By on July 22, 2011

An anonymous tipster has sent us a copy of a letter from the Michigan congressional delegation to President Obama [PDF here, or hit the jump for an embedded copy], which calls his proposal for a 56.2 MPG CAFE standard by 2025 “overly aggressive and not reasonably feasible.” The letter is remarkable in the sense that the major signatories are Democrats, and yet it attacks the President’s proposal with more vigor than many inside the industry. The letter also confirms that that the Detroit-based automakers already rely on CAFE’s “credit” loopholes in order to meet the 2012-2016 standard, a stunning admission of how far behind Detroit still lags in fleet fuel economy. And rather than taking responsibility for their situation, the MI representatives blame CAFE for Detroit’s low fleet efficiency, arguing that “manufacturers that produce primarily smaller vehicles will have an unfair advantage.” Moreover, the MI reps don’t just admit that Detroit is behind its competition, but even goes as far as to argue that “the overall targets currently proposed may exceed what is technologically achievable for the the US automakers that produce and sell the majority of the larger pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles that US families and businesses -and tens of thousands of autoworkers- depend on.”

In short, the letter strikes me as a shockingly old-school display of excuses and apologia that stands in sharp contrast to the “green car revival” narrative that Detroit and D.C. pushed so hard during the bailout. And frankly, I’d be embarrassed if I ran one of the largest automakers in the world and I was reduced to pleading my inability, on technological grounds no less, to achieve a 56.2 MPG fleet average (which in “window sticker” terms, translates to about 41 MPG EPA) within 15 years… even though CAFE is riddled with loopholes that make it easier to continue building thirsty trucks. If Detroit were actually leading the charge for a gas tax (or offering any kind of market-driven alternative), it might have some credibility on this issue, but as things stand this strikes me as nothing more than whining. So much for America’s “can-do” spirit…

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117 Comments on “MI Congressional Delegation: 56.2 MPG CAFE Proposal “Not Feasible”...”


  • avatar
    cackalacka

    Wolf! Wolf!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The letter is remarkable in the sense that the major signatories are Democrats, and yet it attacks the President’s proposal with more vigor than many inside the industry.

    Despite what they may tell you on Fox News, American politics are ultimately local. At the end of the day, it is not about party affiliation, but about who butters whose bread in your home district, because that who gets you (or pays to get you) reelected.

    GM, Ford and Chrysler are all based in Michigan. There is absolutely nothing surprising about this letter at all. If the industry wanted the feds to mandate that tailfins and dual exhaust systems be installed on golden retrievers, you can bet that Carl Levin would ask for it.

  • avatar
    ttiguy

    Oh please.

    Ed, your claim “how far Detroit still lags in fleet fuel economy” is a total cop out. Go and do YOURSELF a favor and compare “Detroit” to it’s competitors segment by segment. You’ll realize your criticism is entirely irrational and unfair. Compan(ies) wide, “Detroit” may not be at the top for fleet fuel economy but that would be impossible considering the markets they strive to serve. It’s like criticizing your beloved Hyundai for not having the most towing capacity across their entire line of cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh please yourself. Sorry, but that the government is looking at regulating fleet-wide fuel economy, so that’s kind of germane to this discussion… meanwhile, the government has no requirements for towing capacity, as it does not affect our national security or environment. Averaged over the fleet, Detroit absolutely does lag the competition… and they reap huge profits from trucks as their reward. You think Hyundai doesn’t want those big truck and SUV profits? Everyone wants to rake in the cash, but some companies realize that the short-term rewards aren’t worth the long-term drawbacks (namely CAFE compliance and rising gas prices).

      As I point out in one of the linked stories, CAFE has credits that allow over-complying cars (like the Volt) to compensate for under-compliant trucks… so Detroit already has its loophole. If these firms were arguing that a gas tax would bring the market into line with CAFE and level the playing field, that would be one thing… but instead, they’re just looking for more loopholes. Detroit just wants to freeze the truck market in time so that it can continue to reap huge bucks from it, but that goal is incompatible with the goal of improving fuel economy in a fair, consistent manner.

      And at the end of the day, the government is actually helping Detroit by creating a level playing field. Sooner or later, gas prices will hurt the large truck market, which will undergo the same shift to car-based platforms and compact alternatives that has already happened among SUVs. When that happens, Detroit’s BOF addiction will be broken anyway… so these companies should really look at CAFE as an opportunity to wean off the addiction without having to go through the shock of cold turkey.

      Meanwhile, the real issue I take with this letter is the argument that the Detroit firms are technologically incapable of achieving the proposed 2025 standard. This is bullshit, pure and simple. All of these companies are as capable of selling a 56.2 MPG fleet (remember, it’s actually 41 MPG EPA) as any other… they just don’t want to. They see a strong market for large, thirsty trucks as a birthright, but the sooner they move past that perspective, the healthier they’ll be in the long run.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        “You think Hyundai doesn’t want those big truck and SUV profits? Everyone wants to rake in the cash, but some companies realize that the short-term rewards aren’t worth the long-term drawbacks (namely CAFE compliance and rising gas prices).”

        Toyota wanted all those truck profits, built a $1B plant or two to build ‘em. but no one wanted theirs. at least not to the extent Toyota built capacity. so did Nissan and the Titan didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

        if Hyundai could build trucks and get people to buy them, they would. and they could clean-sheet it since they have no prior product to work from. perhaps they’d come up with something like a Ridgeline. that’s been a raging success for Honda. not.

        if trucks (and pony cars) are the last, most ego-driven purchases when not used for work purposes, the buying public will continue to be as loyal as they have been to the domestics. and the domestics will work as effectively as they can w/in our political and regulatory system to do so. this is a surprise to you why ?

        and the smart people are already working on meeting the regs, it’s just a question of when and how much.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Ed, your last paragraph needs to be etched in granite, and gilded in gold.

      • 0 avatar
        nuvista

        Ed, the CAFE proposal for 2017-2025 has not yer been published, but it is unlikely to require a single fleet average fuel economy number for all manufacturers. Just as well, because such a single standard would be misguided.

        Manufacturers should be free to choose in which segments they compete; and consumers should be free to choose from which manufacturers they buy different types of vehicle. A single number for manufacturers violates those principles.

        It would be unreasonable to expect Land Rover-Jaguar, for example, to meet the same aggressive fleet average standard as Toyota. This was a major flaw in the earlier standards. A manufactuer shouldn’t be penalized because it chooses to make only trucks and luxury cars; or because consumers prefer its trucks over those of the competiton, in the case of full-line manufacturers.

        The new standards will probably follow the pattern set by the 2012-2016 standards, which are set at the individual vehicle level based on footprint, i.e., average track times wheelbase. The smaller the footprint, the higher the vehicle’s CAFE stardard; and the standards for trucks are lower than those for cars.

        The idea is that each vehicle should be as fuel-efficient as reasonably ossible, given its type and size, rather than trying to force all manufacturer to offer the same mix of vehicles … or expecting consumers to buy a similar mix of vehicles from each manufactuter.

        The CAFE fleet average for a manufacturer is calculated as the sales weighted average of the CAFE standards of the individual vehicles sold. Thus each manufacturer will have its own fleet average CAFE standard, depending on sales mix. A manufacturer with a high cars-to-trucks sales ratio will have a higher fleet averafe CAFE standard than a manufacturer with a low ratio.

        You judge manufacturers by looking at the deviation of each manufacturer’s actual fleet average from its CAFE standard. Alternatively, to ttiguy’s point, you compare the vehicles of one manufacturer to vehicles of the same type and size from another manufacturer, individually. Direct comparison of fleet average fuel economy isn’t revealing.

        The 56.2 mpg number being banded about is a target for the industry as a whole, not the standard for each manufacturer. This is an essential point that both you and the signers of the letter are missing or, I suspect in the case of the politicians, ignoring. Nevertheless, the new standards will almost certainly require some downsizing and sales mix adjustments, both of which can have negative profitability impacts on some manufaturers.

        Profits are of course the reason for every vehicle manufacturer’s existence, so it’s reasonable for companies to object if they expect negative profitabilty impacts. I don’t know the magnitude of the impacts and whether they can be reasonably accomodated, but I see no reason to vilify companies merely for raising the issue. Indeed, assessment of the financial impacts to companies (and consumers) are a required part of the process of setting CAFE standards.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        “meanwhile, the government has no requirements for towing capacity, as it does not affect our national security or environment”

        Neither does CAFE. It is kabuki for the chattering classes, and it has had absolutely no effect on any meaningful parameter.

