Want to See What Automakers can Do To save The Planet and our Wallets? Go to Europe.

Posted by: David Kiley on November 12, 2007

mazda2-rear.jpg

A recent week driving around the U.K. underscored the education I already have about the foolishness of the American consumer economy when it comes to driving.

As I drove the M4 from London to Cardiff, I was consciously looking at the cars around me. I have heard, read, written and observed that the European car-park is much different than the American car-park. But it’s always healthy to take a look with fresh eyes.

Ninety-percent of the vehicles I saw were small and mid-sized cars, from Vauxhall Astras and smaller, up to Ford Mondeos. I also saw some Chrysler minivans, a handful of Range Rovers and Land Rovers, and Toyota Land Cruisers. Parking lots were amazing. I stopped at a castle in Wales where there were about 125-150 cars parked. Among those vehicles were just four vehicles that could be called an SUV by American standards. There were three Chrysler minivans. The vast majority of the vehicles were small. In the U.S., the same parking lot would have 60%-70% SUVs and minivans.

On the flight home, I grabbed a magazine at the airport, called What Car? It’s a review of cars, but one of the services it provides is an attempt to recommend specific vehicles to specific readers with specific needs and wants.

As I perused the magazine, check out these fuel economies of vehicles sold in the U.K. Even when you do the conversions from U.K. gallons to U.S. gallons (A US gallon is 3.8 liters, but a UK one is 4.5 liters) the differences are eye-opening.

Volkswagen Tiguan: 33.6 mpg for the 1.4 litre engine, and 39.2 mpg for the 2.0 diesel.
Audi A4: 1.8 litre gets 39.8 mpg. The 2.7 litre diesel gets 43 mpg.
The Suzuki Splash: 50.4 mpg for the 1.2 litre version.
The Subaru Impreza: the 2.5 litre gets 38 mpg, and the 2.0 litre gets 33.6 mpg. The U.S. gets a 2.5 liter engine with worse fuel economy.
The MINI Clubman: The 1.6 liter diesel is to get 68.9 mpg.
The Mazda2 (pictured above), a car that the U.S. is not destined to get: 52.3 mpg.
The new Mazda6: 41.5 mpg for the 1.8 litre, 35 mpg for the 2.5 litre and 50.4 mpg for the 2.0 diesel.

These fuel economy numbers are head-spinning for the U.S. car buyer looking for higher fuel economy vehicles. It also shows that the car companies know how to produce vehicles that get much better fuel economy that what we are used to.

I have been blogging about how I am shopping for a new car, and that fuel economy is my primary concern and desire. I don’t want to drive a dog. But I’m not apt to choose styling or power over fuel economy. I want both.

And yet, when I look, the best I can find in non-hybrid vehicles are:
Toyota Yaris, 4 cylinder, 1.5L.—29/36 mpg.
Toyota Corolla, 4 cyl, 1.8 L—28/37 mpg
Honda Fit, 4 cyl, 1.5L—28/34 mpg
Ford Focus, 4 cyl, 2 L, Regular—24/35 mpg.

The discrepancy between what we can get in the U.S. and what Europeans are buying has to do with the size of the engines in the European cars and the availability of diesel versions.

The lack of fuel efficient vehicles in the U.S. is not…I repeat…NOT…because the automakers don’t know how to create the vehicles.

Americans, you see, have to have more powerful engines. Have to? Try, want. I talked to a lot of Europeans while I was on my trip, and none of them reported feeling listless or deprived from driving smaller, more fuel efficient engines. They aren’t breaking out in sores. They haven’t lost height. I spoke to women about the diesel vehicles they drive and none of them complained about the smell ( a frequently cited “problem” with expanding clean diesel cars in the U.S.). Are the women in the U.S. that much more prissy than English women?

I wish I could send every Lincoln Navigator loving car buyer to Europe for a week just to hang out, drive a European car and talk to people about their thinking about fuel economy and transportation. Of course, now is a bad time to go. With the weak dollar, it cost me about $120 to fill the tank of a Ford Mondeo diesel sedan ( a terrific cara that got me well over 40 mpg). That’s the oil economics that will be here soon.

That’s why I am betting that “Small is the new Big.”

