By on March 21, 2009

President Obama recently received major car guy demerits when he proclaimed that America invented the automobile. Even if you give Obama a mulligan, someone on his staff should have fact-checked the jingoistic assertion—especially after President Kennedy told Germany he was a jelly donut (ein Berliner). But President Obama’s most recent gaffe reveals darker demagoguery, highlighting his Messianic mission to mold motorcars to his green dreams. The AP reports,

Obama, touring a California electric car plant on Thursday, said, ‘The 1908 Model T — think about this — the 1908 Model T earned better gas mileage than the typical SUV in 2008… Think about that: 100 years later, and we’re getting worse gas mileage, not better, on SUVs.’

Ford’s own Web site says the Model T’s mileage ranged from 13 to 21 miles per gallon. Some Tin Lizzie enthusiasts who still drive the vehicles report numbers closer to the bottom end of that range. A typical SUV sold in 2008 gets 18.7 miles per gallon.

Anyone who isn’t trying to bash Detroit (oh, and everyone else who makes the vilified vehicle) understands there’s a world of difference between America’s first mass production automobile and ANY modern SUV. More specifically: Safety. Reliability. Utility. Comfort. Ease of operation. Emissions. Etc.

The meta point: Detroit (oh, and everyone else who makes the vilified vehicle) have been purposefully dragging their heels on mpgs. Consumers, of course, are blameless. As are the feds who allowed the SUV CAFE loophole (they were bribed!).

The “we’d all be driving more more fuel efficient vehicles now if it weren’t for corporate greed” idea is a liberal, anti-Detroit shibboleth that ignores commercial realities and refuses to die. But here’s the thing: Barack’s Boyz are now in control of Chrysler and GM. What’s the bet the Presidential Task Force on Automobiles heard the Prez’s mean meme loud and clear? Guess what happens next . . . .

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83 Comments on “Obama: Model T Gets Better Mileage Than an SUV...”


  • avatar
    Robstar

    Maybe Obama was thinking of H1’s & H2’s when he made the statement? A guy at work who commutes directly east in rush hour gets 9-11mpg in his H2.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Could a Model T even perform a modern EPA mileage cycle?

  • avatar
    taxman100

    So is Obama giving up his limos for a Model T? Is a Model T being put back into production as the “Pelosi Special”?

    Oh wait, those requirements are only for the unwashed masses who won’t do what they are told.

  • avatar
    Hank

    What’s the mpg on his limo? When it’s hitting 30+ mpg, let me know. Till then, pound sand.

  • avatar
    carguy

    13-21 MPG of the model T to 17 MPG for an SUV over 100 years later?

    That still isn’t much in the way of efficiency progress.

    Maybe that was the point he was making is the the industry has spent a lot of energy developing features such as heated and cooled seats, in car DVD players, automatic tail gates and sub 8 minutes ‘Ring times but no better fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Jason

    I guess he should volunteer to drive a Model T, then. Maybe he’ll get into an accident and find himself impaled on the steering column rather then walking away without a scratch, so he can see his family again.

  • avatar

    I agree with carguy that progress on gas mileage in the US has been pretty pathetic over the last hundred years. And on this one, Obama’s point is well taken.

  • avatar
    BuckD

    Wrong analogy to prove a point aside, can anyone honestly say Detroit hasn’t been dragging their feet on mileage? One huge reason for their current predicament was their expensive, gas-guzzler heavy lineup when the price of oil shot up. Now we have a economic downslide where consumers are shopping around for more frugal vehicles, and Detroit has precious little to offer. Calling Obama out on a trivial piece of political spin doesn’t absolve Detroit.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    It’s not the industry’s fault that families try to “outmass” other families on the road in the name of safety. If SUVs were forced to drive no faster than 55 mpg as a way of reducing the danger they pose to lighter vehicles on the road, I’m betting wagons would suddenly become fashionable again. Speed doesn’t kill. Momentum kills. Reduce the mass and, ceteris paribus, the roads become safer while mileage improves.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    I agree with carguy on this. Even though the comparison is one of apples to oranges, the point of his remark is that most devices have added features and become more energy efficient in the last 100 years. For example, refrigerators, home heating and air conditioning, and heck, even the lowly light bulb.

    Just for kicks, I’ve always wondered what a modern-day Model T would look like if done as a serious (that is, non-cynical) exercise. The prospect of doing more with less has always appealed to me.

  • avatar
    thalter

    While Obama’s statement is obviously outlandish, there is a kernel of truth.

    For the vast majority of its existence, relatively little effort has been applied towards improving the fuel economy of automobiles (especially compared to other aspects, such as power, comfort, and safety). Hybrid technology has been around since at least the 70’s.

    However, blame can’t be entirely laid at the feet of automakers. Consumer weren’t exactly clamoring for fuel sippers, so in a sense, the automakers were simply serving their market.

  • avatar
    BDB

    “Consumer weren’t exactly clamoring for fuel sippers, so in a sense, the automakers were simply serving their market.”

    Or did the car companies market gas guzzlers that made people demand them?

    Which came first? The marketing, or the demand?

    Economic libertarians like to pretend everybody is rational and intelligent in their economic decisions, but it just a’int so. A lot of people are irrational and easily manipulated. Why else do people choose crossovers over minivans, after all? Because minivans are uncool. Crossovers are cool. Again, marketing.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    So is Obama giving up his limos for a Model T?

    Great line taxman!

    Seriously though, if you talk to any engineer in the biz, they’ll tell you the crucial thing is weight. We need a new Colin Chapman.

    Even down here, the average weight of new, entry-line cars has gone up from about 800kg to 1000kg. Why? Safety regulations and creature comforts.

    Seems that Obama was a cooler car guy before becoming Prez. DIdn’t he have a 300C?

