B-217744.2, OCT 25, 1985

B-217744.2: Oct 25, 1985

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CITED DECISION STATED THAT NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S INTERPRETATION OF MODEL YEAR WAS REASONABLE. WE HOPE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT WILL ALLEVIATE YOUR CONCERN ABOUT INTERPRETING OUR OPINION. WE HELD THAT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (NHTSA) CORRECTLY DETERMINED THAT PETITIONS TO REDUCE CORPORATE AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS ARE UNTIMELY IF FILED AFTER THE BEGINNING OF THE MODEL YEAR. WE FOUND THAT NHTSA'S APPARENT DEFINITION OF THE "MODEL YEAR" AS THE PREVAILING AND TRADITIONAL AUTOMOBILE MARKETING PERIOD IS REASONABLE. IT WAS OUR INTENT TO ENDORSE AS REASONABLE THE ADMINISTRATOR'S USE OF THE TRADITIONAL MARKETING PERIOD AND "THE FALL" AS THE BEGINNING OF THE MODEL YEAR FOR THE PURPOSE OF STANDARD SETTING.

B-217744.2, OCT 25, 1985

TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT - NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION - ADMINISTRATION EFFICIENCY DIGEST: RESTATEMENT OF B-217744.2, AUGUST 30, 1985, CLARIFYING GAO'S POSITION ON TIMELY ISSUANCE OF REGULATIONS TO LOWER CORPORATE AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS. CITED DECISION STATED THAT NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S INTERPRETATION OF MODEL YEAR WAS REASONABLE, AND DID NOT ESTABLISH A DATE FOR THE START OF THE MODEL YEAR OR FOR THE ISSUANCE OF STANDARDS. NHTSA HAS IDENTIFIED THE FALL AS THE START OF THE MODEL YEAR, WHICH COINCIDES WITH TRADITIONAL MARKETING PERIOD FOR NEW CARS.

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. DINGELL:

CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS

COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 23, 1985, ASKED FOR CLARIFICATION OF OUR OPINION B-217744.2, DATED AUGUST 30, 1985. WE HOPE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT WILL ALLEVIATE YOUR CONCERN ABOUT INTERPRETING OUR OPINION.

WE MADE ONLY TWO FINDINGS IN OUR OPINION. FIRST, WE HELD THAT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (NHTSA) CORRECTLY DETERMINED THAT PETITIONS TO REDUCE CORPORATE AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS ARE UNTIMELY IF FILED AFTER THE BEGINNING OF THE MODEL YEAR. SECOND, WE FOUND THAT NHTSA'S APPARENT DEFINITION OF THE "MODEL YEAR" AS THE PREVAILING AND TRADITIONAL AUTOMOBILE MARKETING PERIOD IS REASONABLE.

WE DID NOT ESTABLISH ANY PARTICULAR DATE AS THE START OF THE MODEL YEAR, AND WE OFFERED NO OPINION ON THE TIMING OF REGULATIONS TO REDUCE STANDARDS. WE NEITHER STATED NOR MEANT TO IMPLY A DATE BY WHICH FUTURE REGULATIONS REDUCING STANDARDS MUST BE ISSUED. WE MENTIONED OCTOBER FIRST IN OUR OPINION ONLY TO RECAPITULATE NHTSA'S INDIRECT REFERENCE TO THAT DATE WHEN ISSUING 18-MONTH LEADTIME REGULATIONS IN 1981. WE DID NOT INTEND TO IMPINGE ON THE ADMINISTRATOR'S CAPACITY TO FIX THE MODEL YEAR OR TO ISSUE REGULATIONS AS APPROPRIATE AND TIMELY. ON THE CONTRARY, IT WAS OUR INTENT TO ENDORSE AS REASONABLE THE ADMINISTRATOR'S USE OF THE TRADITIONAL MARKETING PERIOD AND "THE FALL" AS THE BEGINNING OF THE MODEL YEAR FOR THE PURPOSE OF STANDARD SETTING.

BECAUSE OUR OPINION DID NOT SPECIFY A STARTING DATE IT COULD BE MISCONSTRUED. WE HOPE THIS CLARIFICATION OF THE OPINION (THE ORIGINAL OF WHICH IS RETURNED HEREWITH), AVOIDS ANY POSSIBLE MISINTERPRETATION. AGREED WITH YOUR STAFF BOTH THE OPINION AND THIS CLARIFICATION WILL BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC 20 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THIS LETTER.