• Steven Posted: 3/19/2008 5:17pm PDT

    I hope that gasoline is someday considered in the same league as lead paint. I just also wish that engineers had been studying a usable alternative earlier so that we can have both performance and economy. I think that 35 mpg is absolutely acceptable, but as a long-term goal - perhaps using mini benchmarks on the way to 35 would have been better, starting in the 70's.

  • Thor Posted: 3/19/2008 6:45pm PDT

    Strictly speaking, Lutz is 100%WRONG.

    we do NOT need to get used to any DownSIZING. We can have cars that are JUST AS BIG And Roomy but WEIGH much less, made of new materials and not steel etc.

    We can also go back where we were in the 50s and 60s in Europe and even in the 80s in the US,

    where big, heavy cars like the top model MErcedes 300S were powered by low-hp efficient gas and diesel engines.

    In fact, I believe the flagship Mercedes 300S back then (50s) made 118 HP only! now even the lousiest 4-cylinder Kia makes more than that!

  • Thor Posted: 3/19/2008 6:46pm PDT

    In addition, NO, you do NOT need the stupid hybrids, you can EASILY surpass 35 MPG AND have decent performance and handling with MODERN DIESELS.

    They have them in Europe, and they are aiming for 43 MPG there!

  • Michael D. Posted: 3/19/2008 11:46pm PDT

    This is coming from a man who stated that, "forcing people into smaller vehicles is like giving them smaller clothes and telling them, 'here, go on a diet'". This is not like "Maximum" Bob Lutz to give in and sell out like this.

    I do support all the technologies for and possible lighter, more exotic materials and aerodynamics, but let it be in addition to, not to eliminate the larger vehicles and V8's, even if they're lower volume. I don't mind the smaller cars of they're sold alongside, but not replacing the larger, more prestigious rides. Also, fuel prices or not, if you're used to a certain level, you can't go back.

  • JEM Posted: 3/20/2008 12:05am PDT

    It's going to come down to pricing. There will still be big vehicles, and fast vehicles, but they're going to cost more. You can't sell something like a Ford Clown Vic in Europe because anyone who can afford to operate something that big can afford to buy something a lot better - be it a Jag or an S-class Benz or whatever.

    And yes, probably more diesels. I'm sure the UK Times writeup on the BMW 520d beating the Prius in mpg London-Geneva has made the rounds by now, of course what percentage of the US driving public can bother to shift a manual transmission?

    I'll take a good 120-mile-range Corolla-size battery EV, and a CTS-V, thank you. My attitude on gas prices is - if I'm gonna have to pay this much for the crap, I'm damn well going to enjoy it.

  • DanDetroit Posted: 3/20/2008 12:50am PDT

    A key fact of physical existence is F=MA (force =mass X acceleration). Like it or not, cars will have to get smaller. Smaller to be lighter. Lighter also requires more costly materials. Hybrids and Diesels that can meet stricter U.S. emissions regulations are both extremely expensive solutions to improving fuel economy.

    Sure, you can have a small impact on the "F" in the equation by reducing the power, but no one would accept the abysmal performance of the (118 HP) Diesel Mercedes. After all, its been pointed out that a 4 cylinder econo box does better than that! People demand performance. You will observe very few accelerating with a light foot and maintaining the speed limits, even though they could substantially improve the economy of their existing vehicles by doing so.

    So, the Europeans are "shooting for 43 MPG". Even with more than double the fuel cost compared to the US, they are not achieving their fuel economy improvement goals, and they already drive primarily small, or very small manual transmission vehicles. They do have over 50% diesels, which are much less expensive than those that meet current U.S. emissions requirements. Plus, diesel fuel is less than gas there as opposed to here, where it is substantially more than gas. There is a reason why none of the asians sell diesel cars here and Honda buys small diesel engines from GM in Europe, rather than making their own. Unless tax and fuel pricing is biased in favor of diesel, as in Europe, the improved thermodynamic efficiency (and fuel economy advantage) is nullified from a cost benefit perspective.

    Those with no experience or technical knowledge (THOR!) can make all sorts of bold assertions about what they think can be done, describing a Lutz as ignorant or stupid. The facts of life are that the market wants fuel economy, but only after capability style and performance is acceptable. Vehicles in the US will get smaller/ less capable/less powerful/much more expensive in some combination or another.

  • Michael D. Posted: 3/20/2008 1:03am PDT

    I don't want to see the 70s & 80s all over again. I recall when I was a kid (and still an avid enthusiast) and everything was getting smaller, boxier, lethargic, blander compared to the elegant, substantial, powerful and stylish offerings from before, it was indeed depressing! All an effort to compromise and sell out for fuel economy, and possibly cut costs, thanks to bean-counters. Of course, there was no technology available as there is today, so there was less to work with. I can see smaller offerings along with the larger and more powerful rides to balance out the average. The more upscale will be less volume compared to the smaller models. I just don't want to see it all go backwards.

