The Energy Department hasn't printed mileage guides for the new 1983 model cars and trucks, even though the government has been required since 1976 to provide them to new car dealers for consumers.
The guide is the only government booklet that would let potential buyers compare the Environmental Protection Agency's mileage estimates for 1983 vehicles.
In the past, dealers got the guides in October when most new models were unveiled. But the 1983 booklets will not go to the printers for another six weeks and aren't expected to appear in showrooms until late January, the DOE said.
The agency has delayed the printing job because it doesn't feel the guides are necessary, said DOE spokesman Barbara Fleming. Last year, the agency printed 7 million guides at a cost of $400,000, and Fleming said most of them are still sitting in government warehouses.
DOE considered a number of ways to reduce the cost of the guides, including sending one guide to each of the nation's 25,000 new car dealers and then requiring them to make copies. But instead it decided to spend $200,000 to print 1.5 million copies, or enough to provide each dealer with at least 50 copies. If they want more, they will have to buy them from the government, Fleming said.
Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group, called DOE's actions an outrage. "The bureaucratic bumbling of DOE exposes auto dealers to enormous economic sanctions, . . " he said. Under the law, dealers could be fined as much as $10,000 per day if they run out of the guides, said Ditlow, adding that consumers will also suffer because of the delays.