The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

29 December 2007

CAFE press

Automakers are not thrilled with the task of bringing up their Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers to the 35 mpg demanded by new legislation, but I have decided not to worry about it, for the following reasons:

  • The new rules don't demand that everyone have 35 mpg, only that the overall average be 35 mpg;
  • The numbers juggled for CAFE compliance aren't necessarily the same numbers you see on Monroney stickers;
  • The current numbers — 27.5 for passenger vehicles, 22.2 for trucks — are mostly being exceeded already, though not by much, especially for trucks.

The figures for the 2007 model year are out [link goes to PDF file], and here's how Detroit did:

General Motors: Domestic cars 29.6; imported cars 32.0; trucks 22.5.

Ford: Domestic cars 28.8; imported cars 29.9; trucks 22.2.

DaimlerChrysler: Domestic cars 28.6; imported cars 24.7; trucks 22.8.

Of course, DaimlerChrysler are now two separate companies again, and the bulk of DCX's imports came from Mercedes-Benz, never the most frugal of automakers. Chrysler, on its own, should look better in 2008. (For 2006, DaimlerChrysler got hit with the highest CAFE fine ever: $30.2 million.)

If you're curious, Ferrari has the worst CAFE: 16.2 mpg. The best overall showing was made by Honda: 33.7 on domestics, 39.9 on imports, 24.8 on trucks.

I remain persuaded that this is an ineffectual regulatory mechanism — you want people to use less fuel, you tax it — but Congress loves this sort of folderol, because it looks like it's accomplishing something while not actually inconveniencing those pesky voters.

There is one good thing, or at least one less bad thing, about the new rules: they apply across the board to both cars and trucks, which should result in fewer tortured interpretations of the definitions thereof. (Vans and minivans are considered trucks, generally; most infamously, the Chrysler PT Cruiser was designed to meet the definition of a truck despite its low level of truckitude.) And the numbers above tell me that cars don't need anywhere near as much fuel-economy work as trucks do, which means that I, as a person who tends to buy cars, will not have to fear much in the way of change as the automakers scramble for those last few miles per gallon.

Posted at 1:24 PM to Family Joules


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