Monday, September 03, 2012

Welcome to 54.5 Miles Per Gallon

I spotted this bright, shiny new vehicle in a parking lot today: It is a brand new Chevy Spark.

I'm certain the owner is very proud of it much like the owner of this Isetta was proud of it 50 years ago:

If they actually WANT to drive these contraptions, that's great. Problem is, most of us don't. If some Americans want to squeeze themselves into tiny, underpowered, unsafe little rattletraps, that's their choice. The rest of us shouldn't have to. But never mind that, because the Obama Administration DOES want us to drive these contraptions. Even this Chevy Spark, which they call and mini car, only gets 38 MPG on the highway. And you are looking at what you are going to be driving in 2024 -- or worse.

The Obama Administration just doubled the mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards from 27 MPG to 54.5 MPG between 2017 and 2024. So what this means is that 12 years from now, every automaker selling cars in the US will have to have a fleet that averages 54.5 MPG. That's light trucks, cars, vans, all the types of vehicles we have come to know and love.

Chances are your car doesn't look like a Chevy Spark. I know none of my vehicles do. In a free country, I have the liberty to choose the type of vehicle that fits my driving habits and lifestyle. And I can't make room in my driving habits and lifestyle for a vehicle that looks like it was assembled from last month's aluminum can waste that has wheels smaller than my shoe.  I know I'm not the only one who values my freedom of choice in cars (among other things).

CAFE standards have been around since the 70s and whether we know it or not, the cars automakers produce and the cars we buy have been mandated by CAFE standards ever since. The minivan, invented by Chrysler in the mid-80s was an attempt to meet CAFE standards of the time while still giving a family the choice of a vehicle that had station wagon room but better gas mileage. You might remember that the first ones were built on a K Car chassis -- they put a van body on a small car frame. They were noisy and slow -- particularly when loaded. But the minivan caught on because it was refined over the years into better vehicle that was more powerful, comfortable yet still reasonably economical.

Automakers have done a pretty good job of adapting to CAFE standards to this point. But as cars get lighter and smaller we all pay a premium in injuries and fatalities on the road. Chevy boasts that the Spark has "10 airbags". You can have 50 frickin' airbags in a car and if it crushes like a tin can, all you are going to do is swath the mangled dead occupants in air bags. Do you think the folks in this "Smart" car were saved by its airbags?

And yet, this is what the Obama Administration has mandated for us by approving the most drastic increase in CAFE standards ever. Automakers have done pretty well in meeting 27 mpg standards and still been able to produce cars Americans actually want to drive. But just wait until that standard doubles. Can you say "hello Spark". I don't want to drive a Spark, most of you don't want to drive a Spark, but 12 years from now, we may have no choice. Happy driving!

1 comment:

Bobby said...

Already we're seeing the consequences. Ford changed the Explorer from American Truck to Chinese Car built in Chicago, and Nissan changed the Pathfinder from Frontier Truck to Raised Altima Wagon.

3-cylinder cars will become the norm, smaller than a MotoGP motorcycle in displacement.

And rural America won't have their trucks. This was Cloward-Piven on the auto industry by Pelosi and Reid in 2007, and Obama is upping the ante to ensure we drive only tiny cars.