        The likelihood is that our gutless and feckless rulers will never try to do anything meaningful, about this or any other important issue.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @nuvista- Great post!

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      If the large truck market is “that” evil then why did Toyota invest billions in developing the new Tundra and Sequoia (which landed with a sales thud) building the San Antonio truck plant and an Alabama V8 factory? Why do they offer non-CAFE friendly offerings like the FJ Cruiser and Land Cruiser, on top of the above mention Sequoia and Tundra – both at the back of the back in providing the best MPG in class. Why does Nissan sell the Titan and Armada? At 15/20 MPG the 2011 Honda Ridgeline is not only a sales failure but a gas sucking pig compared to the more capable and larger offerings from GM, and in particular from Ford.

      Historically, hasn’t Toyota in particular signed on with the Detroit 2 and the big Italian (oooh, I like that, the Detroit 2 and the big Italian, sounds like a bad mafia movie) on not wanting to see CAFE increases.

      Everyone loves the stereotype of the 3/4 ton pickup being driven alone 3/4 of a mile to pick up the kids at soccer practice. No denying there are some people that do that, but there is data from all automakers that indicate this person is a dying breed. Banks aren’t giving HELOCs to anyone with a pulse and a FICO score above 480, the reality of $3 a gallon gas has set in for many Americans. If someone is buying a 4WD Suburban LTZ these days, they probably care about CAFE, fuel economy, or the price of gas as much as a BMW X5 or Land Rover owner, likely not at all. Or, if they do care, they have a legit need for 4WD and big V8 on a frame. There will always be the compensating for shortcomings types – who buys a GT-R on need? Aren’t gas sucking sports cars in a way just as bad as a gas sucking truck? And where do you draw the line? Do you really NEED to go 0 to 60 in 6 seconds in a Camry SE? Isn’t around 9 seconds with the 4-banger plenty fast enough?

      The biggest thing hurting the sales of fullsize trucks and vans right now is small businesses are terrified to spend a penny on anything, and the house building industry is beyond being in the toilet. There is not easy answer to either of those, and fullsize truck sales will continue to suffer.

      By even TTAC has lamented the death of the compact truck in America. Why is it Toyota and Nissan (and barely for Nissan) are the only real players (and soon to be the only players) in this space? Because as TTAC noted a compact pickup truck costs about as much to build as an entry level fullsize pickup. There is really no incentive (beyond CAFE) to build them.

      Bob the Builder may declare, “can we do it, yes we can,” but he can’t haul drywall in a Leaf, Henry the Butt Crack Plumber can’t haul an inventory of hot water tanks in a Focus, when I was on a search and rescue team we didn’t go driving off into the bush in Honda CR-Vs, and a Corolla isn’t well known for carrying “truck” mounted carpet cleaning compressors and equipment in the trunk.

      There will always be a “need” for fullsize trucks. Business will always complain about regulations that get in the way of profit, regardless of the business. Local government drones will always align to their own personal best interests in being able to keep a job as a elected official. At the simplest level that means supporting business and keeping the electorate gainfully employed. As long as Americans have money in their wallet and Katie Perry on the TV, they are happy. It is in a way a sad state of affairs, but I don’t see any harm or foul here.

      There will always be trucks. I think the easist path to solving this is closing the loopholes and complex rules and let light trucks operate on a different standard, and tighten the definition of what a light truck is to prevent minivans, cute utes, and crossovers from getting thrown into the same bucket to play the game of, “lets have fun with math.”

      • 0 avatar

        “If the large truck market is “that” evil then why did Toyota invest billions in developing the new Tundra and Sequoia (which landed with a sales thud) building the San Antonio truck plant and an Alabama V8 factory?”

        You do realize that this is a question only you can answer, right? The Michigan congressional delegation isn’t out there advocating on behalf of Toyota or Honda, and this isn’t about “good” or “evil.” At the end of the day, this is all one big compromise to keep California from running off and creating the dreaded “patchwork of standards”… and to the automakers’ credit, they’ve been admirably laid back about the whole thing because they know that any one national standard is better than any two (or more). All the hysteria seems to be coming from dealers, the CAR, and now the Michigan congresscritters.

        Speaking of hysteria, nobody is talking about banning trucks (again, look at the loopholes), and there are separate “car” and “truck” standards the single numbers we throw around (like 56.2 MPG) is the average of the car and truck standards. The 2012-2016 Final Rule is right here in PDF format if you ever want to give it a read.

        Finally, your point that “there’s no incentive (beyond CAFE) to build compact pickups” points out exactly how cheap gas distorts the market. If there aren’t consumers now who want some pickup capability with better fuel economy than a full-sizer, at what gas price will there be? And if consumers don’t have modern compact options to compare to when they buy a cheap full-sizer (because it’s not really in the mfr’s interests), are they demonstrating a preference for full-size trucks or a preference for the more modern option?

        This is why I’m glad Ford is selling the Transit Connect, GM is bringing its next-gen Global Colorado to the US, and Chrysler is developing a “lifestyle” pickup on the next-gen Caravan platform (yes, really). The more of these compact and “Crossover Utility Truck” options there are, the better consumers will be able to find the vehicle that’s right for their lifestyle and the less scary CAFE will be for the industry.

      • 0 avatar

        “Bob the Builder may declare, “can we do it, yes we can,” but he can’t haul drywall in a Leaf, Henry the Butt Crack Plumber can’t haul an inventory of hot water tanks in a Focus, when I was on a search and rescue team we didn’t go driving off into the bush in Honda CR-Vs, and a Corolla isn’t well known for carrying “truck” mounted carpet cleaning compressors and equipment in the trunk. There will always be a “need” for fullsize trucks.”

        It’s a shame that the other 99% of the world does not have any of those professions, or there might be an export market for American full-size trucks. All of those silly foreigners driving Isuzu NPRs with 8,000 lb. payload capacity and drop-side bed. Don’t they know they can buy an F-150 for the same price and get 75% lower payload capacity and 40% worse fuel efficiency, all while living out their Walker Texas Ranger fantasies? Morons.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @Praxis

        If your screed was actually true, Toyota would have never developed the T-100 or the Tundra and there would be Hilux’s plowing the US streets.

        I’m very aware you’re not going to find many F-150′s in London, I do watch Top Gear. <– joke Praxis, joke, I've actually been to London, and driven there, and other parts of the world).

        Attempts to downsize pickup trucks here have landed with a thud. Declare it irrational, call me an apologist (hey Toyota, Honda and Nissan are all that this party – it ain't a Detroit thing). Shoot the Honda Ridgeline only gets 15/20 MPG – a fullsize Ford kicks it into the ground, and the offerings from Dodge and GM incrementally best it – all with vastly more HP and torque, and for GM and Dodge with two extra cylinders.

        I had asked the question to Ed on why did Toyota invest billions upon billions in the Tundra's design and marketing, build a dedicated factory in San Antonio and a dedicated V8 factory in Alabama. The answer is – that is what the market demanded and they responded.

        Just as the Chevrolet Camaro likely will never sell well in France, many of the compact trucks around the world will not sell well here in North America. It is just the way it is — for now — and CAFE won't change it. Government regulations don't shift demographics.

      • 0 avatar
        kowsnofskia

        This idea that even contractor types all “need” full-size trucks is garbage. In Europe, the majority of contractors make do with vehicles like the Transit Connect. I’ve seen many American contractors use minivans and even wagons (the last plumber I had to call rolled up in a Volvo 240 wagon!), and I imagine that many contractors could switch to a Caravan or Transit Connect without trouble. We’ve all seen Joe the Construction Foreman roll up in his F-250 carrying nothing but his toolbelt too.

        Now I’m not arguing that CAFE is a great thing – far from it – but we still seem to have a massive problem with buying goods whose capabilities far exceed our actual needs here in America (and this is several years into the recession to boot).

  • avatar
    tced2

    I’ve never understood these sudden, arbitrary adjustments to the CAFE standards. Why 56.2? Why not 56.3? or maybe 99.73 might be a better number? Oh and there’s there are other pesky (mostly scientific) principles at work. The fuel economy should be improving at some intervals and in variable amounts (depending upon the technology at the time). Politicians in the District of Control should be the last folks dictating the results.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    So they sent a 4 page letter to Big O.
    Yawn. Do they expect him to care or even read it?
    Missing from all this is What the Customer Wants.
    Now, the argument goes that people don’t buy 2 cylinder s#itboxes with 10 inch wheels and paper thin doors because they are not sold here, are too dangerous (those Gov. crash standards are important!) and most importantly because the automakers are not forced to make them by law.
    So we need rules that force them to make go-karts or else they pay fines. More correctly, you pay fines since the fees are passed on. Some directly, some indirectly.
    “But we need to wean ourselves from oil” Please.
    Park some airplanes instead and you’ll save plenty of gas for someone else.
    “We don’t feel technology can deliver these ratings”
    From another point of view, they said the same thing about emissions and fuel economy 35 , 25 years ago. So they have to step up and make gains too.