Reader Comments

Pierpaolo

November 13, 2007 8:25 AM

I completely agree with this article.
US consumers could get wonderful cars and save thousands of dollar every year if they stop buying "armoured tanks" to go shopping to the Wal Mart nearby.
Pollution would go down and the oil bill and trade deficit as well.
that's a win-win solution for US drivers and the economy too.

John Moon

November 13, 2007 9:36 AM

thank you for this article!! Our legislators and car manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves for the state of our fuel inefficiency...there is no reason to sell the large SUVs without a higher tax to somewhat compensate but still short changing our environment AND the overall indulgent use of gas. There also (obviously from your report) is no reason we can not manufacturer more fuel efficient cars for consumption by 'smart consumers.' Your articles serve to educate and perhaps generate a ground swell to overcome our excessive line of thinking about fuel consumption and waste. Please keep up articles in this vein about all manner of European innovation we can share.

Tazio

November 13, 2007 9:45 AM

Sure, try cramming my family of 6 into a Ford Ka, or a Mini. Oh but that's right, every country in europe is far below childbearing "replacement level" having 1.x children per couple. So it's easy to fit your family of 3.3 into a dinky car. When all the europeans are gone in 100 years what will they drive then? btw, I LOVE my giant '96 buick roadmaster station wagon. I can cart myself and 9 co-workers to lunch, not to mention do a nice smoky burnout in the parking lot.

Hybrid Engineer

November 13, 2007 10:25 AM

Dear Mr. Kiley,

As an automotive engineer with 4 years of experience improving fuel economy on US-made SUVs, I mostly agree with the points in your article. One point of clarification about comparing MPG figures... the US and UK use different tests to calculate the stated fuel economy. Therefore, while I would agree with the general direction that EU cars get better mileage, the numbers cannot be compared one for one. To complicate matters, the EPA fuel economy test was changed last year, with a 12-15% reduction in estimated fuel economy for 2008 model year vehicles due to the addition of more taxing tests (which better reflect American driving patterns). The UK makes no excuses -- its tests are based on comparability of one UK certified car to the next (at the expense of real-world fidelity); it does not take into account high-speed driving and AC usage as the revised EPA test does.

US: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fe_test_schedules.shtml

UK:
http://www.vcacarfueldata.org.uk/information/fuel-consumption-testing-scheme.asp


The real deal comes from real-world driving. A lot of fuel is lost simply by the way in which we drive our vehicles (carrying unnecessary cargo, low tire pressure, idling longer than necessary, etc).

I would also argue that the differences in car consumption are driven by economics (fuel being one component). Smaller cars in Europe are generally higher spec than similar size cars in the US (therefore more expensive than their US counterparts). As such Europeans will not afford larger vehicles since they've already stretched their budgets (assuming similar PPP). Americans also are caught in a vicious cycle of smaller vehicles == less safe. NHSTA tests often bear this in the results, but there are exceptions in both directions (small cars with good test scores and large vehicles with bad ones).

In the end, I think Toyota's approach with Lexus hybrids is very clever based on the US consumer. Lexus focuses on "adding more power without sacrificing fuel economy" in the case of the RX 400h and LS 600h for example. They could have made cars that get great fuel economy with a little trade-off on performance. The thing is -- they know how to appeal to their consumer -- power, not fuel efficiency. Consumers will respond to fuel economy when their wallets hurt so much that they're willing to make this a consideration that trumps others.

marvin

November 13, 2007 11:17 AM

They tax gas to reduce consumption. We don't.

Tax gas to European levels and watch haw fast people move to more efficient cars.

Midwestern Guy

November 13, 2007 11:18 AM

I have been over to Europe and they have cool cars. One reason fuel efficient cars in the US don't sell well is because the styling is horrific. We are in the market for a decent sized vehicle with better fuel mileage. Instead of a Ford Mondeo, we are likely to go with a Subaru. Oh yeah, that's right, you can't get a fule efficient vehicle with good European styling like the Mondeo. What? Bring a European platform to the US to maximize your return on the design expense? Bring styling to the fuel efficient market in the US? People in the US will buy efficient vehicles if they are styled well and well built. I once asked a Ford sales rep if they would soon offer an small 6 cylinder diesel in the Expedition. His response was "why would you want that?" Gee, I dunno. Maybe so I could get hauling capacity at 22-25 mpg instead of the 15-16 with the gas engine? I like diesel and would buy American. Oh wait...no one offers it. Can't buy it if you don't sell it.

mike

November 13, 2007 11:36 AM

Tazio-that's not a family, that's a litter.