    And FWIW: he proclaimed that the United States invented the automobile. The autoblogophere took the chief executive to task for the gaffe; someone on his staff should have checked the jingoistic, German dissing assertion, wasn’t it a French guy (Nicholas Cugnot?) who built and crashed the first car? What I think the Germans did (W/Benz and Daimler?) was to trasform a past-time (many had built many different cars after Cugnot) into an ongoing business concern. Is my statement right or am I off my rockers? (Thanks in advance to anyone who clarifies)

  • avatar

    BDB

    The demand. Or, if you prefer, a product that caters to a perceived (and then actuated) demand.

  • avatar
    BDB

    I don’t know, I tend to be in the line of thought that Detroit marketed SUVs to people, creating demand, mostly because they gave them huge profits and the imports didn’t have ’em yet.

    Also, the CAFE loophole.

    This can go the other way too. A Prius hybrid doesn’t really save that much gas for the amount of money you spend over an econobox that’s a few grand cheaper, but Priuses are cool with a certain segment.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    If the Model T was produced today, I would buy one as a daily driver.

  • avatar

    BDB

    Do we live in a country where manufacturers are free to build a range of vehicles that customers are free to buy, or should the government expand its powers over that industry “for the good of the people” to regulate the market towards a societal goal? As far as the President’s admin is concerned, that’s a given.

    I realize that we are already a fair ways down that slippery slope, with safety and emissions regs. But I don’t agree with CAFE. If the feds want to distort the car market to save fuel, they should use a gas tax and be done with it.

    Blaming Detroit and the industry in general for current vehicles’ mpg is just avoiding the fed’s responsibility for the outcome and complicating matters unnecessarily (which adds expense for the consumer).

  • avatar
    BDB

    I realize that we are already a fair ways down that slippery slope, with safety and emissions regs. But I don’t agree with CAFE. If the feds want to distort the car market to save fuel, they should use a gas tax and be done with it.

    Oh I’d much prefer a gas tax over CAFE (or a price floor at, say, $2.50/gallon). It’s a more honest and easier way to do this than CAFE. But people start screaming bloody murder whenever the word “tax increase” is brought up.

    Gas guzzlers have an impact on other people apart from what is paid at the pump (Middle Eastern wars, climate change, etc.). People should be free to drive gas guzzlers if they want, but they should pay for all it’s effects if they make this choice.

  • avatar

    BDB

    Then they don’t agree with the goal. They are not willing to put their money where their mouth is. Which is fine by me. Will of the people and all that.

    But CAFE is a scam that says you can have your cake and eat it too, even if you don’t.

    Oh, what happened to “change?”

  • avatar
    tced2

    The model T was a BIG polluter.
    The model T was not enclosed (see picture).
    The model T had a top speed of 45 mph. That means no one ever drove it near that speed.
    The model T wouldn’t have been very safe at 60 mph (in fact it couldn’t go that speed). Will it pass the federal crash standards?
    The model T weighed about 1200 pounds. A SUV weighs 4000-5000 pounds. Who’s getting more out of a gallon of gasoline per pound of vehicle weight?

    So much for President Obama world renowned automotive engineer.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    ELECTRIC STARTERS

    I’d blame most of the problem of low fuel mileage on electric starters. If you add up the weight of the starter motor on all the cars on the road today and calculate the number of tanker loads of oil needed to haul all that weight around, it’s staggering. Add up the cost of larger batteries, battery cables, starter solenoid and it just gets worse.

    Calculate the total weight moved since the Model T and the money we’ve spent would put two chickens in every pot for our entire lifetime.

    All this expense for someting that is only used for a few seconds once every trip. Detroit should be held accountable for this travesty.

    /sarcasm. The Chosen One is comparing apples to a lug wrench…

  • avatar
    50merc

    In the president’s defense, we should note that stagecoaches also got better gas mileage than SUV’s.

    Ingvar: “If the Model T was produced today, I would buy one as a daily driver.”

    A T is fun as a hobby, but better allow extra time for your commute. Both going and stopping takes quite a while. And allow a lot more time (and money) for maintenance and repairs.

    Even by the standards of the 20’s, the Model T was a primitive car. It’s laughable to compare the T’s gas mileage to that of a modern vehicle. Even the cheapest Kia, etc., of today offers performance, safety, reliability, durability, convenience, comfort and economy those who bought T’s would have thought impossible fantasies. Though of course, a T was an improvement over a horse and buggy.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    CAFE is an absolutely proven with no room to argue failure for EVERY goal we were told it would achieve. We seem to have the same politico brain-rot as we are seeing in the executives at General Motors or it would have been replaced 25 years ago with a well-managed gas tax.

    Unfortunately, that did not happen.

    We are now at a crossroads where partial and full electric vehicles are avoiding the pump. What is the proper way to apply road taxes to them?

    They haven’t a clue. Those that head our government still have not acknowledged the blatant failure of CAFE and the auto taxes we are currently mired in.

  • avatar
    KYColVinny

    50merc: “a T was an improvement over a horse and buggy”

    Though the horse and buggy had the advantage of consuming biomass and producing gas :)

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    A model T gets better mileage than an SUV? An SUV that has hundreds of horsepower? (for reference IIRC the model T came with a 200 ci engine rated at FORTY horsepower from a 3.3l engine IIRC) An SUV that has a/c, electric gizmos all over and can usually tow thousands of lbs while 5+ sit in relative comfort?

    Modern tanks get worse mileage than a model T. This is the shittiest of comparisons and should be good for not much more than a chuckle.

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    The best thing about a model T is that it the on board computer was as good as the operator.

  • avatar
    rm

    A thought on the equivalent of a gas tax for electric cars… The car must still be registered with the state, thus the state could conceivably provide that information to the electric utility and thus tax the owner’s electricity consumption at some modest rate. Is it ideal? Probably not, but it’s not unreasonable either. Of course, if you want to go through the expense of adding solar panels to power your plugin car you could avoid that particular tax scheme.

    At the end of the day vehicles today do more with same amount of fuel than they did 100 years ago. If the government wants to shift usage of petroleum products they would be better off trying to do it on the demand side than the supply side. Doing so would allow the consumers (business & individuals) to adjust how they value the utility they are getting from their capital. This would be preferable to using the blunt force of the law to force people into doing things they’d rather not do.