  • avatar

    I called Sandor Levin’s office (random choice) and said, basically, that I thought our car companies were far more capable than that, but it’s like with kids–if you don’t expect much from them, you won’t get much, while if you do, you will. The aide seemed embarrassed.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    Who has more electorial college votes, Michigan or California? Michigan is screwed. This EPA madness is all about 2012. They’ll drop the standards after January 20, 2013.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Despite the conspiracy theorists claims, the 200 mpg carburetor/fuel injector does not exist. Raising fuel economy – even with CAFE loopholes (otherwise known as ‘rules) – is really hard to do.

    If anyone could affordably produce a high-mpg car, we’d have it by now.

    Problem 1: Technology.
    Problem 2: Cost to implement.
    Problem 3: Regulation. (Do you still want 8 airbags and a 5-star rating with that 56 mpg?)
    Problem 4: Market demand mismatch with high mpg. Customers don’t want 56 mpg at the expense of added vehicle cost, louder interiors, poor ride, slow performance, or inconvenience (plug-in technology).

    These problems are why the first CARB EV mandate fell apart. So I think their complaints do have some merit.

  • avatar
    George B

    Ed, I think you are misreading the letter from the MI congressional delegation. They are saying that the kind of vehicles that GM, Ford, and Chrysler make in response to consumer demand, light trucks, don’t fit within the new CAFE regulations even with generous use of loopholes and credits. Further, if you effectively ban new trucks, the demand will be met by used trucks instead of new fuel efficient vehicles. CAFE has an obvious field of dreams problem in that even if a manufacturer is technically capable of building cars to meet a standard, there is no requirement that consumers buy what the manufacturer builds. Consumers buy domestic pickup trucks in large numbers but the new CAFE regs basically require manufacturers to build hybrids.

    • 0 avatar

      “there is no requirement that consumers buy what the manufacturer builds”

      There is if you want to get anywhere. People need vehicles, and if all manufacturers play by the same rules, the market will adjust to what’s available. This is the same facile argument that reigned supreme in the SUV heyday: “the market demands these monsters so it’s not our fault that our fleet fuel economy sucks.” But look at what happened to SUVs! OEMs invested in car-based utes and what happened? People didn’t stop buying vehicles because the BOF monsters they previously “demanded” weren’t there… they bought the damn CUVs, not used Expeditions (besides, CAFE does not “effectively ban new trucks” because of the credit/offset loophole).

      I’m convinced that this same dynamic will play out with most of the remaining truck market. Need I remind you all that no manufacturer has seriously invested in a compact pickup since the Clinton Administration? Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, slightly smaller diesel-powered (or possibly hybrid) trucks or even Aussie-style “utes” could replace a lot of the full-sizers in the market? And that with a higher CAFE, automakers would be more likely to invest in these kinds of products? Meanwhile, with car sharing taking off in Europe, I see a strong likelihood that truck-sharing will become a bigger deal in the US since lots of American families use trucks the way Europeans use cars (not for day-to-day transport, but because they occasionally need them for towing etc.). And those who really do need big trucks for professional reasons will be willing to pay for the technology needed to deliver the CAFE-compliant performance they need.

      The point is, markets evolve and only a fool would think that Detroit won’t have to tackle this issue at some point. Might as well tackle it now, rather than portraying the entire domestic industry as technologically unprepared for a market shift that’s coming anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Need I remind you all that no manufacturer has seriously invested in a compact pickup since the Clinton Administration?

        I guess your qualifer is “seriously invested,” but the Colorado/Canyon trucks were released in 2004, toward the end of Bush term I. As far as “serious” investment GM Atlas family of engines came out in 2002, and the L52 and LLR were built specifically for the Canyon/Colorado.

        When the trucks came out there were roundly critized for not only being mediocre through and through, but for not having enough tow capability and not enough payload capability. GM shot back saying they did extensive research and found that most drivers didn’t need 7,000 pounds of hauling capacity to pull a boat, a lower capacity would meet those needs. Never mind the absolute crappiness of the Colorado/Canyon platform, they were in part a complete failure because they were built on the premise of, if you build something with the capability an owner will actually use, not just check off the marketing boxes of raw stump pullin’ power and the ability to carry one head of live steer, plus the hay to feed them in the bed, people would still buy them.

        Customers have spoke – that is not what they want. It has taken how long to shift the American buying public to embrace B and C segment cars with premium car interiors and features? Twenty-five, 30 years?

        I do agree with you that when the Colorado/Canyon dies in 2014 in North America, that the Zeta platform Holden Ute with the GM 2.0L DI turbo-four as the base engine, a 3.6L as the middle engine, and the LS3 as a SS variant would sell very well. Will Bob the Builder get them to haul drywall? I don’t think too many of them would.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        And that with a higher CAFE, automakers would be more likely to invest in these kinds of products?

        I suspect that they would solve the problem by selling more four-cylinder cars to Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Hertz. During times that the truck market is lucrative enough, you could even sell them at a loss.

        Personally, if I was running GM or Ford, I would just pay the fines. Daimler, Porsche and BMW are routinely fined, and they couldn’t care less. Neither do their customers. Raise the MSRP by the amount of the penalty, and be done with it.

        If the government really cared about fuel economy, it would raise the fuel tax and let the market sort it out. But we all know that isn’t going to happen. Uncle doesn’t care nearly as much as he pretends to.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        “I see a strong likelihood that truck-sharing will become a bigger deal in the US”

        I sold my F-150 2 weeks ago because “Truck Sharing” is another word for borrowing a truck. The next best thing to owning a pickup is knowing someone else who does. I have a trailer now and couldn’t be happier.

        I think station wagons are long overdue and if sedans came in wagon form like they used to, the domestics could clean up in that segment. Ford, GM used to sell plenty of them, the Taurus/Sable wagons were everywhere so they would sell again.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        “Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, slightly smaller diesel-powered (or possibly hybrid) trucks or even Aussie-style “utes” could replace a lot of the full-sizers in the market?”

        1) people who actually use trucks for work will buy them, they have to. they will make purchase decisions based on capability (towing, mpg, size, whatever else is their need) and loyalty (their previous truck worked, they used it hard, they will go back to the same store). this market will always exist, as the GM exec pointed out in the other piece today – where was that reply posted ?

        2) people who buy trucks as personal use vehicles have a deeply personal, irrational need to have a truck. just like people want an M coupe or donk’ed Caprice or leather-lined Panther. if one’s sense of personal identity is tied up in being a “truck guy (or gal” some 3/4 sized “compact” truck isn’t going to do it. they’d probably rather keep their current big truck, save on a new/higher payment and farkle it up.

        I agree with truck-borrowing over truck-sharing. or just renting the “rent me for the afternoon for $30″ truck from Homey when you need to take the drywall home.

        I’ll repeat that I also don’t see this lack of technology or smarts as being anything even close to real – just because blowhard politicians (angling for UAW support for next year, if nothing else) put something into a letter doesn’t mean it’s the way the companies actually feel about it or what they are capable of.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    I think the CAFE should be abolished, and let car makers produce what the people want to buy.

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    In general I believe fuel taxation is the better approach. Forget Europe … higher fuel taxes and pump prices have shifted buyer preferences to smaller vehicles here in Canada, where the exact same fleet is for sale as in the US … and the same consumer needs exist.

    But since that’s not gonna happen, Ed is correct that CAFE is the next best thing.

    PS to George: Many buyers of full size trucks and SUVs are not going to shift to used vehicles for the simple reason that a huge percentage of those buyers DON’T NEED the enormous vehicles they’re buying in the first place.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    My naive misinterpretation of the coming MPG regs was that they were to be based on vehicle size, with targets for manufacturers to meet by size class. In that context, an overall manufacturer target doesn’t make any sense, it just punishes whoever’s been most successful at capturing the large end of the market.

