Federal Guidelines for Acquisition of Administrative Vehicles

Gao ID: PAD-80-100 September 19, 1980

GAO identified a problem with the current policy on acquiring vehicles for Federal use. Each year the Federal Government purchases automobiles and trucks to provide Federal agencies the transportation necessary to carry out their various functions. The General Services Administration (GSA) has published guidelines regarding the purchase of vehicles by the various Federal agencies. These guidelines are dictated by the policy objectives and administrative regulations promulgated by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

In some cases, the GSA guidelines are inconsistent with some Federal policies impacting the U.S. auto industry. Some guidelines are unrealistic, and others appear to be internally inconsistent with each other. There is a severe price constraint on the types of vehicles that may be purchased for administrative use. The price constraint drastically limits the types of vehicles which can be purchased for Federal use to the smallest of the U.S.-made subcompact vehicles. It is important that the price constraint, if continued, be raised and indexed to trends in automobile pricing. Subsequent revisions of the ceiling should occur on a regular basis. It is unclear whether fleet requirements can be met because of fuel economy standards. There should be more coordination between GSA and DOT in this regard. Fuel economy standards for trucks have been met, in the past, through the purchase of imported mini pick-up trucks, which are partially assembled in the United States. As a result of a recently imposed import duty on these trucks, they have become more expensive than American-made trucks. A trade-off exists between high acquisition costs and low life-cycle operating costs for trucks. There is no price ceiling on trucks. Both the import duty on trucks and the lack of a price ceiling are inconsistent with other Federal guidelines regarding the purchase of administrative vehicles. If fuel economy is to be the major consideration, there needs to be a change in policy to encourage the purchase of imported trucks.

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