  • avatar
    truthbetold37

    Put a model T through a government crash test. Then we can talk.

  • avatar

    If we all drove model Ts, I think the gene pool would be significantly cleaner. That thing could kill or maim you without even going on the road – if the gearbox oil was too cold, it would stick in gear and run you over when you crank started it. I call it the (Norton) Commando effect – improper starting procedure quickly weeds out the weakest links.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    For the vast majority of its existence, relatively little effort has been applied towards improving the fuel economy of automobiles

    Engines are far more efficient and cleaner today than they were during the era of a Model T.

    What we’ve done, though, is attach engines to heavier cars and increased their output. We use the efficiency to pull more weight more quickly, with net fuel consumption being close to the same.

    If you built a car today that had a Model T’s performance characteristics, the modern car would be much more efficient than the old Ford. But that’s not a car that anyone in the western world wants to drive.

    That being said, the point is still valid. As a society, we have accepted a relatively low level of fuel economy and chosen to build the heaviest, fastest vehicles possible that we can get away with that can produce that level of MPG. A fuel tax would attack that directly by raising the cost, but that ain’t gonna happen here.

  • avatar

    How anyone can ignore how high compression OHV engines, electronic ignition and fuel injection (including direct injection), forced induction and computer control have made cars far more efficient than when the Model T was made boggles the mind.

    Modern cars extract far more power out of fuel than Model Ts. That’s called efficiency.

    From Motor Trend:
    The 1908 Model T was powered by a 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine that developed 20 hp. It weighed about 1200 lb, and could probably hit 45 mph with a good following wind.

    I don’t know if it would even be possible to build a street legal car that met all DOT safety requirements and keep the weight to 1200 lbs. Anti-intrusion beams, safety cells, and air bags add weight.

    Besides, comparing a Model T to a SUV is apples and oranges. A typical SUV weighs more than 3 times what a Model T weighs. It’s more appropriate to compare the T to a compact car.

    A US spec ’09 Ford Focus coupe has a 2.0 liter engine that produces 140 HP, and the Focus weighs 2588 lbs, twice the weight of the ’08 Model T. The EPA rates the Focus (manual trans) @ 24 city/35 hwy.

    Even though Model T enthusiasts report that 21 mpg is a bit optimistic, for the sake of argument let’s use that figure. I’ll also assume that the ’09 Focus averages 29 mpg (splitting the difference between city and hwy). That means the Focus gets 38% better fuel economy, while the Focus is much safer than a Model T, has 7 times the power of the T, brakes that really work (remember, the early Ts had cable actuated brakes), ABS, air conditioning, air bags, as well as convenience features like electric self starting instead of a crank.

    Obama’s remarks are not surprising. His presidential task force overseeing aid to the domestic automakers doesn’t have anyone that has a clue about cars or the car biz, so why should he act any differently.

    I’m surprised Obama didn’t accuse Detroit of suppressing the 150 mpg “fish” carburetor.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Then they don’t agree with the goal. They are not willing to put their money where their mouth is.

    You mean they’re not willing to commit political suicide. The Republicans would have a field day with a gas tax increase or price floor. Any kind of tax increase and they already shout “Communist!” at the drop of a hat, can you imagine how nuts they would go over a high gas tax? It would blow too much political capital.

    Oh, what happened to “change?”

    I think his policies are quite different from George W. Bush, thanks. The fact Republicans are so upset makes this pretty evident.

  • avatar

    BDB, I’m an economic libertarian, which explains why I drive a VW TDI I guess. ;)

    As for the Tin Lizzie to Ford Excursion comparo there is a kernel of truth to the issue. Where are the real economy cars in the domestic fleet anyway? Answer: There are none. In order to buy a genuinely fuel efficient car the American consumer has a choice of either a Japanese hybrid, or a German Turbo-Diesel.

    The American made hybrids are laughable behemoths, as are the American made Turbo-Diesels… all gigantic trucks. Something is wrong with this picture. Plain and simple, Detroit has been institutionally incapable of producing small, economical cars.

    –chuck

  • avatar

    Though the horse and buggy had the advantage of consuming biomass and producing gas :)

    Horses produce plenty of biomass themselves.

    Ah the good old days! When your kids died from ear infections and the streets were literally filled with horse manure, along with the contents of bedpans and commodes.

    There’s a discernible Luddite stream in modern environmentalism that would have us believe that life before the industrial age was wonderful and at peace with nature. It’s interesting that Hobbes, who lived before the advancements of Pasteur, Lister, Edison, Bell, Marconi, and Berliner, could look back and say that before the industrial revolution life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    As for the Tin Lizzie to Ford Excursion comparo there is a kernel of truth to the issue. Where are the real economy cars in the domestic fleet anyway? Answer: There are none. In order to buy a genuinely fuel efficient car the American consumer has a choice of either a Japanese hybrid, or a German Turbo-Diesel.

    Nonsense. In a comparison that’s directly relevant, you can buy a Ford Escape Hybrid that gets 32mpg combined, is significantly safer than the Model T, hauls four passengers and their stuff in comfort, and is significantly easier to own and maintain.

    Perhaps if VW had decided to build their trike, we’d have a good apples to oranges comparison with the Model T – but once again, those niggling safety concerns splashed the project. It’s almost as if automakers were more concerned about not killing people than they were with building vehicles that got the most amazing fuel economy possible. I wonder why? Must be evil.

  • avatar

    BDB :

    So if the American public doesn’t want a gas tax, maybe they don’t REALLY care about fuel efficiency. And if they don’t, well, shouldn’t our elected representatives represent the [lack of] will of the people?

    Or, in that sense, is the CAFE nonsense a perfect representation of the public’s hypocrisy: I support energy independence/ less CO2. I just don’t want to pay for it.