    BTW – Ed, is Farago ghostwriting for you today? I take a lot of shots at GM, but I really feel this one ain’t justified.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t mention GM once. In fact, I’m slightly amazed that nobody from the OEMs has protested at being called (in effect) technologically incapable of building a fleet of cars, trucks and crossovers that gets 41 MPG (EPA) combined on average within 15 years. That’s the real diss here, and it irritates me that companies we recently bailed out are tacitly admitting it’s true because they think it will earn them a loophole or a handout. I thought these companies were can-do, car-making ninjas since the taxpayer–funded turnaround… where’s their fight? Where’s the pride?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Amen, Ed. Damn it, if you’re going to say (even tacitlly) that you can’t do it, you better put up one hell of a fight before you throw in the towel. Put in the R&D and Engineering that America used to be famous for and work like heck until shortly before the deadline. If you can’t meet the target, then take a bunch of Congress-critters and whoever is POTUS into your labs and skunkworks and show them what you’ve been able to create but calmly explain that you can’t do it. But remind them that you’ve managed to up fuel economy X% through hard work and could meet a lower target of Xmpg. Have some pride, America!

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Ed, your notion that Detroit makers are technologically incapable compared to ANY global competitor is pure hogwash and betrays your own technological ignorance, and dare I write, BIAS. The Germans are so far behind, congress actually has given them an exemption from meeting upcoming standards! As noted, they simply have been paying fines rather than complying.

        Today, Detroit models typically lead or, at worst, tie for best mileage in the volume segments, often substantially beating the imports so many are irrationally impressed with. This is proof that our American makers are as capable as anyone.

        There is no magic. The laws of physics are inviolable and larger, heavier vehicles will always consume more fuel than smaller ones. While there are some incremental opportunities with multi speed transmissions and direct injection,the truth is that the upcoming standards will limit consumer choice and drive costs much higher, bad for consumers and bad for the automakers.

        Educator Dan- You seem to forget this is not some simple contest. These auto businesses are already the most complex and technologically advanced in the world, and they must generate profits to survive.

        Developing & tooling new vehicles is hugely expensive and, particularly after the auto collapse, no maker can afford to invest $Billions to develop products consumers don’t want or can’t afford. You appear to mistake the concept of technological challenge with inadequate capability. The U.S. makers dominate large pickups and SUVs because they are very profitable, not because the imports have not tried to compete. The failure of any foreign brand to offer significant competition for this segment is clear in sales reports. No one is making much if any money on high efficiency small cars.

      • 0 avatar

        It ain’t my notion, doc… did you even read the letter? The MI reps were the ones arguing that the Detroit firms aren’t capable… my comment that you are replying to here simply points out how surprised I am that the OEMs don’t see the letter as an insult.

        Once again, spouting the “b-word” proves to be easier and more satisfying than actually reading and understanding the situation. I absolutely agree that the Detroit firms are more than capable of fielding a fleet of 56.2 MPG vehicles by 2025… so why aren’t they out there saying what you’re saying? Why are you spluttering angry accusations of bias at me instead of the congresscritters who are dissing their beloved automakers? The sad truth is that folks are trying to have it both ways here: Detroit leads on fuel economy.. except when the government asks them to improve fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The MI reps were the ones arguing that the Detroit firms aren’t capable

        I think that you’re being naive here. The Michigan reps always oppose this stuff. Carl Levin fought the CAFE increases back in 2007, and he has argued for scrapping it entirely for some time. Detroit is in his district, and he has long been a reliable supporter of whatever the industry wants.

        Also, let’s face it, Detroit is more greatly impacted by CAFE than is anyone else because Detroit still owns the full-size pickup and SUV segments. Those are the only spaces that they still dominate, so they have the most to lose by having to make changes that weaken their competitive advantage.

        For whatever reasons (presumably largely for the sake of PR), Ford and GM have decided that it isn’t acceptable to pay CAFE fines. The European luxury and exotic makes see CAFE fines as a cost of doing business, and just suck it up and pay them. (The luxury brands such as BMW do build more efficient cars for their home markets, but they would lose money and it would harm their brands if they attempted to import them here.) Ford and GM could solve their problem simply by following the lead of the Europeans. But of course, any company that has a portfolio skewed toward large and/or powerful vehicles is going to be more affected by these rules than are other companies that excel at building smaller vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Yes ED, it is your notion.
        I did read the letter, but I actually understand it, unlike the technologically impaired who believe in 100mpg carburetors and the like. It is true that Detroit makers lead many, if not most segments. That does not alter the facts of life. CAFE levels being proposed will do tremendous harm to the domestics uniquely, just as the first implementation did beginning years ago.
        Did you ever study physics? The standards are not technologically feasible for any carmaker anywhere. That is a side effect of those pesky laws of physics. However, they will have a much larger impact on the domestic makers, who completely dominate sales of larger vehicles, than the other 35 of 40 brands in the country who do not even offer pickups. The lone imports, Toyota & Nissan are nothing more than niche players in the segment, and will be far less affected. I can only conclude your failure to comprehend this is a sign of bias, or stupidity. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt with the b word.

        Can we get higher mileage? Only by huge limitations on consumer choice and much higher prices. What I see is actually just another round of government banning the products domestic makers profit from and American’s choose to buy.
        If it was a simple issue of intellectual capability as some such as Educator Dan seem to imagine, why don’t the illustrious Japanese lead fuel efficiency in the cars most people really buy. As Bob Lutz once said, “The Escalade will have to be the size of a Saturn Vue in the fleet mandated by California’s proposed CO2 regulations.

        That is why I chose the word notion. It is not founded on an understanding of reality, regardless of how many journalists and uneducated bloggers make you feel otherwise.

        You bet I am angry with your posts! They clearly have a continuing objective of damning the domestic car makers and now the Michigan politicians of both parties who are simply bringing reality to the imaginary world of those who think we can just increase fuel efficiency if we are smart enough.

        Anyone who actually has a Mechanical Engineering degree understands the physics. Some of them also understand the business. The rest are just sideline chatterers.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        In a sign that Hell may actually be freezing over, I am going to have to agree with Pch101 here. The foreign makers have had a history of not only fighting CAFE standards, but also saying, “we can’t do it.”

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/05/04/us-autos-fuel-idUSN0439269720070504

        (Reuters) – Automakers would be required to ensure their range of cars, sport utility vehicles, and pickups on U.S. roads average at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020, according to Senate legislation proposed on Friday.

        The compromise measure to improve fuel economy by roughly 4 percent annually — sold on Capitol Hill as a response to soaring gas prices and as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil — also seeks similar gains beyond 2020.

        The incremental improvements hinge on whether regulators determine they are technologically feasible and would not hurt manufacturers financially.

        Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group and Toyota Motor Corp. immediately dismissed the plan as unworkable.

        “It’s unattainable, period,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the industry’s chief trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

        “We want to support higher fuel economy standards but this is just too high of a proposed hike,” she said.

        How maybe Toyota has found fuel economy religion in 2011 they didn’t have in 2007; but the foreign car makers have fought these standards year after year. For big performance oriented European cars, they just pay the gas guzzler tax, buy credits from other automakers, roll it into the price, and call it good.

        I GET this relates to this letter, but as Pch101 and others have noted, I think far too much weight is being put into this. It is political positioning. As long as it remains popular with the registered voters in their state and/or district, they are going to do it. Oh sure, they could have been brave and refused to sign it but now we venture into a new possible website, TheTruthAboutPolitics. Don’t support something the registered voters in your district/state want, they will reward you with early retirement at the next election. And then the next Congress critters can come in and politically position that CAFE is bad.

      • 0 avatar

        Doc, I wouldn’t mind discussing this with you but you’d obviously rather call me stupid and misrepresent my position than discuss facts. You’re welcome to get as angry as you like about the situation, but please, send your thoughts to a congressman or something… you’re not expanding anyone’s understanding of the situation, you’re just venting your anger and condescension.

        If you want to explain how the laws of physics prevent compliance with the proposed standard (which, remember is 41 MPG EPA combined by 2025, averaged between cars and trucks), by all means go ahead and lay out your argument. I would be very interested in understanding how the government could create regulations, with input from the automakers no less, that asks said automakers to violate the laws of physics.

        Moreover, given the complexity of these regulations, I wonder how you were able to do the math that convinces you that the 2025 standard asks automakers to violate the laws of physics… my guess is that you can’t actually prove it, and that you’re parroting propaganda. You’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but insulting me while refusing to actually engage in the issue is a good way to get me to tune you out.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If you want to explain how the laws of physics prevent compliance with the proposed standard (which, remember is 41 MPG EPA combined by 2025, averaged between cars and trucks), by all means go ahead and lay out your argument.

        I think that I already did that. The only way for Detroit to pull up the averages would be to back out of the full-sized truck market, a space that they still dominate, and compete head-on in the car market where there is plenty of Asian competition that is better established and that generally has better products.

