The high cost of using less fuel

GM’s Maximum Bob Lutz was complaining this week that the Bush administration’s plan to tweak fuel-economy standards upward would ultimately raise the price of a motor vehicle by $5,000.

“This technology does not come for free,” said Lutz, and of course that’s true, but how much technology does come for free?

Besides, there are plenty of other upward pressures on vehicle prices: the demand for new gadgets; new safety gizmos, some useful, some perhaps less so; the rising price of raw materials; the rising price of labor.

Me, I’m not worried so much. I owned, in succession, two Mazda 626 sedans. The 2000 model weighed about 200 lb more than the 1993, had a dozen more ponies under the hood (from a mostly-identical engine), and offered about 8 cubic feet more interior room. I got 23 mpg from the ’93, and 24 mpg from the ’00. Small incremental improvements, while they don’t necessarily make for good ad copy, really mount up after a while.

Or I could look back at my old ’75 Toyota, which struggled to get 19 mpg from its 2.2-liter 96-hp four-banger (with a stick, yet), and compare it to my current car, which weighs 700 lb more, boasts 227 hp from a 3-liter V6, and gets 21 mpg. With an automatic. Not to mention vastly cleaner exhaust.

Or I could simply mention that Honda and Toyota and friends aren’t grousing in public: they’re simply handing out new specifications to the engineers.





3 comments

  1. Dan B »

    6 April 2007 · 9:29 am

    People wonder why Detroit is circing the toilet and shutting down plants, like ours in MWC. Public whining and selling 8 MPG vehicle when gas is $3/gal is a quick way to Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

  2. Bill Peschel »

    6 April 2007 · 12:08 pm

    I’d believe him if I haven’t seen this cycle repeatedly over the last three decades, starting with mandatory seat belts, then catalytic converters, and the middle-brake light.

  3. Mister Snitch! »

    6 April 2007 · 8:57 pm

    Yeah, I remember when catalytic converters were supposed to spell doom for the auto industry. And airbags in every car? Fergetaboutit. During the business’ heyday, all these guys knew how to do was enlarge/reduce tail fins. Two tones? Vinyl tops? These were the earthshaking innovations made by the industry’s top brass over the years. It has been a business run by ne’er-do-wells, thugs, and dinosaurs ever since Henry Ford kicked it. Don’t ever give them another dime of government money to float them – if they die, they die.

    Tomorrow’s car company designs cars and pitches them to (mostly robotic) manufacturers elsewhere, to compete in the World Marketplace. Maybe then we’ll get some damn flying cars.

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