    Which is, in a bizarre way, fair enough, in the sense we get the government we deserve.

    Meanwhile, to say that Obama’s policies represent change because republicans don’t like them is missing the bigger picture. These “debates” over spending/regulation are business as usual, only more so (e.g. Motown bailout). As far as I can tell.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I have two model T s. One I bought in 1960, yes 49 years ago. I have never checked the milage but I would guess any vehicle you might have would get far better milage than the T. At 40 mph the vibration from the engine is horendous ( the crankshaft is flexing). You need to adjust the fuel mixture with a knob on the dash to achieve maximum performance or milage. The front wheels do not have brakes. There is one 1 1/4 in. wide band around the transmission drum which serves as the brake. As someone has said before this was not a good car in 1920 s. It was better than a horse and buggy, just barely.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    I’ve heard Model Ts also had a gravity-fed fuel line, so that the fuel cut out if you drove up a steep hill. There’s a Model T jammed in a canyon crevice in rural southern Utah that shows how deadly that can be. The solution was to drive backwards up the hill.

    One funny note about Obama’s visit to the Edison International electric car facility. Here’s what one report said:

    After viewing the company’s model for a “garage of the future” — where an electric car battery would be charged each night with energy drawn from solar panels on the garage roof — Obama toured the battery-testing center and questioned engineers about what government could do to help advance the technologies.

    They have figured out how to charge a car’s batteries with solar panels at night. When the sun isn’t even shining! What will they think of next?

    On the CAFE standards, there are many small cars that get great gas mileage. The 10 most fuel efficient models on sale in the US get 2% of the sales. Few will buy these basic, small, comparatively powerless cars.

  • avatar
    HankScorpio

    Farago, please knock off the Limbaugh-isms in the articles. The statement “The One’s Messianic mission…” not only adds no value to the article, it detracts from the otherwise valuable content by lumping it together with all the other wingnuts.

    I am all for taking the politicians to task for their actions and statements, but playground name calling and allusions to “The Liberal Media” do not work for me.

  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    All the invectives hurled at Detroit for shoving SUV’s down the consumer throat is nonsense. They perceived a need/desire for this type of vehicle and I am sure were quite gratified that they sold so well. Nobody can force anyone to buy – which, of course (B&B not withstanding), is the reason it is hard to find a station wagon.

    This does not absolve Detroit management for not seeing the hand-writing on the wall for increasing gasoline prices that was evident in the 70’s and broadening their offerings.

    As was pointed out in a different thread, the Japanese had the advantage of already high gasoline prices (and narrow roads) when developing their automobile manufacturing base. Any large vehicles that they might have built would have had extremely limited appeal in their home markets.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    To state the obvious for the 99th time, let’s compare the Model T of 1908 with the equivalent transportation for 2008. The Model T was the cheapest transportation for four passengers that was available in its day.

    What would be it’s equivalent today? Perhaps the Kia Rio? It that’s acceptable, let’s start the comparisons:

    1908 Model T
    MSRP when new in 1908: $825
    Inflation adjusted to 2008: $18,817
    MPG 13/21
    Available options: N/A
    Top Speed 45 MPH

    2008 Kia Rio

    MSRP when new in 2008: $10,890 – $14,715
    Inflation adjusted to 1908: $645 (=$14,715 )
    MPG (Automatic) 25/35
    Features not on the Model T
    AM/FM Stereo
    Multiple air bags
    Automatic Transmission
    Air conditioning
    Power windows, power locks
    Top Speed 119 MPH

    Enough said, I think.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    The “we’d all be driving more more fuel efficient vehicles now if it weren’t for corporate greed” idea is a liberal, anti-Detroit shibboleth …

    What’s liberal about it?

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal1

    >> What’s liberal about it?

    Well Dynamic 88 what’s liberal about it is blaming corporate America and corporations for everything and concocting whacko conspiracy theories to back that up.

    I often hear nutjobs saying things like this, or that the oil companies are blocking that magical carburetor that gets 500 mpg, or whatever.

    This same mindset goes hand in hand with 9/11 conspiracy weirdos.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The T was an entry level vehicle. The correct comparison would be with a Yaris or something even smaller.

  • avatar

    jimmy2x

    Point taken. Text amended.

    But remember: I slammed Bush HARD when he pushed through the Motown bailout, in direct contradiction of Congressional results. I am no friend of cant, hypocrisy, lies and half-truths of ANY stripe.

  • avatar

    Seems that Obama was a cooler car guy before becoming Prez. DIdn’t he have a 300C?

    Yup. To find out how he was outed and bought a Ford Escape Hybrid, go to
    http://tinyurl.com/prescandidatescars

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    We can criticize the Model T all we want for its inability to live up to the capabilities of today’s vehicles, but just remember two key points:

    First, the Model T was far from perfect even during its time, but as Henry Ford often pointed out, it was all the car that most people needed. In other words, it was elegant in its simplicity.

    Second, were it not for the Model T its quite likely that we wouldn’t be having discussions on an automotive website today. After all, its affordability and ubiquity put the United States – and to a lesser degree, the world – on four wheels.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Ronnie Schreiber: “There’s a discernible Luddite stream in modern environmentalism that would have us believe that life before the industrial age was wonderful and at peace with nature. It’s interesting that Hobbes, who lived before the advancements of Pasteur, Lister, Edison, Bell, Marconi, and Berliner, could look back and say that before the industrial revolution life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.”

    So true. The zealots seem to think the only thing Henry Ford accomplished was to put us on the road to perdition.

    Berliner … he’s that guy who wrote that non-PC song “God Bless America,” right? ;-)

  • avatar
    50merc

    RF: “I slammed Bush HARD when he pushed through the Motown bailout, in direct contradiction of Congressional results.”

    As I recall, using TARP for the D3 (2?) had broad support or acquiescence in Congress, based on the “we may not have written that in the bill, but it’s what we meant” rationale.

    It reminded me of when LBJ gave Egypt helicopters by using “Food For Peace” funding.