Bigone

November 13, 2007 11:58 AM

Every car in that list is a piece of crap, as most european cars are. My Caddy gets 28mpg highway and I can stick 6 people and luggage comfortably. The safety is much better as well. If you indeed spent time in europe you would find that they drive junky little cars like maniacs and the cars get about 8mpg, they also pollute much more. Bring those little junkers over here and watch the death rate spiral and fuel use stay the same.

logic

November 13, 2007 12:55 PM

Tazio, I believe a better perspective is: when Peak Oil (google it if unfamiliar with the term) drives the price of gasoline in the U.S. to $10, then $15, and $20 per gallon, what will Americans drive then?

I'm not kidding about the prices. I recommend reading the summary on the first page (it's long) at lifeaftertheoilcrash.net. Then try your best to refute the data about oil, using numbers and facts. It's sobering.

JC

November 13, 2007 12:58 PM

until americans pay the same price for gas as europeans do, things won't get changed here.

Peter J Kelly

November 13, 2007 1:52 PM

As a British ex-pat living in Metro NY I can relate. On vacation to Britain last month I rented a VW Passat Turbo Diesel...it did 47mpg and with 245 ft. lbs of torque, it was one of the quickest cars I've driven in years!! It was a wagon with a huge trunk and I would buy one in a heartbeat if the EPA and the State of New York would let me. You want to cut foreign oil imports from hostile nations in half overnight?Let Diesels in and stop whining about emissions...no one in Britain was coughing!!!
Ultimate irony...I have 5 cars, the most economical of which is my 1985 Saab 900 Turbo with 300,000miles. It still runs like a swiss watch and does 28-30mpg every time! Who needs a hybrid?

Sami

November 13, 2007 2:28 PM

Tazio, I think it would be best for you and your co-worker if you walk to your lunch instead of burning fossil fuel and contributing to the global warming.

gd

November 13, 2007 2:33 PM

I love my V8 325 horse luxury sedan.
Even if gas goes to $5 a gallon I'm not giving it up. So yes I want the power.

The reason gas is so expensive in Europe is taxes not oil prices. If we would allow more refineries to be built we would have lower gas prices.

ps

November 13, 2007 3:09 PM

Many of the cars put out by GM (Vauxhall and Opel) and Ford Europe are absolutely great and shows what GM and Ford can do. Add Peugeot, Renault, FIAT and the VW namplates and you have a way to cut petrol consumption alot in the US. If the Opels with a Saturn badge cut it here then maybe we will see more Euro imports.

VS

November 13, 2007 3:57 PM

I think the article oversells the efficiency of European cars and their usability in the US. First, small European cars will cost a forture in the US not only because of the unfavorable exchange rate, but also because of their high complexity which implies high manufacturing costs. So either you get a cheap car with poor gas mileage or you get an expensive car that is fuel-efficient. Second, Europeans have a different methodology for calculating MPGs. Third, all these European cars are too tiny for an average US household and horrible on long runs. Fourth, you don't want to be in a collision with an SUV (a typical vehicle on the road) in your tiny Mazda2, do you?

snixelpicker

November 13, 2007 5:46 PM

"I can cart myself and 9 co-workers to lunch" and twelve cheeseburgers later Tazio, flaunts back to lunch 2 stone heavier, this is why the average american needs a big car to haul there big ass.

MacM

November 13, 2007 5:54 PM

Some of the mpg discrepancy for similar sized engines probably comes from the difference between US and Imperial gallons - the latter has greater volume.

Noz

November 13, 2007 7:11 PM

Interesting article, and in Japan the findings would have been similar, just about anywhere where fuel is super-costly. And I might add that American cars are rare. Thus heaps of shame are due us for our continuing wasteful ways. And for the likes of Tazio, he can keep his monstro-sity and pay its ever-increasing variety of costs. It seems a bit late for birth control.

