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.