  • avatar

    Darrencardinal1 :
    >> What’s liberal about it?

    Well Dynamic 88 what’s liberal about it is blaming corporate America and corporations for everything and concocting whacko conspiracy theories to back that up.

    I often hear nutjobs saying things like this, or that the oil companies are blocking that magical carburetor that gets 500 mpg, or whatever.

    This same mindset goes hand in hand with 9/11 conspiracy weirdos.

    9/11 conspiracy theories and the notion that oil companies are blocking magic carbs (or fuel injectors) may go together but they don’t go w/ blaming corporations for stuff. good read High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher for the details on how the car companies marketed SUVs.

    Liberals who aren’t flaky (and just as many conservatives as liberals are flaky) do not get into 9/11 conspiracies or magic carbs.

  • avatar
    A is A

    For the vast majority of its existence, relatively little effort has been applied towards improving the fuel economy of automobiles

    Really?.

    I get over 45mpg (US gallons, calculated from gas pump data, NOT the overoptimistic on board computer. That is 5 liters per 100km) driving (very) conservatively my 2004 Toyota Avensis Diesel.

    I got a slightly better 52.5mpg (ditto for the data, save the non existent on board computer. I got 4.5 liters per 100km) from my previous ride, a jalopy from the 1980´s: A 1986 Peugeot 205 Diesel.

    The 1986 Peugeot 205 weighted 1984 pounds. No ABS, no airbags, no air conditioned, no radio, no assisted anything. Worst passive safety class.

    The 2004 Totoya Avensis weights 3150 pounds, has all the amenities you expect in a modern car and has a 5 star NCAP crash test rating.

    I was simply astounded when I discovered how efficient the Avensis is. I bought the car for its safety, reliability and comfort. Fuel economy was not my main concern.

    In the 1980s the Peugeot 205 Diesel was on of the most efficient cars you could buy, and a very good car. To 2009 standards the Peugeot 205 is not only and uncomfortable death trap. It is also an unefficient car.

    Regarding Obama and his ideas I do not want to be blocked, so the less I say the better.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Many people expect technology to deliver miracle after miracle. Computer technology, with Moore’s Law, has delivered that. I can’t think of any other technology that has.

    Computer technology has exploded. In 1980 I had my first job, doing research and development on computer graphics. The system we developed cost $1 million and could produce an image that was considered amazing at the time.

    Nearly 30 years later those same graphics would look primitive compared to the graphics of a $50 game running on a $300 game console. Broadband networks also run at rates that seem inconceivable to me. I designed a 300 bits per second modem in college in 1978 that I thought was very hot stuff.

    Compared to that rabbit-quick rate of change, car technology has advanced at a snail’s pace. To say, though, that someone is to blame for that — the carmakers, the consumers, the government — is a mistake. That’s how the world works.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    At it its peak, 1/2 the cars in the world were Model Ts. It was designed to be simple and rugged enough for roads that would challenge a modern 4×4, let alone a poser SUV. The comparison to an entry level car such as the Rio is apt.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    “Consumer weren’t exactly clamoring for fuel sippers, so in a sense, the automakers were simply serving their market.”

    Or did the car companies market gas guzzlers that made people demand them?

    Which came first? The marketing, or the demand?…

    The vast majority of people I know who have SUV’s would have been willing to trade some size, power, towing ability and off road imagery for better mileage. Most seem to want the utility and ride height. Which is what a “crossover” is supposed to do, but they don’t seem to do that much better with consumption than true SUV’s. Considering some, such as an Acadia, weigh 5000 disgraceful pounds, that really is not a surprise.

    And I agree with the poster who really has no interest in painting everybody who has a concern with excessive energy consumption as “liberal.” Not everybody who has a pickup truck is a right winger with a huge gut, a cigarette, six NRA stickers, a number 3, and an American flag on the window either.

  • avatar

    Berliner … he’s that guy who wrote that non-PC song “God Bless America,” right? ;-)

    Emile Berliner invented a carbon microphone that was used by Bell Telephone Company. He also invented the flat disc phonograph (unlike Edison’s wax cylinders) and founded what became the Victrola company, and was a pioneer in the development of the helicopter.

    I suspect that Pres. Obama is the kind of person that has little knowledge about anything technological, whether modern or historic.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal1

    >>> 9/11 conspiracy theories and the notion that oil companies are blocking magic carbs (or fuel injectors) may go together but they don’t go w/ blaming corporations for stuff. good read High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher for the details on how the car companies marketed SUVs.

    Liberals who aren’t flaky (and just as many conservatives as liberals are flaky) do not get into 9/11 conspiracies or magic carbs.

    They why does it seem otherwise?

    Michael Moore, for example, has talked about 9/11 conspiracy theories. I think most people would concede he is one of the leaders on the left side of things. At least, he makes the most noise. Rosie O’Donnell has done the same.

    The liberals who are the flakiest and loudest seem to lead the movement. And they routinely slam corporations and spin elaborate theories. It is quite clear they hate Wal-Mart, Big Oil, Big Pharma, you name it.

  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    Robert Farago :
    I am no friend of cant, hypocrisy, lies and half-truths of ANY stripe.

    I don’t believe that you are. Guess I just get tired of the constant rant about SUV’s that seems to permeate this forum. WHAT other people drive has far less impact on me than HOW they drive. I drive my 4Runner just as responsibly as I drive the wife’s Camry.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Once again, Obama is wrong. The huge difference is speed.

    Most T’s were never driven faster than about 30, maybe 40 tops. And they got about 15mpg at that speed. At THAT speed, most SUVs would probably get 30+mpg (steady state speed).

    At 35, my xB gets well over 50mpg. And a Prius or TDI Golf would probably be getting 75 or more mpg. The truth is, old cars were NOT efficient, given the low speed they were going.

    The old engines had a very poor efficiency factor, probably in the low teens, with their 4 to 1 compression ratios, etc. Modern turbo diesels can exceed 40% efficiency.