Unfortunately we have a vast number of attitude-challeng-ed people prone to playing 'dodgem' on our roadways and rather forcing the rest of us into 'high-mass' vehicles just to stand a fighting chance against the laws physics in a crash. Our mantra has been straight-line tyre-smoking acceleration fed by the mindless good ol' boys & NASCAR and the like. Bad examples of behavior, however purebred American. No bloody wonder we have an image problem.
Waste is a way of life here, has been forever. And only high COST will ever bring about change. I drive an '06 HONDA Pilot, love the touch and feel, the relative safety and certainly the reliability. Don't much enjoy filling its tank, but that is my choice. A HONDA Fit would work out almost as well and cost a lot less. I would consider nothing less.

Fritz

November 13, 2007 10:10 PM

I agree with the author - spend some time in Europe and you'll see that our small cars are a mere shadow of what they could be. To the commentor that said that Europeans drive fast and get 8 mpg in tiny cars I disagree completely. I lived in Italy for 3 years in the early 1990's and I did drive my VW convertible (1.8L and 90HP) at ~100 mph for hours at a time when travelling but it did get better than 8 mpg - about 20 mpg at 100 mph. At reasonable speeds it got a very good mid-30s with archaic 1984 fuel injection (relative to today's injection). Today I drive a 1997 example of the same car here in the states and it still gets about 35 under normal conditions. I don't need a V-8 for "go to jail" speeds. I don't drive those kinds of speeds here of course b/c Americans don't know how to react to a vehicle moving much faster than 15 mph over the speed limit in my area. In traffic my friend's Mustang can go no faster than my Cabrio with less than half the engine as he is limited by speed limits of course! Big del - he has 250 horsepower and seldom gets to use them.

Interest here in the US in small cars consistently comes and goes with the high price of fuel. Maybe once the Chinese and the Indians are on their roads by the millions our fuel prices will go high and stay high relative to our income.

I'm sure that the Europeans would have a greater interest in larger or more msucular car if their gas wasn't approaching $8 a gallon and if some of them weren't parking in villages designed 500 years ago for ox carts.

You should know that their fuel costs nearly the same as our fuel but that the difference is taxes used to pay for gov't programs like nationalized health care. Remember that when Hillary gets into office and starts that discussion all over. Can we afford that, our wars, our military and the other gov't programs without high taxes? I doubt it. Not saying that universal health care would be a bad thing but that there are two major problems: the gov't managing it would be a farce, and the people who line up for every gov't handout available... My budget is plenty stressed without paying for the free-loaders.

Anyhow GM really doesn't try very hard to be in the minivan market b/c they can't keep up with the Jones (the imports and Chrysler) while turning a profit. Gm, Ford and Chrysler also don't try very hard to compete in the small car market for the same reason: the imports are pretty good cars and tough to out-do - though those same companies do a very good job in Europe!!! Maybe this most recent deal with the UAW over the retirement costs (legacy costs) will allow GM to drop the overhead costs they have to factor into every vehicle they build.

Small cars and large vehicle cost about the same in materials and mahours but obviously the big SUV sells for a higher price than the small car and thus turns a higher profit in case you didn't know. Obvious why the car makers like to build big vehicles...

Lastly since GM, Ford and Chrysler have surely noticed the full sized Toyota and Nissan trucks and SUVs, maybe they will try harder in the other parts of the market... I mean sell us some small cars like they build in Europe... Oh wait - Saturn and Focus are doing that already... GOOD!

I hope the dyed-in-the-wool rear wheel large vehicle (cars and trucks) enthusiasts will get over themselves. Okay - we get it. You like your big vehicles and you don't like the small vehicles. Fine. Suit yourself. But because a vehicle is small doesn't mean it is a lower value vehicle - unless you are talking about some of the domestic small cars that we've seen in the past 20 years. A few pretty pathetic examples in those categories.

However I have had Hondas go over 300K on the same engine, VW's that were last seen with 200K+ miles on them, diesel VWs with 300K+ miles on them, etc. Currently I've got 1 70's VW van with 200K mile son it, and 150K on two daily drivers (Honda and VW). I do think domestics could do this given the appropriate care...

