A Call for Higher Efficiency

Tesla’s proposal, as reported by Reuters, calls for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to significantly increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The CAFE standards dictate the average fuel efficiency (measured in miles per gallon, mpg) that a manufacturer’s fleet must achieve. If a company’s fleet falls below this standard, it faces substantial fines.

The NHTSA’s recent proposal aims for a fleet-wide average of 58 mpg by 2032, achieved by increasing CAFE requirements by 2% for cars and 4% for light trucks annually from 2027 to 2032. However, Tesla believes these measures are insufficient. The electric vehicle (EV) giant is advocating for a 6% annual efficiency increase for cars and an 8% increase for trucks and SUVs, effectively tripling the rates for cars and doubling them for trucks.


Traditional Automakers’ Response

The reaction from traditional automakers, particularly Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler’s parent company Stellantis, has been one of concern. These companies, whose fleets are 83% trucks, would be significantly impacted by Tesla’s proposed standards. The American Automotive Policy Council, representing these automakers, has requested a reduction in the annual increase rate for trucks from 4% to 2%, arguing that even the NHTSA’s original plan would disproportionately affect their truck fleets. 


The Broader Implications

The debate over fuel economy standards is more than a technical squabble; it’s a reflection of the shifting landscape in the automotive industry. Tesla’s push for higher standards aligns with its business model and technological advancements in EVs. In contrast, traditional automakers, with their reliance on gas-powered vehicles, especially trucks, face a more challenging transition.


The NHTSA’s policy aims to save Americans money at the gas pump and strengthen American energy independence. However, it’s estimated that automakers will incur $14 billion in fees during the period of increasing rates, a financial burden that could accelerate the industry’s shift towards more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles.


Tesla’s Strategic Moves

Amidst this policy debate, Tesla is not standing still. The company has been actively reducing its prices, showcasing new vehicle capabilities, and expanding its reach through partnerships with large hotel chains. These actions not only strengthen Tesla’s market position but also demonstrate the company’s commitment to making EVs more accessible and integrated into everyday life.



Tesla’s call for stricter fuel economy standards is a significant moment in the automotive industry, highlighting the growing divide between traditional automakers and EV pioneers. As the industry grapples with these changes, the outcome of this policy debate will likely have far-reaching implications for the future of transportation, energy consumption, and environmental impact.