        At the very least, that’s risky. That isn’t to say that Detroit shouldn’t be improving its smaller car offerings, but you’re asking them to surrender the one territory that they own. That’s a substantial torpedo to their business.

        One can argue that we shouldn’t care about any of that, and we should just let them go screw themselves. But surely you can understand why they would care about it.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @Pch101, well by that logic then we should just excuse the Detroit automakers from building cars at all. Let’s let them concentrate on SUVs, trucks, and CUVs which are clearly the only thing they give a shite about as demonstrated by where they’ve devoted their efforts the past 20 years or so.

        “The only way for Detroit to pull up the averages would be to back out of the full-sized truck market, a space that they still dominate, and compete head-on in the car market where there is plenty of Asian competition that is better established and that generally has better products.”

        Now I know you followed that with saying the American’s small car offerings shouldn’t be improved but to me that seems like a defeatist attitude. Next thing you’ll be saying that the real problem is a “perception gap.”

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Now I know you followed that with saying the American’s small car offerings shouldn’t be improved but to me that seems like a defeatist attitude.

        No, it’s a practical attitude. Fuel is consumed largely by power output and weight. No government edict is going to override the laws of physics.

        CAFE is a copout, a symbol that politicians are too gutless to raise the gas tax. If the fuel tax was increased, we’d see the fashion truck market disappear very quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        “CAFE is a copout, a symbol that politicians are too gutless to raise the gas tax. If the fuel tax was increased, we’d see the fashion truck market disappear very quickly.”

        I absolutely agree with that. But I also think the chances of raising the gas tax (and please devote that money to the highways of America) are roughly equal to my becoming Pope of the Roman Catholic church. A politician with logical, substantitive ideas, and treating us lke adults who can understand well resoned ideas will never make it in this infantile country.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        But I also think the chances of raising the gas tax (and please devote that money to the highways of America) are roughly equal to my becoming Pope of the Roman Catholic church.

        I’ll take your word for that, Father.

        But seriously, if you were the CEO of a car company that was dominant or wanted to be dominant in the truck segment, then you would oppose these regulations, too. They can’t both play in that space and comply with the mandate simultaneously; they have to choose one or the other, because the nature of the vehicles themselves precludes them from complying.

        As I noted above, if I were in that position, I would negotiate the loopholes, etc., but ultimately just pay the fines. I’d make up for it as best I could by upselling the trucks so that the extra revenue could pay for the CAFE penalties.

        If the government truly wants to see a shift in the demand curve, then they need to get there through taxation. But they aren’t really very serious about it — CAFE is a means of outsourcing the political burden, not an effective way to save energy.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Ed, I don’t want to call you stupid, so I assume it must be bias that makes you unable to understand just how great the impact will be on the American makers. Of the 40 brands available in the U.S. only (5), GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan make full size trucks. These generate a large share of the volume and a larger share of the profit for the Detroit 3 only. Toyota is the smallest player and would be hit to a some degree, while Nissan is virtually out of the business anyway with miniscule volume. You imply that the letter means the U.S. makers alone are incapable of achieving better economy, yet evidence shows they are more capable than the best Japan has to offer. GM and Ford Trucks are the leaders. Avalanche 4WD V8 beats the car based Honda Ridgeline V6 fuel efficiency already. Have you not considered that Honda was really trying to provide better mileage? The concepts seem so obvious to me, I assumed you would get it too, and must be biased to spin the letter the way you have done.

        CAFE has always hurt the American carmakers the most, because they have provided the large vehicles American’s want.

        Having been part of the Integration and Planning Staff at GM Powertrain, I know that the current reguirements will require pulling out all the stops and restricting some product availability. It will dramatically increase costs, certainly more than the consumer will save with lower fuel costs. We will already be seeing a fleet far different from the current one with the current standard The 56.2MPG standard is much, much more difficult and costly.

  • avatar
    Fromes

    Ed, if I follow your logic correctly you would be driving something that delivers much better MPGs then your M Coupe, do you feel that its more important to give into your perceived need for a sporty car then a fuel efficient one? Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is before you judge the actions of others.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Actually, no.

      It could also be that BMW limits the production quantity of fuel-thirsty M cars to lower the average, causing the M coupe to go up in price. If Ed is willing to pay several thousand more for the M coupe, he can:
      1) drive the M coupe
      2) be green
      3) put his money where his mouth is
      at the same time.

      • 0 avatar
        Fromes

        no, BMW doesn’t limit the production of M cars to lower the average, if this was true they would also limit the production of 7,6, and 5 series. I don’t think its ok for Ed to drive a vehicle he doesn’t need while advocating that no body should have a truck or SUV because they don’t need it. Ed can’t push the handling limits of the M coupe anymore then most people can push the towing limits of a one ton pick up. He should set the tone by buying a Prius, being that’s all anybody should need or want anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        It could also be that BMW limits the production quantity of fuel-thirsty M cars to lower the average

        Or it could be that BMW didn’t worry about it, and has paid well over $200 million in fines for not complying with the rules:

        http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/cafe/FINES-COLLECTED-SUMMARY.html

  • avatar
    wsn

    I agree with Edward. If the product mix doesn’t work for you, you can:
    1) Change the f*cking product mix, AND
    2) Pass the extra cost to end buyers

    I mean, if the end goal is to reduce fuel consumption and improve efficiency, the best way is to force people who don’t really need to drive a pickup not driving one. This is done by either higher tax, or high CAFE which caused the car makers to reduce supply of pickups to pass. Reduced supply will cause the pickup price to go up, which in turn makes sure that people only use it to make money (i.e. actual working truck).

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Indeed; it is a damn shame that fuel tax is a third rail. A fuel tax which accurately reflects the hidden costs of maintaining the energy industry and motoring infrastructure would render CAFE moot, would render hairbrained per-mile GPS schemes moot, and would reach the same goals. Just phase it in. Done.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        Just phase it in. Done.

        And get pounded in your next election cycle?

        Yes, CAFE policy is as economically illiterate as the current tax code. It encourages all sort of corporate rent seeking and non-productive employment for legal and math geeks.

        But it’s not gonna go without major changes in public attitudes. Convince taxpayers that the money raised would go to roads and congestion reducing tools (not to semi corrupt mass transit systems and kickbacks), and you may have a case.

        That said, Americans really enjoy the freedom to travel in comfort in large vehicles. It’s a very big country – people want to move about – and taxing that movement will never be popular.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        It’s tiresome to say it but anyone who wants higher taxes, open your checkbook, the Treasury will gladly take you donations. Until you do this, until you do not take all the deductions allowed, you have no credibility. I bet every last one of you scratch out every deduction legally possible, all the while saying taxes need to go up. Let me help you out with htis, what you really mean is that everyone elses’ taxes ought to go up but not yours.

        Also, the coercion of consumers into other kinds of vehicles, what you are really saying is that everone else should have to settle for some sort of American Trabant or Lada. It’s not s much that you don’t like choice or cars or driving, it’s that you think there are too many people exercising their freedom. Your choices are the only valid ones and the common folk, well they crowd your roads don’t they?

        Also, the externalities some of you amateur economists out there like to write about. Ok let us factor them in for fuel prices. But if we do that, then it’s only fair to factor them in for every other form of transportation. Let’s charge mass transit users the full price for each ticket, Amtrsk users pay full price too, bikers, well they have to pay for their share of the roads and bik paths, walkers, hey same thing.

        All you people want everything your way and want to impose your will on everyone, well try and work with the other side some. Don’t treat them as if they’re ignorant and greedy, be nicer. Put a velvet glove over your mailed fist.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        “It’s tiresome to say it but anyone who wants higher taxes, open your checkbook, the Treasury will gladly take you donations.”

        I’m sure it’s not half as tiresome as having to read this “argument.”

        Repeatedly.

        Seriously, MikeAR, do you have this clipped to a word-processor ready to paste it?

        The fuel tax needn’t be a zero-sum game, but it would hold consumers more accountable to their usage of a critical resource, the infrastructural support that goes into supplying/using this critical resource, and would help smooth market distortions and encourage technological improvements over the long-term in a much more market-oriented/simple approach than CAFE.

        “Let me help you out with htis, what you really mean is that everyone elses’ taxes ought to go up but not yours.”

        Uh, hombre, I drive a turbo-charged car. I’m well aware that a gas tax would have direct impacts on my weekly expenditures and a LARGE indirect affect. But if you don’t think the American tax payer is going to feel an infrastructure pinch, I’ve got a bridge in Minneapolis to sell you. We all can’t George Bush this thing, we’ve got bills to be paid under all that asphalt.