Not everyone worries about big payloads or large tow capacities. It just isn't important to a whole group of people like me - we just don't own very large toys that we need to tow. The once a year I when I need to I rent a big truck or swap some chores for a few hours with a friend's truck.

I'm not looking to take away the rights of other people to drive what they want - within reason of course. I think what is allowed now is fine but I do feel like large vehicles (certain pickups or SUVs) ought to be reserved "for occasional use only". They make sense when there is work to be done or when there are 9 people who need or want to ride together. I see no reason to use one to carry 2 kids to school or to drive alone across the city to an office job...

An Excursion IS much more efficient at hauling 9 people than 3 mid-sized cars hauling three people each. It is also ther reason busses and trains are more efficient at what they do.

Lastly things will change when the dollars pay for those changes. I wish it would happen sooner. I think we ought to get off of the Arab habit. Stay out of Arab wars. Let them fight amongst themselves...

I am excited at what COULD BECOME real if we really "mean" it (really intend to buy some of the alternative technology being sorted out in the laboratories and engineering departments across the country).

For the short term I'd like to see our government relax it's restrictions on the small diesels typically found in Europe. They are SO DIFFERENT from the clanking rattling mess I hear in large pickups these days.

Having driven a variety of turbo, intercooled passenger vehicles in Europe I can firmly say that it is my intention to replace our daily drivers with at least 1 diesel at the next family vehicle replacement time. Our current plan is to replace our CR-V with a Mini, replace my VW cabrio with another VW or Saturn (Opel) Astra and put a Passat TDI or Eurovan into our garage for weekend trips. Ideally it would be a Eurovan which is more spacious than most of the average minivans that has a turbo diesel which is rated at 30+ mpg in Europe. That is a large vehicle (think Dodge Sprinter) getting 30 mpg. I drove several Fiat Ducato turbo diesels 15 years ago that had plenty power and efficiency as well.

George

November 13, 2007 11:16 PM

The only reason vehicles don't get 60,70mpg ..the auto makers don't want to build them cause if they did they would loose the kickbacks from the oil cartel, now if everyone in the USA will only buy vehicles that get 60,70mpg after about 3 maybe 4 months with no sale, they will scramble to retrofit the unsold vehicles for higher MPG the technology is available, the automakers won't use it until we make them...These very few vehicles available are just to pacify us.The year was 1979 a former race car driver adjusted his Ford Mustang to get 100 mpg...Information is power ...Thank you...

Tazio

November 14, 2007 8:51 AM

I guess I didn't mention that the 1996 buick roadmaster station wagon with the LT1 (as in Corvette) engine gets 26mpg on the highway (and delivers that power for the sweet burnouts and power slides around corners). As for the "end of oil" I have NO doubt that technology advancement will have us all driving zero-pollution electric or hydrogen cars waaaay before the oil pumps run dry, and the sky falls.

MSB

November 14, 2007 8:52 AM

Finally someone in the U.S. is saying what I've been saying here in Canada for years. On a recent trip to the U.K., I saw 24 different cars that I'd love to have in my garage. Let's hope the North American car companies are finally listening. Even Mazda isn't there (no Mazda 2 for us). If not, when my lease is up in the Spring, I'm back to Toyota.

Buzzcut

November 14, 2007 9:18 AM

Before you guys get wowwed by those diesel mileage numbers, European diesels do not meet American clean air regulations.

Those engines cannot be sold in the US, and the emissions controls to make them clean and compliant also decrease the mileage significantly.

I do think that the last line of the article sums the situation up very nicely. There is some gas price that would cause Americans to abandon their SUVs for S***boxes. It wasn't $3.50 a gallon. That hardly put a dent into SUV sales.

I wonder what it is? $4? $5?

MarkT

November 14, 2007 3:20 PM

Tazio is a perfect example of NA waste. when was the last time all 6 of you wanted into the same car? Of all the hours in your current boat-mobile, how many have 6 or 5 or 4 or 3 people in it. Do you drive this gas hog to work every day with your 5 others? do 9 people ever want to go to lunch with you, which of the 9 get crammed into those 3rd row seats (you boss?) Try a Mazda5 at 25 or 30mpg to hold your 6 person family. It should be illegal to drive a Buick Boatmaster with less than 4 people in it.