  • Philip Posted: 3/20/2008 6:43am PDT

    Could you guys be more specific about what you like from big cars, and what you would miss the most:
    1- the space
    2- the comfort
    3- the sound of the V8?
    4- ....

  • observer1 Posted: 3/20/2008 8:52am PDT

    all of the above

  • Wayne K Posted: 3/20/2008 9:00am PDT

    As I sit here reading this, I have to think that Lutz might be wrong. I agree with what has been posted above me. You can get performance and economy out of diesels. And I am still having a hard time figuring out why cars can't be RWD and still get good economy? I understand that the general rule is that they get 1 MPG worse than front drive. Ummm call me lost, but if your engine is more economical, and your car is lighter in weight, then why can't you still package it with RWD? Got me! But I can tell you that I am not looking forward to being forced to drive a Hybrid or a Volt....ugh! Guess I'll be sticking with something other than GM.

  • Eric Hanson Posted: 3/20/2008 9:33am PDT

    I have been a major enthusiast since 1967. I was quite depressed during the period of time from 1971-74. The combination of early bumper regulations, increasing requirements for emmisions clean up, and the elimination of lead, combined to lower compression ratios, raise vehicle weight across the line, and lower fuel economy, cold running behavior, and ultimate performance capabilities to abysmally low levels compared to 1970 vehicles.

    Then, starting in 1975 with catalytic conerters, high energy ignition systems, widespread use of radial tires, etc, things began to improve. When the 1977 GM big cars came out, it was a revolution, as an average Caprice went from 4,700 lbs to 3,900 lbs in one year without loss of room, but in a much crisper, even quieter, and better handling package. 1974 average Caprice mileage of about 13 MPG had already improved to about 15 MPG by 1976, but now it jumped to around 20 for most uses.

    Similar improvements haddened as the 3,000 lb. Ford Fairmont replaced the pudgy 3,600 lb. Maverick and made the Granada irrelevant for 1978. The GM intermediates lost 1000 lbs. that year too, and a foot of length, about 8 inches of which came out of the hood and an additional two inches on each end coming out of formerly huge bumper overhangs. No passenger space was lost. That same year, the Omni and Horizon copied the amazing VW Rabbit, and the front wheel drive revolution was on.

    1977 to 1985 was exciting, not dreary. There were some mistakes, and some cars went too far in downsizing, and suffered sales loss for it. 1971-1974 was horrid. Driving carefully, I achieved 60 MPG in a 3 month old 1984 basic Escort on a trip to New Hampshire. In ordinary driving, I got 45 MPG routinely with that car, paying attention to keeping RPM down, thinking ahead, not braking excessxively, etc.

  • Thor Posted: 3/20/2008 10:21am PDT

    "Could you guys be more specific about what you like from big cars, and what you would miss the most:
    1- the space
    2- the comfort
    3- the sound of the V8?
    4- …."

    My BMW 740iL 1998 is sure a large, heavy car, with a very long wheelbase (much longer than that of domestics that are far longer in overall length), which makes it extremely comfortable on the Highway.

    In terms of interior space, it has a huge rear seat, with plenty of legroom and barely enough headroom for a 6'2" person, and OK up front, but the trunk is small due to the full size spare (shallow).

    Its 4.4 lt V8 sure has a fantastic sound, and gets 22-24 MPG highway and 12-15 city. I wish i had the exact samew car twith the Euro 3.0 DIESEL, would have similar performance due to the huge TORQUE (it's NOT the HP!) and 30+ MPG highway, excellent for a 4.400 lb car.

    I like the big Bimmer because it is the perfect combination of PASSIVE (weight, cabin design) and ACTIVE (ABS, Stability control, awsome handling enables avoiding obstacles and accident scenes, 6 airbags, etc) SAFETY.

    If the highways were not infested with 5,000 and 6,000 lb Dinosaurs SUVS, there would be less need for the passive safety and I'd be even happier in a 5-series, since it also comes with an excellent 6-sp manual.

    I do few miles (commute is a laughable 1.5 mile each way and today I started Walking it again), so i can afford $40 gas, much less $4!

    So I have no plans to sell the Bimmer, which I bought for $10.5k in oct 05 (new it would be over $75k in the US and much more overseas!)

    But the average consumer with the far longer commute and far smaller wallet may want to do otherwise!

  • Tom L Posted: 3/20/2008 11:37am PDT

    I'm not for CAFE standards. I always supported letting economics (ie gas prices) dictate what vehicles people would buy. With gas closing in on $4 a gallon I'm betting that's going to kill the big SUV's and muscle cars more than anything else.

  • Jason Posted: 3/20/2008 11:58am PDT

    "Could you guys be more specific about what you like from big cars, and what you would miss the most:
    1- the space
    2- the comfort
    3- the sound of the V8?
    4- …."

    All of the above, but mostly 1 and 2. I've been in small cars that would be comfortable enough for my 45-60 minute daily commute, but they weren't ever something I'd want to take on a 6hr+ road trip, and they don't have the space for such a trip once you add 4 people and luggage for a few days, especially if one or more of those passengers is a baby/child. For me, "big" vehicles are mainly about the space and cargo capacity.