        You don’t need to be an amateur economist to know our attitudes and tastes are in for a reckoning. It’s not my argument you have a beef with, it’s our reality.

  • avatar
    Harley

    I’m on TTAC almost daily but have finally seen the light. Will not be back, done. This article was the final push.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      ttac is still the best source that reflects the vox populi, and EVERYBODY in the business reads it (manufacturers, distributors, dealers, the UAW). They may not always comment, but they do READ.

      What we have seen since the days of biting-criticisms from Farago about the “truth” is that ttac has morphed into a politically correct forum that simply lays out the topic while carefully tip-toeing around to avoid stepping on any toes and offending any paying advertisers. And so it is with this topic.

      Nevertheless, if you want to know how “the people” feel about a subject or topic, ttac is the only place of consequence that reflects direct input from the people and ttac rates right up there with daily must-reads like autonews, autodigest, Edmunds, KBB, Intellichoice, Autonation and the WSJ.

      Don’t be surprised if someone representing a vested interest like the UAW or an auto maker posts a controversial comment that elicits heated commentary from the peanut gallery. Know-it-alls are a minor distraction. Merely a nuisance. Nothing more.

      Harley, you’re doing yourself a disservice by leaving ttac. You can do without them, but they cannot do without you.

      • 0 avatar
        BlueEr03

        Actually you have it backwards. TTAC can easily do without someone who is incapable of engaging in intelligent conversation. But Harley can’t do without ttac, There is nowhere else to get this level of info.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        LOL! Aren’t you being a little harsh on someone who doesn’t agree with someone else’s premise? How about all the other comments offered, here and elsewhere, from the intelligent to the absurd? And we got some doozies right here on ttac! Some of them are ROTFLMAO entertaining.

        How about the self-appointed intellectuals and experts who have absolutely no inkling of what it is like to sell new cars for a living, yet talk as sages and gurus with wisdom gained from wikipedia and google searches? Plenty of them here!

        No doubt what we all can agree on is that ttac remains a potent source of opinion from people of all walks of life interested in the new car business. And that, EVERYONE connected to new car sales finds helpful.

        I have to confess that the pro/con comments on ttac, even if misinformed or showing clear bias by the commenter, have been decisive in my recommendations when asked to give one. I know that everyone on the management team of my relatives’ new car dealerships follows ttac, autonews, CR, JDP, the WSJ, and others closely.

        Even though ttac has changed since the days of Farago, ttac remains a must-read (even for Harley – no matter what he does for a living).

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    It has nothing to do with a lack of “can-do spirit.” The majority of people simply don’t want the plastic shitboxes that automakers will have to push out to meet these unrealistic goals.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    The core problem is Detroit engineers are outclassed by Japanese engineers. It is that simple. Detroit underpays engineers, so the only engineers that work for Detroit companies were educated at below average colleges, and frequently scored only average grades at best. The low paid offer from Detroit was the best they could get. This underpay problem attracts the dumbest, and the low pay results from no money left to pay engineering because the United Auto Workers are overpaid and overbenefited.

    Overpaid and Overbenefited United Auto Workers = No Money For Engineers = Dumb engineers = bad gas mileage.

    Top engineers from top schools obtain much higher job offers outside of the car industry.

    Worse, Detroit claims “class leading” mileage on many cars, but side by side car tests show the Japanese vehicles usually beat Detroit mileage in real world tests conducted by the likes of Car and Driver and Motor Trend.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @jimmyy- Where do you come up with this fantasy! Are you just anti-American?

      U.S. auto engineers are well compensated, and often from top schools in the country. They are not second rate to anyone, anywhere.

      In fact, a retired top Toyota executive hired a number of years ago to help GM improve quality made they statement that “GM had brilliant people in a mediocre system” compared to Toyota’s mediocre people in a brilliant system. That is the real truth.

      Those who really understand the business based on years of experience in it know how many commenters here are woefully ignorant of reality, or worse, under distorted erroneous perceptions such as you have described.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        Sorry. Large numbers of Detroit engineers are educated at “second chance” colleges like:

        UofM Dearborn
        Lawrence Institute of Technology
        Wayne State University
        Michigan State

        Many did some time at Henry Ford Community College.

        That is no brain trust, and people from such schools would struggle to find a job on the ultra smart coasts where Stanford and MIT engineers flock for the real money. Question: How many ivy league school engineers are working around you in Detroit? I bet next to none. THAT IS A PROBLEM.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Jimmy, any chance you’re a college grad? If so, an alum of what school and what degree? Casting aspersions on others isn’t very bright unless you have the credentials to back up your arrogance. Somehow, I believe that you really don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      What you just said, prove it. Bring the data that backs you up if you can. I really don’t think you can and unless you’re an engineer and a very smart one, you have no right to say what you said.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @MikeAR- Thank you! (I assume you were responding to jimmyy.) His statement is based on utter ignorance and there is certainly no proof that he can offer.

        As a small indicator of technical competence, it is notable that GM engineers were awarded far more patents last year than any other company, particularly the Japanese. http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-gm-energy-patents.html

        It is also clear that many self-styled experts here could never haved earned an engineering degree as they display a profound lack of understanding.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        You would be right, I was responding to him, you just beat me to it.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Accepting a job to work in a third world toilet like Detroit in the first place suggests desperation and an inability to be hired anyplace better. Sure, you may not actually live there but you have to pass thru it. And scumbags will commute to where the good pickings are so you’re not safe at work or home in the suburbs.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @jpolicke

        so much hate, so much bullsh!t.

        there are lots of very, very smart people who come here specifically to work in the industry – if one is an enthusiast about cars (rather just spouting hate from behind a keyboard) working anywhere else would be cheating yourself out of what’s important to the industry and where you can make a difference. it’s not a business for people who aren’t committed to it and lots of those people got out of the industry and the area during the downturn.

        talk all the uninformed garbage you want about how awful it is, I will continue to enjoy all the good things the area has to offer and enjoy my commute through Detroit to work. I’ve never feared for my safety in 40 years living in the area.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    @jimmyy-
    The difference between us is that I do know a great number of the GM engineers and engineering leaders after nearly 40 years of experience, while you have only opinions.

    Top engineering institutions are well represented, particularly in advanced degrees held by leadership.

    All Engineers learn the same facts anyway, whether from Lawrence Tech or MIT. The real truth is the best performers in business are typically not those with the absolute top grades, but those with solid understanding of the facts and broader capabilities in other aspects of life.

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      A person we have on our staff has GM engineering experience. He told me numerous people with engineering titles frequently have a 2 or 4 year non-engineering degree instead of a high quality engineering degree, or an engineering degree from a lower quality college. He indicated he knows of designers that have no degree at all. This is incredible. GM should remove all of these clowns and replace them with people holding high quality engineering degrees if they expect to hit the high mileage requirements.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        A person we have on our staff has GM engineering experience. He told me numerous people with engineering titles frequently have a 2 or 4 year non-engineering degree instead of a high quality engineering degree, or an engineering degree from a lower quality college. He indicated he knows of designers that have no degree at all.

        I seriously doubt that this is true. If anything, I would expect the opposite to be true.

        Kettering University was founded by GM. Kettering began as an in-company engineering university, and is today one of the best engineering schools in the country. It serves as a feeder school to both GM and much of the auto industry.

        I seriously doubt that pedigrees were GM’s problem. The insularity of its culture and its inability to adapt to change have been its problems. We can see an anecdotal example of it right here on this thread — when confronted with superior opposition, they respond by circling the wagons, waving their Go Team! pom poms and claiming superiority, even when they are woefully and obviously inferior.

        The Japanese raised the bar, and GM was extremely slow to respond. Having been number one, that Detroit supremacy complex and pride got in the way, and it cost them. Unfortunately, it apparently didn’t cost some of them nearly enough…

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        That person on you staff is misinformed. GM does not give engineering assignments, let alone titles to employees who do not have an engineering degree. Product Engineering notably hires top graduates from top institutions, typically with advanced degrees.

        There may have been some exceptions who came up through the ranks years ago, though I am sure most are long gone by now.

        I can’t get into detail, but personnel discussions over 20 years ago let me know the requirements to be a GM engineer. In fact, today GM is reluctant to hire Mechanical Engineering Technology 4 year graduates for anything but Technician assignments.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pch101- I graduated from General Motors Institute, “The West Point of Industry” that became Kettering University. It was and is the top engineering and industrial administration university for anyone interested in a career in the auto industry, or any other high tech manufacturing industry.

