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The V-8 Is Dead -- Long Live the V-8

Audi V-8 engine

Audi V-8 engine

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The V-8 is dead. Long live the V-8.

Probably nothing is more symbolic of America’s love affair with the automobile than the classic eight-banger. It’s the engine of choice for muscle car knuckle-draggers, luxury car aficionados, and truck haulers alike. And until recently, V-8s were stuffed under the hood of nearly a third of the vehicles sold in the U.S. market.

Industry observers have long wondered what it would take to get American motorists to change their buying habits. The market barely nudged when gas hit $2.50, and there were only marginal changes at $3. But as Ford marketing czar Jim Farley observers, there’s been a sea change since the pump price topped $4.

Light truck sales, as we all know, have collapsed. But even in the luxury market, normally immune from recession and rising oil prices, buyers are rethinking their options. “V-8 output is expected to plunge 45 percent…by 2009,” notes a new report from PriceWaterhouse-Coopers. In fact, ask authors, are we looking at the “death of the V-8?”

You might recall that General Motors recently scrubbed plans to replace the big Northstar V-8, the fast-beating heart of its Cadillac lineup. On the other hand, it’s also developed the massive, new LS9, for the coming Corvette supercar, and a variation of the LS line will power the next-generation Caddy CTSv. But GM product chief Bob Lutz frets that with the new emissions and mileage standards the industry is facing, there may be little room for 8 cylinders much longer.

Of course, there are those who see that as good news – and not just “tree-huggers,” many of whom would like to see the automobile vanish entirely. Notes the PWC report, “I4 engines will soon be able to perform at levels similar to current V6s, while future V6 engines will perform at levels comparable to V8s, while also achieving better fuel economy than their predecessors. This transition will allow smaller engines to compete in segments that were previously dominated by V8s.” The Ford Ecoboost engines, which will be used in models like the Flex and the upcoming Lincoln MKS, are good examples.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t lament the loss of a brutish powertrain that has thrilled drivers and passengers alike for much of the last century. And, of course, like Mark Twain, we should be wary of anything that prematurely reports the death of the V-8. It was labeled a “dinosaur,” during the fuel crises of the '70s, and was expected to be gone by the end of the millennium, yet in 2004, Americans bought 4.7 million V-8s. And even by 2009, the PWC study shows likely demand remaining at 2.7 million.

The V-8, the report concludes, “will continue to play a role in the North American market, albeit in an increasingly limited capacity within more specialized segments. As new CAFE milestones are implemented through 2020, V8s are likely to become a more niche offering.”
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Comments (8)
  1. I believe there is a Mistake in the Article as GM has the Ecotec 4 Cyl and I believe Ford is calling there new line up of Engines Eco Boost. I say long live the V8, with Technology Cylinders can be deactivated.

  2. Right you are, Jim. Thanks for the eagle eyes. I will take ten demerits! And the error has been corrected.
    Paul E.

  3. Hello,
    If "nothing is more symbolic of America?s love affair with the automobile", then why is that an AUDI V-8 in the picture? Whassamatter, couldn't get a Caddy STS V-8 pic?
    10 demerits!

    JUST gotta "LOVE" the fanatics that get them self's!, installed at major corporations!.
    As if there is some urgent need to, train the consumer base?. It has taken, nearly a Hundred years [give or take a few]. Too !; figure; the consumer into there BOTTOM line[ effectively ]!. The late fifties, trailing off into the seventies, then just dropping off the map[ in the eighties]. As to how; "LEAD FOOTED", HOTRODS, go fast buggies!. WOULD draw the largest! [CURIO SEEKERS] crowds, of consumer's with money to spare [easy credit available].
    AUDI!: along with all of there European! [kissing cousin's]; are so seriously [TIRED OLD DOGS]! that never want, too adapt to the American market place!. So therefore: ** DESTROY IT* ![american auto market]. Than blame the consumer!; whom had no say so what so ever!. In "'DETROIT'S" RACE for the ´HIGHEST PROFIT´ MARGINS!.
    NICHE markets: [??] how much more can I get for this thing [V-8}!. If I make; the consumer[s] whom buy one [v-8], like they are an, escapee from , some home for the criminally insane. Can't wait for the background, video to the tune of sly stone [ I wanna take you higher] ""PRICE Wise", that is!.
    The OTHER; world powers that be, Obviously, do not want to RECOGNIZE, the significant , engineering inroads, accomplished by american engineers. The V-8 is still [and more so now] a very viable, and useful "Platform' [design] to employee , in propelling Americans, down the high ways [cars & truck based]!.

  5. People are shifting towards more efficient cars, hell just look at this:
    BMW and Porsche...
    Bigger engines will still sell, not not to the masses.

  6. So many contributors to the demise of the American auto industry few of which are self-inflicted but imposed by an out of control all-consuming over-regulating government. There is now an attack upon the aftermarket.
    Most auto magazines are as guilty as the others for allowing this to come to fruition without argument, in fact goading this on with complaints about trucks not performing like cars and cars not all being like that produced by the Germans or Japanese or too heavy or too fast or too whatever the complaint is.
    I hate performance auto magazines covering trucks and then complaining that trucks don't handle or ride like cars. Everybody has a reason for their purchases. I for instance refuse to put myself or my family in these tiny tissue paper cars which cannot survive a serious accident.
    No amount of engineering can overcome the lack of mass when colliding with a truck or stationary object at a moderate speed. Every bad accident I've seen with whatever small car you can name sold in the US yields fatalities. I spend most of my day driving either at work or driving to or from work. Small ain't safe but I have no problem with people driving whatever they choose. However the reverse is not also true. Mercedes may be heavy but they are safe.
    Often vehicle purchases are a compromise. Choice is a good thing except to these elites who think they know whats better for the consumer than the consumer. Rather than enjoying the wide range of vehicles choices available to American consumers. Now all product is being reduced to serve a narrow slice of usage due to a contrived fuel crisis. And sister industries are seemingly doomed as well. I hope not. I'm 52 and I want to be able to own and drive a Corvette ZR1 when I grow up!

  7. agree with Jim......

  8. "I believe there is a Mistake in the Article as GM has the Ecotec 4 Cyl and I believe Ford is calling there new line up of Engines Eco Boost. I say long live the V8, with Technology Cylinders can be deactivated."
    agree with .....

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