The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

23 June 2007

Full of sheetmetal

The Senate has approved jacking up the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 35 mpg by 2020. While I have no objections whatsoever to fuel efficiency, this is a fairly dumb idea: getting any meaningful reductions in energy use is entirely dependent on selling new cars and/or trucks, and the major gains, if any, appear at the far end of the timeframe. It would have been more honest, if less politically palatable, to increase fuel taxes: this way everyone, not just the buyer of a new vehicle, gets to participate in this questionable enterprise.

If we must legislate automotive specs, why not legislate mass? It's a lot harder to fudge — all you need is a scale — and automakers (not just American automakers, either) keep shoveling out these bloatmobiles.

Paul Niedermeyer got one of the first Jeep Cherokees:

At 3100 lbs, the Cherokee was a featherweight by today's bloated standards. [A 4,225-lb Jeep Liberty? Don't try to tell me that air bags weigh half a ton.] Foreshadowing the current trend, the Cherokee was a unibody SUV, and a tough one at that. With solid axles and a Quadra-Link suspension up front, it could hop boulders with genuine élan.

Thirty-one hundred pounds. That's about 250 lb lighter than my high-side-of-mid-sized sedan, which isn't at all qualified to go rock-hopping. Jeep's current Grand Cherokee weighs 4700 lb. With the demise (in the US market, anyway) of Mazda's MPV, there isn't a minivan under two tons. Compact pickups, with the exception of Ford's dated Ranger, now routinely hit 3500 lb and up; their big brothers start at 5000 lb.

Where is all this farging bulk coming from? Convenience features? How much does a nav system weigh, anyway? The 2000 Nissan Maxima (Gwendolyn's sister) weighed about 3200 lb; the '07 model comes in closer to 3600, and it's scarcely grown an inch.

Forget CAFE, I say; let there be Corporate Average Curb Weight, and crank the spec downward until 2020.

(And do not try to ply me with stories of how we need 1000 lb of ballast to get good crash-test ratings. You're talking to someone who hit a thousand-pound critter at 65 mph in a 2900-lb sedan, got no airbag deployment, and walked away without so much as a hangnail.)

Posted at 11:47 AM to Driver's Seat


My old '81 Bronco supposedly had a base weight around 5000. My present '96 Bronco overtops 6,000.

Posted by: McGehee at 10:04 PM on 23 June 2007