        GM realized the insularity that resulted from so many employees coming from GMI, typically up to and including the president of the company. They spun it off in ’84 and hundreds of other companies now sponsor students there. GM recruits from all of the top engineering universities in America today, and those of use from GMI had become a declining minority since the spin off.

  • avatar
    mykeliam

    I’ve been reading the comments, and I’m confused. Most of you are saying that GM, GfreakingM, can not build a truck that gets better than 20 mpg? Half of a truck is empty weight! I’m not an engineer, but I am confused as to why there is no six cylinder engine out there that can out do an eight cylinder from twenty years ago. Is that impossible to build??

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      In a short answer – apparently.

      Lets take a look at the Honda Ridgeline. Ready to be surprised. The Honda Ridgeline has a Honda 3.5L V6 engine under the hood producing 250 HP and 248 pound feet of torque. These are barely adequate numbers in the truck space, but they can tow and haul. Ready for the Honda’s MPG

      15 city, 20 highway

      Now if anyone could do it, you’d think Honda would be it. It isn’t THAT easy. I mean think about it. If ANY auto maker could build a fullsize 1/2 ton pickup truck for the US market that got say 20 city / 27 highway don’t you think in the land of $3 a gallon gasoline they would already be building them?

      It is kind of the same argument made by all of the hawkers of fuel economy improvement products. The Tornado will increase your fuel economy by 25% or more, won’t void your warranty and only costs $60!!! Buy it NOW! REALLY?!?! If it really worked wouldn’t be the automakers be install the miracle device.

      There aren’t simple answers to complex engineering problems – if there was most of the Best & the Brightest would be dirty filthy rotten rich.

      Now lets compare the Ridgeline to a planet destroying GM fullsize crew cab short bed 1/2 ton pickup with a 5.3L V8 under the hood with 325 HP and 340 pound feet of torque (IIRC torque correctly). You can enjoy 16 city and 20 highway. So its bigger, heavier, more capable, has more power, more torque, more cylinders, and incrementally better MPG.

      If you downsize a pickup truck, you need torque to make up for the smaller engine. Diesel engines would be awesome at this but American buyers don’t gravitate toward diesel. Building an engine that is high torque with a fat usable band GENERALLY speaking eats into fuel economy because of the design changes needed to push up the torque curve. It could be done with cams and other voodoo but the complaints for NVH would be deafening.

      There are plenty of examples where car engines have been pressed into truck duty and they don’t do very well. There is also examples of where truck engines have been pressed into car duty and have also not done well (the Ford 4.0 V6 is great in a Ranger or Explorer, awful in the Mustang – it wasn’t built for that purpose). It isn’t a cut and dry rule, the Dodge
      Viper does darn good with a V10 truck engine under the hood, and no one is going to poo-poo a ‘ye ol’ GNX with the GM 4.3L V6 and a turbo charger.

      Attempts to build a midsize truck as a path to fullsize replacement have landed with a huge thud. Even American based companies make different trucks for global markets, with no plans to bring them here. If there wasn’t a Titan, Tundra, F-150, Silverado, Ram I suspect there would be a lot of HiLux running around. But that isn’t the case.

      No simple answers.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        …and no one is going to poo-poo a ‘ye ol’ GNX with the GM 4.3L V6 and a turbo charger.

        The GNX did not use the 4.3L V6. It used the 3.8L. The Syclone and Typhoon used the turbo 4.3L.

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        “…but American buyers don’t gravitate toward diesel.”

        You wouldn’t think that if you came to southern New Hampshire. It seems like every townie who comes into money trades in their old wooden bed Toyota for a lifted Powerstoke or Duramax. They can go muddin’ and get good fuel economy. I know if I had the means I’d get a new BT-50. I’ve begged Mazda for it and all they say is “Thank you for your interest but no, we won’t be bringing this truck over.”

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    mykeliam- You can’t beat the laws of physics. My 2008 Sierra extended cab 4WD weighs 5,700#. Trucks are designed to do work and must be large, robust and heavy to accomplish their goals and today achieve better mileage than large cars did 20 years ago.

    GM builds the most fuel efficient pickup, the Silverado 6.0L V8 Hybrid, with 21Combined MPG, 23Hwy & 20City.
    Ford’s F-150 with turbo 3.7L V6 is second, rated 19Comb, 23Hwy & 17City.
    Silverado XFE 5.3L V8 is third with 18Comb, 22Hwy & 16City.

    Toyota Tundra with naturally aspirated 4.0L V6 only manages 18Comb, 20Hwy & 16MPG.
    Nissan Titan is the laggard with 15Comb, 17Hwy & 13City.

    The GM/Ford advantage over the Japanese is even greater in the much higher volume 4WD models. In fact, Avalanche 4WD with 5.3L V8 beats the car based Honda Ridgeline 4wd V6 in fuel economy!

    Maybe this technological capability is why GM so dominates light duty pickup sales and large SUVs.

    Don’t believe me? See http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm to compare any models you wish. There you will find the real truth.

    So much for Japan’s better engineers!

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      So much for Japan’s better engineers!

      Detroit has spent decades designing lousy passenger cars, using inferior assembly techniques. Toyota introduced lean production, and it took GM decades to even do a half-assed job of copying it.

      Your hubris is telling. GM insiders spent so much time congratulating themselves for being the world’s largest corporation that they failed to realize that they were resting on laurels built in the 1930′s, by other people who had retired and died long before them. It’s no wonder they needed bailing out — it would be hard to find a company afflicted with more delusion and tunnelvision than the pre-bankruptcy General Motors, a company so inept that it needed a government overhaul to fix it.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pch101- You think you know but you have no idea.

        My 50 years experience as an automotive engineer trumps your blog reading and your TV watching, too.

        You are right about one thing. The Japanese had far better quality at one time.

        Today GM and Ford Quality rivals the very best in the world.

        The notion that government “overhauled” GM is simply factually inaccurate.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        My 50 years experience as an automotive engineer trumps your blog reading and your TV watching, too.

        Detroit devoted decades to making lousy cars that Americans didn’t want. If you were part of that problem, then you owe the American people and GM’s former shareholders an apology.

        The notion that government “overhauled” GM is simply factually inaccurate.

        Complete nonsense. Pontiac was Lutz’s baby — it’s gone because of the task force. SAAB was spun off because of the task force. Saturn is gone because of the task force.

        The automotive task force did more in a few months than GM’s inept management could do in decades. You were raised on GM Koolaid (or I suppose that was Dexcool, yet another defective GM product) and have fooled yourself into thinking that you didn’t need the help.

        I wish GM had failed during better economic times, so that it could have been liquidated and sold off to another automaker. Unfortunately, it failed at a time when we had no choice but to rescue it. We had no choice but to do it for the economy, but GM surely didn’t deserve it.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Psch101- Your lack of any credentials to support your presumption is notable.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Your lack of any credentials to support your presumption is notable.

        Yes, we all should envy the outstanding effort that produced the Vega and the Chevette, those fantastic GM diesels of the 70s, the Cavalier/ Cimarron, the Aztek, the G6, the Fiero and the Aztek.

        I must admit, I’ve helped to run fewer companies into the ground than have the managers of GM. Some folks are better at failure than are others, I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pch101- I knew I had it right. You really don’t have anything to back up your presumption, do you? As a matter of fact, the G6 was a great car.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You really don’t have anything to back up your presumption, do you?

        I freely admitted that my experience is with turning around entities, not with destroying them. I will give GM credit — they are far better at self-destruction than I could ever hope to be.

        As a matter of fact, the G6 was a great car.

        The fact that you could possibly believe that is a great example of why GM needed to be rescued by the taxpayer.

        The marketplace made it loud and clear that the G6 was a rotten car. In a segment that is the bread and butter for Toyota and Honda, the most love that the G6 could get was from Avis.

        GM’s track record is nothing to brag about. The reason that GM got billions in taxpayers money is that it couldn’t cut it on its own. Without the government to save it, it would be in the annals of history, and in many respects, it’s a shame that it didn’t end up as just a footnote in the record of corporate failure.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pch101- to repeat,”You think you know, but you have no idea.” You can write what you want, but your perspective is simplistic and devoid of understanding of reality. Such presumption based on what you read about the business is astounding.

        It is quite evident to those of us who really do understand.

        Help us understand how GM is growing away from second place Ford here and has regained #1 status globally while Ford has fallen to 5th place if they build cars no one wants.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Pontiac was Lutz’s baby…

        If that’s how Lutz treats his babies, I’d hate to see how he treats things he hates.

