New Fuel Economy Labels Set for Showroom Floors

Auto shoppers will soon be awash in factoids about the fuel efficiency of new cars, thanks to new labels the Obama administration says it will now require on vehicles.

The labels, rolled out by the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, could start showing up on the showroom floor any day, if dealerships choose to use them. But starting early next year, they will be required on every model year 2013 car and truck.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the labels will give consumers more information about fuel costs and related stats before they buy, helping them make an informed choice and save money at the pump.

The change is the first overhaul of the fuel economy labels in 30 years. At a press conference with LaHood, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said they would be a powerful tool for consumers.

The labels contain a dizzying amount of information. Most prominent is the vehicle's fuel economy, broken down by average miles per gallon along with MPG ratings for city and highway driving.

Clustered around that statistic will be an array of other auto trivia. On the right-hand side, the label tells consumers how much they'll save in fuel costs over five years compared against an "average" new vehicle. Below that, the label provides the estimated annual fuel cost, as well as a numerical rating for smog and greenhouse gas emissions. The higher the number, the cleaner the car.

The labels coincide with a push to mandate better fuel efficiency in U.S. vehicles. Under the final rules unveiled last year, the federal government will require U.S. vehicles to achieve an average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

The rules will cost the U.S. auto industry billions of dollars in order to comply. Though some of those costs could be passed on to consumers, the administration estimates drivers will save more in fuel costs.

According to the administration, the new rules will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and save consumers an average of $3,000 in fuel costs "over the life of the program."