Noz

November 15, 2007 8:01 PM

Tazio-Buick-owning laddie,

You are a bleeping moron. We need fewer of your kind of mentally/discipline/common-sense-challenged types on OUR GLOBE. Shot out into space at least you could show your true colours as you became the 'ash' you are here on earth.

Noz

November 15, 2007 8:22 PM

Well, time for a little thought. And Tazio, you can sit this one out since the process is obviously not one of your regular activities.

Let's think of those countries who drive the 'American-type' vehicle with no regard to it's origin. Canada, the US, Mexico (but many are rolling wrecks) Australia, to a large extent the Germanic nations, and the Scandinavians also. Africans? Well, with so few cars, most are big ones. Ah, yes, the Middle-eastern nations such as Saudi with it's nickel/gal fuel. Iran has super-cheap gas but lots of small cars. That People's Paradise that is Cuber, junkers, rolling studies in parts collections. In the Land of Hugo, super-cheap fuel, but now he is banning Hummers. Ah.....
Now that I consider this subject further, it would be more than interesting to see some stats...

Thus, for the moment, we are left with those nations with the huge populations and high concentrations of folks in defined areas--in Asia, including India and it's neighbours, and some of the more enlightened European lands.

Food for thought. And just about now, it is dinner time.

MichaelS

November 15, 2007 11:22 PM

European Goverments levy hefty fuel taxes and use the revenue funding their densed local and medium-distance public transportation systems, along with their railroads. Europeans usually think twice before getting on a car and use public transports ( or a bike) whenever they can. Sharing a ride is also very common in Europe. Americans should change their perception toward public transportations and federal and local authorities should start building the same public transport systems here. Talking about good MPG only is not enough to get rid off this oil-dependency.

Realist

November 16, 2007 11:56 PM

gd needs to strap his lips to an exhaust manifold if he likes breathing his gas hog's pollution so much.

I don't. We have the right to do as we choose as long as we don't infringe upon others. Gas-hog pollution infringes upon my right to breathe clean air.

Don't ya just wish self-centered people who (through their actions) say "screw everybody else... aka the Hummer mentality or mentally Hummered... would have grown up during WWII? In an era where people stuck together and did things for the greater good, these people would be tried for treason.

And Tazio... with 6.x billion people in the world and climbing, we don't need more litters, we need more condom use!

Daniel Mendes

November 18, 2007 8:52 PM

Gee, it doesn't take a PHD to understand through this cars' thread why we're heading to catastrophe by overheating the planet.

The average American not only does not fully understand this IS an issue; he goes further by even when understanding its hole in CO2 emissions, NOT to let go its taste for cars. All being discussed here is what car, what cost for fueling a car, why this or that model is a better car.

Even on the (still) richest country on the planet, there seems to be not even a clue about what this planet really needs: to change its CULTURE and ultimately realize it's not about transporting a single person on a vehicle that generates lots of emissions (irrespective of how much mileage it runs on); it's about transporting lots of people on public vehicles (buses, trains, subways, whatever), taxing a lot more those who insist on using cars as their primary transport and, finally, investing decently on clean technologies like hydrogen.

I know there are Americans who understand this, but it's far from being common sense. They generally can't conceive a living world without cars in the centre of their lives, as a passport to adult life, and as a status symbol.

Sadly, China seems to embark on this ill-fated idea, and more and more manufacturers are going there, and celebrating record after record of sales. Learn how (not because of cars only, though) China is struggling to have at least a breathable air in the Olympics.

It surely takes more than this to have a living, war-free planet in 100 years. But a mind-changing attitude from the country that alone is responsible for 1/5 of all current emissions is needed, and it won't happen without changing the "car society" you live in.

Rocketman

November 19, 2007 1:53 PM

Excellent article.

A backup point.. the EPA made NO efforts to coordinate US emissions policies for Diesel (or in GENERAL!) with ANY other major markets (including the EU which is already pretty clean!), OR in some cases with engineering or physics! This is heinous, and their actions actually have acted COUNTER to the USA having more vehicles that will use less fuel and produce less green house gas. Our "wise" governement agency is NOT so wise.