    I certainly wouldn't mind a GOOD LOOKING, fun-to-drive sporty small car for a commuter, something like a GTI, Mini S, or even the European Ford Focus, but commuting is all that such a car would be useful for to me. It's not going to be able to carry furniture, or a big screen tv, or sheets of plywood and drywall, or bathroom cabinets, or carry lumber, or my 4 dogs, or tow our Jeeps, or haul a bbq grille, or five 40lb bags of dog food (we get a discount when we buy 200+ lbs at a time), or 12 bags of mulch, or 300-400lbs of frozen beef (plus luggage for a week when we go to visit relatives in Kansas), or any of the other things we use our diesel truck for. For me personally, my vehicle has to be able to handle the least common denominator, not the most common, and it has to be something I ENJOY driving. Civics, Corollas and the like do neither.

  • Rick Richman Posted: 3/21/2008 8:07pm PDT

    Mr. Lutz is either (a) totally out of his mind if he truly believes that consumers will rush, en masse, to purchase small (and unsafe) econo-boxes with happy smiles on their faces or (b) clever like a fox by subtly offering the public what the true cost of compliance with the wholly ridiculous new CAFE standards (including consumers' desires) will be.

    It is high time that our "government" ceases its relentless efforts to control virtually every aspect of our style of living. While clearly some degree of gov't regulation is needed to maintain order in our society, but when our 535 spineless politicians invade my lifestyle in order for them to avoid having to make the really tough decisions, I say "ENOUGH" already.

    Over the past 30 years, our elected representatives have voted down virtually every attempt to explore and develop (in an intelligent, environmentally responsible manner) new sources of energy and have blocked the construction of new refineries to replace our aging refineries. Our politicians have done nothing more than to simply take the path of absolute least resistance by "waving their magic wand" and dictating mpg standards that will force - is anyone listening, I said "FORCE" - citizens into purchasing vehicles which they clearly do NOT want and which do NOT meet their needs for space or safety.

    Raising CAFE to such patently unreasonable standards allows our elected officials in Washington to pander to the entire spectrum of environmentalists while simultaneously (and callously) ignoring their constituents' right (remember the concept of "choice"?) to make their own decisions concerning their transportation preferrences. These gutless wonders up on the Hill have managed to forever avoid the necessity of developing a truly workable long-term energy strategy by pawning this issue off to another generation of politicians. By forcing such an unreasonable CAFE standard on Americans, our Senators and Congressmen and women fail to address an admittedly difficult (but necessary) issue leaving them lots of time to focus on their primary objective - reelection!

    Would it not be refreshing for our elected representatives to have the backbone to intelligently tackle the politically and technologically challenging issue of developing long-term energy strategies instead of constantly foisting mindless short-term "fixes" on their constituents?

    Our politicians disgust me. Perhaps when sales of new cars plummet from their normal range of between 14 and 16 million units down to, oh, something in the neighborhood of 5 to 6 million, our myopic, self-serving leaders in Congress will awake from their long slumber and find that there is little choice but to "roll up their sleeves", and do what should have been done decades ago.

    I firmly believe in the power of free markets. If gasoline goes to $4.00 per gallon or beyond, let us - the consumers - decide for ourselves what we wish to buy...either a small 4-banger for those unable to afford fuel for vehicles like today's SUVs, or a larger, more powerful vehicle for those fortunate enough to have the resources to purchase fuel at such prices. This process should operate no differently for automobiles than it does for any other product or service in this country. If I do not have the resources to dine on filet mignon and lobster every night (as much as I might wish to), I make the rational decision to purchase food from the wide variety available today that is consistent with my income/asset level. I'd also love to have a Rolex Presidential gracing my wrist, but being unable to afford such a luxury, I wear a $100 Citizen watch and work hard so that someday I might be able to afford higher-priced luxuries.

    Why should the process, the "economic allocation" involving vehicle purchases operate any differently?? The answer is that it shouldn't!!! I say let market forces govern what individuals can and cannot purchase. If today's CAFE law is allowed to remain in place, I foresee utter financial disaster for the global automotive industry. Instead, let market forces "do their thing" and have government step in and lend assistance to market forces when deemed appropriate.

  • Kurt Posted: 3/25/2008 2:00pm PDT

    Rick is right. Our politicians seek the easy (and stupid) solution. Power plants that produce electricity produce more pollution than vehicles (according to the EPA), and it would be far, far easier and cheaper to control them, yet we don't hear about them. We hear about vehicles, which will cost $$thousands more for a very small benefit.

    The reason that the overall CAFE average has remained the same for decades is because people simply have been buying bigger and bigger vehicles. 30 years ago cars outsold trucks. It's been trucks outselling cars now for quite some time, and that's why CAFE averages have stayed flat. The car makers have been continuously and rather dramatically improving mpg for the past 30 years without any regulations forcing them to do so. EPA documents clearly show both cars and trucks improving their mpg for decades now. Gee, maybe automakers aren't evil after all....what a concept!