It is hard to imagine an era where automobile prices were crazier than they are in the first month of 2022, but there was a time! Before the window sticker, there was no regulation of automobile pricing, with dealers marking up with what they thought was a “fair price” at the expense of the consumer. And with no internet to do research, word of mouth was really the only way to price shop and determine what a good deal was, or even what was included!
That all ended with the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958. Oklahoma Senator Almer Stillwell Monroney, known as “Mike,” decided to use his position of power to pass legislation to bring transparency to the industry’s sales process. Newly mandated on the stickers were make, model, serial (VIN from 1981), final assembly location, designated selling dealer, standard and optional equipment and their prices, and total Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) including destination charge.
The EPA helped introduce fuel economy figures to window stickers in the mid-1970s, but the biggest revision came in 2007 when the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) prompted a few additions. Starting in September of 2007, crash test ratings were listed on Monroney Labels for the first time. They include Rollover, Side Crash (both driver and passenger scores), Frontal Crash (both driver and passenger scores), and an Overall Vehicle Score, with ratings on a 1-5 star scale and based on results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The increase in plug-in hybrid vehicles was enough for the EPA to create an equivalent of “MPG” for hybrid and electric vehicles. Miles Per Gallon of gasoline Equivalent (“MPGe”) was the result of a focus group that decided Kilowatt Hours were an unfamiliar metric for most Americans. One MPGe = the kW-h of electricity, cubic feet of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), or kilograms of hydrogen equivalent to one gallon of gasoline. The very first cars to show MPGe on their window stickers were the all-electric Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt in November of 2010.
May 2011 saw the next and latest big revision to automobile window stickers. A joint effort between the NHTSA and EPA, the mandatory-for-2013 updated label was voluntarily adopted by many automakers in 2012 and includes fuel economy/greenhouse and smog ratings on a scale of 1-10, five-year fuel costs, and comparison to the average new vehicle, driving range for electric cars or hybrids in full-electric mode, and a QR code that further allows the owner of the smartphone to learn about local fuel costs and calculate the fuel requirements of their daily route.
The Monroney sticker is currently required by law to be affixed to either the windshield or side window and is only able to be removed by the consumer during the initial sale, otherwise punishable up to $1000 per car. Vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) over 8500 pounds are exempt from the rule but it is not uncommon to see 350/3500 heavy-duty pickups with their stickers. Used vehicles are not required to display their original window stickers but are mandated to have a Buyer’s Guide affixed in the same place and exclusion is also punishable via fine. Monroney Labels kept with their associated vehicle are often a suggestion of a loving first owner, and in the collector car market are certain to add just a bit more value, authenticity, and collectability.
The next time you go to buy a new car, you have Senator Monroney from Oklahoma to thank. With the purest intent of transparent information, he changed the automobile buying process forever!
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