Secondly, the USA has had "performance" creep, where a regular family sedan from the mid 80s, 0 to 60 in 12seconds, NOW is doing that speed in 8 seconds! Why? The auto companies say that is what WE want. That is not the case.. it is what they WANT us to want.. they can sell HP. They are all stupid the same way.. instead of recognizing people DRIVE torque (off the line), but Buy HP and FIXING that, they just go along. We do NOT have high torque, driver optimized engines.. we have PR optimized engines.. if you don't get high power til 4000 rpm, you pretty much have to rev your way around. Just stupid. And Ford and some others has NO plans to bring diesels in?

Thirdly, we have a "monoculture" thing going on with the cars we can buy, particularly from the US auto makers, but even the US directed foreign ones also! What does that mean? NONE of the auto companies is making 40 or 50 MPG vehicles for sale. You cannot buy a Ford F150 with 4 cylinder small block diesel, with GREAT torque, and MPG over 30. Why? YOu cannot buy a "ford festiva" or other mini car that gets over 40MPG. Why? NONE of the automakers are offering any real variety.. where are the ones that don't just move a fin, or seat, or shape change, but really fundamentally do something new? They are lemmings, copycats, NO courage to enter into the new realities. Everyone is different all in the same way. Just a travesty of how "free enterprise" should work. Whether it be the same species of corn growing on all the farms, or the same kind of vehicles that have engines too big, and imaginations too small, monoculture will doom them.

Rocketman

November 19, 2007 2:04 PM

RElated to Daniel Mendes's comments, yes, the bigger picture is the problem.

But what is NOT recognized is that the last 80 or more years of American Development assumed Oil and Cheap transport was a PERMANENT feature of our economy and society, and PERMANENT long term investments in our infrastructure were STEERED towards that end.. NO major railroad development, HUGE interstate development.

We developed a PERMANENT UNSUPPORTABLE lifestyle based on TEMPORARY economic underpinnings. Past Peak Oil, it won't be how MUCH gas costs, it will be whether you can even get it. The whole "biodiesel" and "sustainable fuel" arguments REALLY just clouds the issue that there is a HUGE shortfall, even with everything growing or spinning or whatever that can, we can't match energy capture with our current consumption.

So now the question is, what will we do? Will we raze suburbs, or recolonize them and put in downtowns and industry? The "best" thinking of the times has been to segregate where people live and where they work AND where they shop.. REQUIRING driving. New Urbanism is slowly making inroads, but what about the 99% of EXISTING homes, inadequately insulated, inconvenient to walk to, wholly unsupportable without gas or transport? We are in such a deep hole you can't even see the top. We are on our last few ropes to get out.

One option may well be conversion of suburbs INTO towns.. and requiring ALL new subdivisions to have spoke/wheel configurations, with supportable public transport, walking trails and the like. When you can't drive, can't get the gas, how DO you get your cheerios? How DO you get to work? If you are not on a busline, or trainline, you are hosed. Buy a horse. It is not a question of it, but when.

And while personal transporation will NEVER go away totally, its low cost basis WILL. Even with the new bacteria based Hydrogen production (just hit the papers), the system to use it ain't cheap, and NOWHERE near the "free energy" we get from our trust fund, oil. Electricity will be ok for awhile, but we are already importing natural gas, when will we have shortages for heating? We did in Denver 2 years ago.. got really cold, they didn't order enough.

JimmyV

November 29, 2007 5:36 PM

Tazio - I think you are funny. Most of the others take themselves too seriously. Oh, and I have 5 kids and drive an Excursion at 10mpg (city…12 mpg hwy if I drive 65mph). When I bought the vehicle, fuel was $1.50/gal, I had no problems filling up the tank for $66 and driving for 440 miles. At $3.10/gal, it sits in the garage waiting for camping and other special road trips. When fuel is $5/gal, I'll consider the Excursion a loss and give it away for next to nothing. I bought a $500 1985 Honda Civic with 200k miles for commuting two years ago and it averages 33mpg…I bought three tires for $15 from the salvage yard and have changed the oil once in 20k miles…Honda knows how to build a vehicle!!!!.

TomPier

May 4, 2010 3:59 AM

great post as usual!

Honda Pumps

May 4, 2010 6:05 AM

Experience does count for something and shows here. This is great work, written from ground level by someone that has been there and actually done that.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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