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Is A Big Green Family Machine In Your Future?


The 2010 Toyota Prius

The 2010 Toyota Prius

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What kind of new family car will you be buying in the near future--say, 2012? If the federal government has their way, you’ll be looking at new car labels that make it very clear how fuel efficient and environmentally friendly all new cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in America really are. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, the current car window sticker format is more than three decades old. Time for a change, perhaps.

But what does this matter to you, the consumer, faced with the prospect of replacing the family wheels?

It should matter plenty. A more informed consumer is a wiser shopper. And with the many choices out there in the marketplace, you want to get the most for your money. Consumers are responding well to certain types of green cars, trucks, and SUVs--and not others. Consider the success of the Toyota Prius

You can argue that more efficient gasoline engines produce fewer emissions and get nearly as good fuel economy without spending a premium for a hybrid. And you’d be right. But you could also say that it’s time America clamped down on its consumption of oil and dependence on foreign producers. And that’s also true.

Still, political posturing and public debate--when you get right down to the nitty gritty--have little to do with how the average family decides what’s good for their vehicle needs and budget. Okay, put some sort of more transparent label on the cars so we can all see how fuel efficient and emissions free they are. That’s all to the consumer’s benefit.

One proposal for the new labels incorporates a letter grade. Under the new proposal, the aforementioned Prius, along with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Honda Civic Hybrid, would receive an A-minus. All-electric vehicles would receive an A-plus.

The average vehicle on fuel efficiency and emissions would receive a B-minus. That means that the best-selling passenger car in the U.S., the Toyota Camry, would generally carry a letter grade of either a B or a B-minus, depending on the choice of engine. Camry Hybrid, on the other hand, would get a B-plus.

What about the pickup trucks, the overall number one sales leader in this country? The Ford F-150, the undisputable volume seller for decades, would receive a C or C-plus, again, depending on the truck’s powerplant.

While most families don’t buy super luxury vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz Maybach 57 or the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, such models would carry a D label. You get the picture. Similar to a restaurant grade posted on the establishment’s window, you’d be aware before you decide to purchase. Will that affect your decision? Maybe it would. Maybe it wouldn’t. But it would still be your decision.

Another variant of the proposed new labels would maintain the current label’s focus on mpg rating and annual fuel costs but updates the design and adds new comparison information on fuel efficiency and vehicle tailpipe emissions.

Automakers may not like the new labels. In fact, some have already said such labels may hurt sales. Nor may the energy producers (unless they’re the electrics). But will labels be a hit or a miss with consumers? Fortunately, you have time to decide. Weigh in with your comments. The government says it’s welcoming public comments during a 60-day period which has already started. Send your comments to newlabels@epa.gov. Expect to see a final plan in early 2011.

So, is there a big, green family machine in your future? Personally, I’d like to see a Cadillac CTS-V or Chevrolet Corvette with a letter grade of A-plus. Not that it’s likely to happen, but one can only hope and dream. Other than that, these performance cars are quite fuel efficient--and getting better all the time. Just saying.

[EPA]

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