  • avatar
    gzuckier

    as long as the government was mandating fuel mileage standards, detroit fuel mileage rose continually, and nobody had problems despite all the warnings from the industry. as soon as the standards were relaxed, fuel mileage stagnated; and now we hear the same arguments again, that mandated mileage would make awful cars.

    if it’s the public that decides to demand two ton minimum SUVs in the name of safety (which are death traps compared to something like a crown vic), then i gotta say the folks at the car companies are just advertising those things for no reason at all. silly of them, to think that they could have any influence on consumer demand. everyone knows marketing just doesn’t ever work.

    that said, “model Ts get better mileage than SUVs” is a bonehead thing to say. that’s number two.

    fun fact: model T’s were also produced in an alcohol-burning version (just different carb, i imagine) for sale to farmers who distilled their own fuel.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    It’s interesting that Hobbes, who lived before the advancements of Pasteur, Lister, Edison, Bell, Marconi, and Berliner, could look back and say that before the industrial revolution life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

    For the little people.

    The bigwigs want the little people off the roads, out of the suburbs and into cramped little tenements in the heart of the big city, so the bigwigs can keep an eye on them and poke and prod them as they wish, while keeping the countrysides clear for the bigwigs to put their sprawling dachas on.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    The SUV craze was not simply a matter of selling what “people wanted”. The job of marketing is to create and shape demand. If marketing had nothing to do with the SUV boom, then a awful lot of money was wasted.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    The SUV craze would go away if authorities demanded better driving of them. What do I mean ? My licence allows me to drive vehicles up to a certain size and weight. After that I need more training and to take a better test.

    Example – When the Toyota Land Cruiser got American Sized in the early 90s, you couldn’t actually tow anything in it in Europe as the total weight of the combination was above that permitted on a normal licence.

    And lets be honest, when you see SUVs being driven who doesn’t think that more (or indeed any) driver education would be beneficial…

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    sarcasm

    So a politician has made an improper, useless comparison that reveals his historical ignorance and/or willingness to forego facts for political points?

    Oh my God, that has never ever ever happened before! Oh the shame of it!

    /sarcasm

    Seriously, we voted for this. We have three years and ten months to go. Unless we vote for an additional four years of it, which I think we probably will.

    So don’t get all worked up over what the President says. Quite the contrary, we should probably embrace this. After all, we have a track record of embracing all manner of ignorance!

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    Let me come in defense of the late President Kennedy.

    A person from Berlin would also say “Ich bin ein Berliner”.

    Dieser Fakt dass ein Berliner ist ein “jelly donut” auch ist ein böse Deutsches Wortspiel.

    Or, the fact that “ein Berliner” is also a jelly donut is a bad German pun.

  • avatar
    redshiftsystems

    The Model T doesn’t even have the conventional accelerator > brake > clutch layout. Plus you have to push it when going uphill.

    Plus on a HP to cubic inch ratio, modern cars are still so much more efficient.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    I’m puzzled at the multiple posts earnestly explaining in minute detail the multiple ways that today’s car is better than a Model T, when there’s real ammo to be fired at Obama: How dare he make a simple analogy about one aspect of the current state of the domestic car biz while zooming around in his private jet rather than flying commercial?

    Moving on: The real conspiracy about why ICE-powered cars aren’t more efficient comes from the laws of thermodynamics, specifically the ‘thermal bottleneck.’ Once you accept this reality and also want to maximize efficiency, you realize that cars can’t be powered by or use energy derived from running a heat engine.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    How dare he make a simple analogy about one aspect of the current state of the domestic car biz while zooming around in his private jet rather than flying commercial?

    This kind of argument gets a lot of play by people who think they’re better with logic than politicians. It’s a nonsensical connection between an individual vs systematic decision. In other words, it makes sense for most people to fly commercial vs private plane, but it doesn’t make sense for obama to do so.

    Once you accept this reality and also want to maximize efficiency, you realize that cars can’t be powered by or use energy derived from running a heat engine.

    Heat engines are economically practical. Straight up thermal efficiency is largely irrelevant when we can extract the inputs for them from the ground for cheap.

    Guess I just get tired of the constant rant about SUV’s that seems to permeate this forum. WHAT other people drive has far less impact on me than HOW they drive. I drive my 4Runner just as responsibly as I drive the wife’s Camry.

    SUV’s are fundamentally more dangerous to other vehicles. And the people attracted to them usually don’t do so out of concern for good driving practice. As such, it’s not unreasonable to demand further restrictions from such a combination.

    Liberals who aren’t flaky (and just as many conservatives as liberals are flaky) do not get into 9/11 conspiracies or magic carbs.

    They why does it seem otherwise?

    Michael Moore, for example, has talked about 9/11 conspiracy theories. I think most people would concede he is one of the leaders on the left side of things. At least, he makes the most noise. Rosie O’Donnell has done the same.

    The liberals who are the flakiest and loudest seem to lead the movement. And they routinely slam corporations and spin elaborate theories. It is quite clear they hate Wal-Mart, Big Oil, Big Pharma, you name it.

    The main different between the two main political ideologies (represented by the two parties) in this country is that one pursues modern mediocrity in most every sense, and the other are the tradition oligarchs clinging to backwardness.

    This is the reason why most attempts at equivocation fail. For example, Limbaugh has no reprehensible counterpart in the other party, because their figureheads like the protagonist of the thread aren’t as purposely and consistently ignorant.

  • avatar
    Mike_H

    What kind of mileage does a Model T actually get?

    I looked on some Model T Club websites and found this:

    Contrary to the crazy numbers like 25 mpg that have been floating around the internet these days, the Model T engine is not terribly efficient compared to modern ones. While our measurements are perhaps less than completely scientific, experience indicates that our Ts get approximately 10-12 miles per US gallon, depending on the countryside. 25 mpg might be possible if the test was all downhill, with a mast and sail affixed and a good tailwind. There ain’t no way a Model T gets 25 mpg or even close. Your mileage may vary.

