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Proposed Fuel Economy Target: Consumer Reports Unimpressed

2011 Toyota Prius with PLUS Performance Package

2011 Toyota Prius with PLUS Performance Package

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The Obama Administration would like to see a Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of 56.2 miles per gallon, including both cars and light trucks, by 2025. Auto industry groups oppose this and dispute the government’s claim that such a quantum leap in fuel economy would only result in a price increase of $2,100 per vehicle. Consumers, caught directly in the crossfire, appear to be favoring smaller, more fuel-efficient cars over hybrids and currently available electric vehicles, at least for the time being.

Now Consumer Reports has entered the picture, saying that the proposed CAFE of 56.2 is good, but not quite good enough. In fact, Consumer Reports feels that the proposed 56.2 mpg standard should be a minimum acceptable average, with automakers striving for 62 mpg instead. David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto test division, summarized their view with, “A minimum standard of 56 miles per gallon is definitely good for consumers, but 62 is even better. Technologies to attain this level of improvement are currently on the market today.”

The technologies referenced by Champion include hybrid vehicles, clean-diesel, electric vehicles, direct-injection gasoline engines, advanced transmission designs, lightweight materials and more efficient accessories such as electric power steering. Consumer Reports also points out that several mainstream automobiles approach 56 mpg in highway fuel economy today, including the Toyota Prius (55 mpg), the diesel VW Golf TDI (49 mpg) and the Honda Civic LX sedan (47 mpg).

How the situation ultimately plays out will be determined soon enough, but American consumers have been slow to embrace hybrids, electric vehicles and even (according to manufacturers) clean diesel. Forcing change on the public has never worked well, especially when that change comes with a higher price tag. Not everyone shares the same vision as Consumer Reports, since many of us view cars as more than transportation appliances. What does the future hold for truck lovers or sports car enthusiasts? No one knows for sure, but this much is clear:  it will be filled with change.

[Consumer Reports, via Green Car Reports]

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Comments (9)
  1. So, how high will the gasoline tax become if this nonsense of 50mpg becomes law ? States are already complaining their gas tax revenue has dangerously declined. And how small and unsafe are these 50mpg vehicles going to be ? Remember, we share the roads with 80,000 lbs. gross behemoths called 18 wheelers.

  2. I don't equate small with unsafe if a vehicle has exceptional handling and agility (like the Mazda MX-5 Miata or the Porsche Boxster). I don't see gas dropping significantly in price, even as demand declines, since the oil companies, refiners, wholesalers and retailers still need to make their profits.

    It's not the safety that has me concerned, it's the cost. I don't subscribe to the "only $2,100 extra per car" theory, myself.

  3. Obama and Consumer Reports are idiots! What about people who need a large vehicle to carry a family! These "greenies" are killing us! 35-40 MPG should be enough that most cars can achieve. Plus, drill HERE with our massive reserves that the liberals won't let be developed!

  4. Bob, I'm a sports car guy myself, and there's no provision for us in the CR view of the future, either. Sooner or later internal combustion cars will be like smoking - they're bad for your health and will be regulated into near extinction.

  5. Kurt I worked at Consumers Union, publisher of CONSUMER REPORTS magazine. I can tell you that the Auto Test Division is composed of engineers/scientists who love cars just like you. We, and 'specially me know that your agile MX-5 won't help much when it is hit from any direction by a 4500 pound SUV. When I was doing crash research, the dream was for all cars in the world to be sized more like the Corolla/ Civic. There are fun versions of those cars like your Miata. The gorilla-like vehicles are a danger to all.

  6. The same could be said of motorcycles, since they offer no protection for riders. Whether riding a bike or driving a small sports car, it's always prudent to use the tools at your disposal: you may not have mass on your side, but you do have the advantage of superior acceleration, cornering and braking. If, of course, you're paying attention to driving, which half the motorists on the road aren't.

  7. I'm not so worried about the CR view of the future - What I worry about is the concept that gov't by regulation, not so much by representation, can have such huge impact on free-market enterprise.

  8. I worked at CU almost 10 years leaving in 1981 but I still respect that crew.
    We always reminded readers of the diminishing returns of demanding big increases of “fuel economy” in Miles per Gallon. The Metric world has a better grip in the subject when it is called “Liters per 100 Kilometers”. Look at the following chart for a vehicle going 1200 miles per month on fuel costing $4.00 per gallon. Now think of the engineering effort to get the MPG from 50 to 60, or from 90 to 100.
    mpg $/yr savings
    5 $11,520.00 ‘hello Hummer’
    10 $ 5,760.00 $5,760.00

    50 $ 1,152.00 $ 288.00
    60 $ 960.00 $ 192.00

    90 $ 640.00 $ 80.00
    100 $ 576.00 $ 64.00

  9. I don't know why anybody with half a brain would be against more fuel efficient vehicles. Thirty years ago I drove a 1978 VW Scirrocco. It had a 120 horsepower 1.6 liter V4 that got about 40 mpg highway. It was considered a sports car. Americans have become drunk with horsepower over the last 20 years. Maybe it's because our waist sizes have increased so much that it take 300 horses to haul our fat asses around. This insanity has got to stop.

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