Monday, January 7, 2008

Chrysler pays record pollution fine

WASHINGTON (AP) - The former DaimlerChrysler AG paid a record $30.3 million fine in 2007 for violating fuel efficiency requirements set by the federal government.

The fine was assessed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration against the automaker, which was divided last year when private equity group Cerberus Capital Management LP acquired an 80% stake in Chrysler. The fine was reported by the agency in documents posted last month on its Web site.

DaimlerChrysler paid the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, fine for imported passenger cars from the 2006 model year. Most of the imported vehicles from that year were Mercedes-Benz luxury cars, which are part of Daimler AG.

BMW of North America had the previous record, paying nearly $28 million in October 2002 for violations related to 2001 model year vehicles.

Many manufacturers of luxury vehicles regularly consider the CAFE fines as the cost of doing business. The fines, which are paid to the NHTSA, were established to ensure that vehicles meet basic gas mileage standards.

President Bush recently signed a new energy law that would set more stringent fuel economy requirements for the nation’s fleet of new vehicles, increasing it to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

For the 2006 model year, the average fuel efficiency of passenger cars imported by DaimlerChrysler was 24.8 miles per gallon, well below the current government requirement of 27.5 mpg for passenger cars.

Messages were left with officials with Chrysler LLC and Mercedes-Benz USA. It was unclear how Daimler AG and Chrysler divided the fine.

Five other automakers were required to pay CAFE fines in 2007: BMW ($5.1 million), Porsche Cars North America ($4.6 million), Maserati Automobiles of America ($1.4 million), Volkswagen of America ($1 million), and Ferrari North America ($842,160).

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