    A model T has 22-26 hp, depending on the year built, and a top speed of 30 mph on a smooth, flat road.

    By contrast, Ford’s Escape Hybrid SUV gets 34 mpg city. It is safer, cleaner, faster, and more efficient than a Model T. Duh.

    As usual, Obama is full of wrong information that suits his own purposes. And of course, suckers and sycophants in the media will parrot this nonsense.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The man’s point is that the popular fossil-fuel transportation of the day had similar mileage figures to the (admittedly worst MPG models) SUV’s that we love/drive today, even with all of the fancy, computerized engines.

    That’s the only point that he was trying to make, is that the relative efficiency of our transportation choices has changed little since the Model T.

    Yes, the speed, comfort and safety are remarkably better, but overall efficiency has been sacrificed for these; note that the automotive industry and the oil producers do not worship at that altar.
    Edit:
    Putting it more “elegantly”; cheap, plentiful oil and the budding auto industry have been interdependant from the very beginning. Cheap oil was the “blank canvas” that begat evermore elaborate examples of the automotive art – this is starting to change, and it’s hurting people who have allowed others to plan their future.

    That said, I hope the transition will be smoother by the increases in efficiency that we’ll see in the coming years.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    shaker :

    The man’s point is that the popular fossil-fuel transportation of the day had similar mileage figures to the (admittedly worst MPG models) SUV’s that we love/drive today, even with all of the fancy, computerized engines.

    Aaaah, come on. President Obama wasn’t making a point. He was just making something up. You can tell this by the duration of the “pregnant pauses” in his speaking.

    I have always had the feeling that the longer the pause, the more he’s winging it. Or the drunker he is. Not that the press would report it, but presently, there’s no evidence that the President is drunk, so I’m going with the “winging it” thing.

    It’s fascinating to watch!

    EDIT: Hahaha, there’s an ad at the bottom of this page, “Do You Regret Voting for Obama? Vote Now!” That’s a loaded question. I didn’t vote for the man, so I would have to vote “no” in this poll (if it were a real poll, that is). And that would mislead the results, making my poll selection appear as though I’m happy with the President. This is why I don’t take telephone polls, either.

  • avatar
    Mark45

    Most post talk about how the weight affects the mileage, lets look at how the emission standards affect mileage. First you have to look at how the emission standards are accomplished. They use various sensors, fuel injection and computers, but the main component is the catalytic converter which burns off the pollutants. For the catalytic converter to work the exhaust must contain a certain amount of fuel to heat up enough to burn the pollutants. So decreasing pollutants will not necessarily increase mileage. Remember back in the early 90’s when Honda made the Civic VX which used a lean burn system. The lean burn system using sensors and the computer to lean out the fuel mixture in low load conditions when possible without damaging the engine and richen it up when needed for heavy load conditions. The Civic VX got more than 10 mpg better than the standard Civic with same 1.5 liter engine and same car with the same weight. What happened to the lean burn engines? When they passed stricter emission standards it was not longer possible for the lean burn engine to meet the standards.

  • avatar
    Bridge2far

    You have to give Prez Barack Hussein Obama a bit of a break here. If he didn’t have a teleprompter in front of him he should not be held accountable for his (already numerous) gaffes.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    President Obama wasn’t making a point. He was just making something up.

    No, he was basically correct. Today’s SUVs are burning as much gas as the old Ford.

    Even though today’s engines are clearly more efficient, the bulky SUV’s attached to them are clearly not frugal with the fuel. That was his point, and it was an accurate one.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Think about this. In 1903 the Wright Brother’s Wright Flyer earned better gas mileage than the Airbus A380 in 2008… Think about that: 100 years later, and we’re getting worse.

    Now, getting back to my teleprompter…..

  • avatar
    jthorner

    A Honda CRV and a Hummer H2 are both classified as SUVs by the EPA, but I’m pretty sure Obama was talking about the Explorer through H2 sized traditional SUVs, not the cute-utes. A model-T putt-putting into town for groceries generally burns less fuel than an Escalade does for the same mission.

    The main point is valid: Fuel efficiency has not generally been an engineering or purchasing primary factor in recent decades. Well, not until last year’s rapid gas price run-up. Once CAFE requirements stopped getting tighter we suddenly saw the fuel economy improvement trend come to a halt. Absent regulations forcing them to do so, the industry stopped making progress on fuel economy. The emphasis instead went into more horsepower and ever heavier vehicles.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Must have been a glitch in his teleprompter.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The Civic VX got more than 10 mpg better than the standard Civic with same 1.5 liter engine and same car with the same weight. What happened to the lean burn engines? When they passed stricter emission standards it was not longer possible for the lean burn engine to meet the standards.…

    There were two problems with the VX. One, to keep it in lean burn, load had to kept to a minimum. Cruising on I70 in Florida, for example, the VX returned good mileage because the road was flat. Under most driving conditions however, the VX returned to normal air/fuel ratios. So, while the EPA mileage was really good, the real world mileage was way less. This hurt sales.

    The other problem is that under lean conditions, internal combustion engines produce significantly more oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The technology was not able to keep up with tightening emission standards. Catalytic converters have difficulty with NOx. That duty is handled by keeping exhaust temperature down via exhaust gas recirculation.

    So don’t get all worked up over what the President says. Quite the contrary, we should probably embrace this. After all, we have a track record of embracing all manner of ignorance!…

    Of course. How do you think George Bush got re-elected?

    jthorner, you nailed it exactly. Which is why CAFE still accomplished one thing only: It created a minimum floor, although the manufacturers did every thing they could do to game the system. One can only imagine how poor the national fleet average would be if there wasn’t at least this flawed control in place.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Ok – what are the Model T’s California Enhanced Smog Test results vs the current Gas Hogs? Is Daddy telling the Children to get Real since they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?

  • avatar
    agenthex

    The other problem is that under lean conditions, internal combustion engines produce significantly more oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The technology was not able to keep up with tightening emission standards. Catalytic converters have difficulty with NOx. That duty is handled by keeping exhaust temperature down via exhaust gas recirculation.

    Well, that doesn’t seem to stop diesel.

    Think about this. In 1903 the Wright Brother’s Wright Flyer earned better gas mileage than the Airbus A380 in 2008… Think about that: 100 years later, and we’re getting worse.

    Now, getting back to my teleprompter…..

    Are the kind of people saying stuff like this really accusing someone else of gaffs and playing politics?

    It’s really silly to pretend to know better when falling for superficial popular memes.

    For example, the teleprompter is quite useful for introverted personalities, but I guess such “intellectual” matters aren’t stupid enough for national discussion.

  • avatar
    Cynder70

    Fact check indeed.

    The myth that Kennedy called Berliner’s doughnuts is wrong. Snopes, Urban legend, about and wikipedia all debunk this myth repeatedly including German linguists.

    I get the message that when the fuel efficiency numbers of vehicles don’t appear to have improved we might want to invest some effort in improving the efficiency of vehicles.

    I’m not sure how much the model-T weighs, it doesn’t offer the safety features or emissions controls, but that nearly 100 years later my Subaru Legacy only offers 25mpg highway says we might do better.

    The analogy holds true.

  • avatar
    geeber

    agenthex: SUV’s are fundamentally more dangerous to other vehicles.

    Except, of course, for the fact that, as the number of SUVs on the road has reached a record level, fatalities per 100 million miles driven has reached record lows.

    Since 1978, light trucks’ percentage of the vehicle fleet has doubled. Meanwhile, the fatality rate has fallen in half. If SUVs were even half as dangerous to both their drivers and the drivers and passengers of other vehicles, as people say that they are, this would not have happened.

    Theory is nice, but most of us are more concerned about what is really happening in the real world, because that is where we drive.

    agenthex: The main different between the two main political ideologies (represented by the two parties) in this country is that one pursues modern mediocrity in most every sense, and the other are the tradition oligarchs clinging to backwardness.

    Well, the tradition oligarchs clinging to backwardness describes both the Republicans and the Democrats, but I’m not sure which party the first one is supposed to represent…

    agenthex: This is the reason why most attempts at equivocation fail. For example, Limbaugh has no reprehensible counterpart in the other party, because their figureheads like the protagonist of the thread aren’t as purposely and consistently ignorant.

    Apparently you have never heard of Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore.

    Different media outlet, same basic idea.

    And while Obama may not be “purposely” ignorant, I’d suggest that he learn something about automobiles and the history of the automobile industry if he wants to have some credibility on this subject.

    In the end, ignorance shows, whether it’s purposeful or not.

    agenthex: Are the kind of people saying stuff like this really accusing someone else of gaffs and playing politics?

    It’s really silly to pretend to know better when falling for superficial popular memes.

    I’m sure that you must have been voicing the same concerns during the Bush Administration.

    If not, and you really believe that this started with the Obama Administration, then that was the most hilarious thing I’ve read this year.

    So thanks for brightening up a dull Monday morning!

    Cynder70: I get the message that when the fuel efficiency numbers of vehicles don’t appear to have improved we might want to invest some effort in improving the efficiency of vehicles.

    But fuel efficiency has improved. If you drove your Subaru at the speed of the typical Model T, it would probably get better mileage, while offering improved safety. It is also cleaner.

    Most people record the same or higher mileage as a Model T at much higher speeds. If you are going faster and get the same or higher mileage, efficiency has improved.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    Except, of course, for the fact that, as the number of SUVs on the road has reached a record level, fatalities per 100 million miles driven has reached record lows.

    Explain how correlation equates to causation. It’s crucial for you to look up what that means.

    Well, the tradition oligarchs clinging to backwardness describes both the Republicans and the Democrats, but I’m not sure which party the first one is supposed to represent…

    I think you do. Instead of being coy, maybe you can explain why you think social democracy fits that description instead of mine.

    Apparently you have never heard of Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore.

    This is a confusing statement to make because I just replied to it in my post. I’m pretty sure there’s no special insight here that justifies repeating.

    Most likely, you wanted to be coy and forgot what the argument was; to rephrase my earlier point, just because people are in media does not make their position equal.


    And while Obama may not be “purposely” ignorant, I’d suggest that he learn something about automobiles and the history of the automobile industry if he wants to have some credibility on this subject.

    The guy is making a point in a political speech. It’s a justified point, and if you take any particular exception to it you should reply to the many existing arguments in this thread (like pch’s among others) so it won’t be repetitive.

    I’m sure that you must have been voicing the same concerns during the Bush Administration.

    I know what you’re getting at, but rest assured that neither Bush nor Obama invented stupid people who think they’re clever because they managed to understand some idea which was designed for public consumption (nor the even dumber crowd who still didn’t get it).

    In conclusion, you should drop the passive aggressiveness and say something substantive.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Except, of course, for the fact that, as the number of SUVs on the road has reached a record level, fatalities per 100 million miles driven has reached record lows.

    The two points aren’t contradictory. NHTSA data makes it clear that in SUV vs. car accidents, the cars come out of them in far worse shape (more deaths.) The combination of mass and bumper heights goes against those in the passenger cars.

    I’d suggest that he learn something about automobiles and the history of the automobile industry if he wants to have some credibility on this subject.

    Again, Obama’s basic point was accurate – the guy plodding around in his hulking SUV is sucking down the same amount of gas per mile driven as was his grandfather in the old T.

    I realize that the SUV has far greater performance characteristics, but his point was a matter about fuel consumed per mile driven, not differences in vehicle design.

    You don’t need to be a car guy to know that a Model T is slower, carries fewer people, etc., but that isn’t germane to the specific comment being made, which is one about fuel usage per mile driven. Given the ubiquity of these trucks on the road and the overall impact that they make on both the demand for oil (which impacts national security and the economy) and the environmental impact (a public policy issue), the comparison to the T’s is useful.


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