        Kill the Firebird (then say you don’t want it back when you resurrect the Camaro), Build the G3, build the G5 (with no GXP turbo version), build the Aztek, kill the Bonneville name, put the Grand Prix in the microwave for 30 seconds before sending it out to battle, build the Sky so the Solstice has to compete against it in an already small niche, don’t give the G6 any meaningful updates while the Aura and Malibu are released, and call it “a damaged brand”.

        They did get a Corolla hatch and two sporty Holdens. Although I think that had as much to do with keeping Holden safe as anything else. Calling the Monaro a GTO without even the slightest exterior tweak was a pretty poor move. The G8 didn’t receive anything special compared to what is given to the Zeta sedan in China (as a Buick) or the Middle East (as a Chevy), meanwhile the Camaro got an extensive Zeta rework and a North American assembly point. Plus he wanted to make the G8 into a Chevy a few weeks after Pontiac’s demise.

        Lutz loved globalization and the Kappa platform, but I doubt he gave a damn about any of GM’s individual brands.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You can write what you want, but your perspective is simplistic and devoid of understanding of reality.

        Coming from the guy who just claimed that the G6 was a great car, I’ll take that for what it’s worth.

        GM was a failed company that had to be rescued by the taxpayers. That is simply a fact.

        Absolutely nothing to brag about whatsoever. You’re obviously in denial, but you worked for a losing enterprise that imploded on itself, thanks in large part to the unwillingness of the diehard cheerleaders to change with the times. The fact that what was once the largest corporation in the world could be turned to ruin in just a few decades, with so many people asleep at the switch, is astounding.

        My internship there was enough to warn me that good things wouldn’t come from staying there. I’m glad that I had the good sense to avoid the embarrassment of working there full time.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If that’s how Lutz treats his babies, I’d hate to see how he treats things he hates.

        I never claimed that he was actually good at it. But he did claim that he wanted Pontiac to become a sort of BMW for GM.

        That wasn’t exactly a terrible idea. But he wasn’t going to get there with the G5 or the Grand Prix or the G6 or the Aztek or just about anything else in the lineup. That’s what happens when the cheerleaders spend their time shouting about the “perception gap”, instead of fixing the very real product gap that separates the competitive class from the rental class.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        But he did claim that he wanted Pontiac to become a sort of BMW for GM.

        Pontiac was closer to BMW in 1989 than they were in 2009.

        There must have been a rental car company with “B.M.W.” as its initials that Lutz was thinking about when he said that.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pxh101- You spent some time as an intern, so you know it all?
        It is all clear now!
        You hate GM because they would not hire your.

        Good choice on their part.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You hate GM because they would not hire your.

        You’re hilarious. And as usual, you’re wrong.

        No, they invited me to come back. I politely declined. That proved to be a very wise choice.

        The people were generally nice. But the company was obviously dysfunctional, the labor relations were awful, and of course, the vehicles were inferior to the competition.

        The management there was trained to drink the GM Kool Aid of thinking of the company as being the best, and I could see that those who didn’t buy into it had no chance of being promoted. With such a bubble mentality, it was pretty obvious to me that there was no hope of improving the cars or the internal workings of the company when disagreement was viewed as a form of disloyalty.

        And since I was able to figure out that product quality was going to be key to the company’s future success or failure, I could see that there was nothing to be gained by staying there. There was no doubt at that point that the Japanese were eating GM’s lunch and that something radical would have to be done to halt the decline. With the cheerleaders in charge, the odds of those improvements happening were less than zero.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      My Tundra 5.7 has NEVER gotten more than 12mpg on Shell Premium, anywhere. It could be my lead foot, the speed or the altitude I’m driving and hauling at. I’m lucky to get 3mpg going up US82 into the mountains with a 8X12 Haulmark trailer. On the way down the truck idles for 16 miles – I get great mileage then!

      My wife’s dad still drives a 2500 4X4 Suburban with the 454 and he gets about 6mpg over the same terrain, but the stump-pulling power of that Big Block blows away any normally-aspirated pickup truck. We haven’t tried the Ford EB V6 Twin Turbo yet. We want to see how well it holds up in daily use for those who actually use one now.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @highdesertcar- FWIW my 2008 GMC Sierra extended cab 4WD 5.3L with 3.73:1 axle gets 15.6MPG overall on regular. I drive with a heavy foot a lot of the time, too. I don’t like such low mileage due to the axle ratio, but live with it for the trailer towing capability. I only put about 6,000 miles a year on it, but hate those near $100 fill ups.
        In fairness, I am in Michigan, pretty flat, and only 650 or so feet above sea level.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Olds, that’s actually pretty respectable mpg for a 3.73. And 6K/yr is pretty darn low annual mileage. Yeah, I can’t come near any of that. I live in the middle of nowhere and the nearest town (pop: 30K) with a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Shell station is 23 miles away, so the mileage on our vehicles really piles up quickly. Wife’s 2008 Highlander: now pushing 52K. My 2011 Tundra: has already passed 13K. The wife’s office is 42 miles away atop the mountains along US82. Long, slow daily commute.

        The best tow vehicle I ever had was a used 1999 F250 with a V10 and a 4.11 rear end I bought at an estate sale. I had high hopes of keeping it in my stable of cars for awhile, when I had a stable of cars, but the nit-noy problems that plagued Ford finally got to me and I placed an ad in the Thrifty Nickel and sold it. The mileage on that V10 (at 65mph) was about as good as what you are getting, unless you pushed the pedal to the metal. It had even more stump-pulling power than the 454.

        My 1988 Silverado 350 OTOH got good mileage for that vintage at 65mph, but I think my style of lead-foot driving, the altitude and the distances involved play havoc with mpg. None of my trucks regardless of brand have given me good mpg. The all-around mileage on my Tundra is lower than my 2006 F150.

        Then again, I don’t care about the price of gas. I am addicted to gas and prefer driving to walking. When the price of gas went up my patronage of Starbuck’s, McD, Applebee’s, Chili’s, IHOP, et al, dropped precipitously. Golden Corral continues to provide me good value for my sparse dollars (we eat out at least once a day), as do other AYCE joints like Chinese buffets.

        It’s about 6 miles from my house to US54 and when I enter US54 I have to accelerate immediately to at least 75mph (speed limit) or get run over by 18-wheelers and other traffic that go much faster than 75, so what ever mpg I was enjoying cruising towards the highway is gone in whatever time it takes me to accelerate up to the speed of traffic.

        That’s why I’m puzzled by all these claims of mpg’s because there are so many different factors to calculate into the mix. And those factors change from driver to driver.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        highdesertcat- You are sure right about how driving style affects mileage! When I was a kid, my dad kind of bragged about how fast he could get from here to there. He had a company car and didn’t care much about the mileage. Today, with his focus changed to fuel economy, he drives at or below the speed limit and is getting over 40 MPG on a base engine automatic Cruze on trips!
        During the Arab oil embargo in ’73-’74, Americans developed a sudden (and short lived) interest in fuel economy. Oldsmobile provided District Service Managers with a device that could be easily plumbed into the fuel supply line to check mileage. It was set up outside the passenger window so you could see how fast the engine would consume 1/10 of a gallon. It was amazing to see how much variation came from acceleration and speed changes.

        Though some poo-poo EPA fuel economy estimates, at least they are consistent and the most reasonable method to compare fuel economy between different vehicles. Since they are simply derived from emission tests, which do not include high speeds and accelerations, they tend to generate higher mileage numbers than achieved in real world driving. Adjustments have been made to bring them more in line with reality, and they are still the most objective means of comparing the mileage capability of vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Olds, that brings up an interesting relevant aside. Back in May we pitched in to buy our granddaughter a new car for HS graduation. She chose a 2011 Elantra/automatic/air/cruise. Her mpg are nowhere the advertised numbers.

        Her daily commute is around 150 miles r/t, to/from college-prep courses at NMSU in Las Cruces, NM, and three other girls ride with her. The altitude, the high rate of cruising the 75mph speed limit, and the climb over the Organ mountains just eats up her mpg, which varies from day to day between 24mpg and 28mpg, depending on humidity and temperature.

        I’m not worried about her usage of gas (I’m helping pay for it) but her mpg are a long way from what Hyundai markets itself at.

        One of the other girls has a 2011 Focus which they use once in awhile but it gets even worse mileage over the same drive. I’m not paying for that girl’s gas, so it machs niks to me.

        Lots of factors to mix in.

  • avatar
    mykeliam

    -Doc – I’m just asking if this is the best that any vehicle manufacturer can do?? And since American car companies are supposed to be the best, that’s the best they can do??
    Twenty years ago a four cylinder was about 100 hp, now they get more than 200. Why can’t Detroit make a combination of engine and transmission that get 25 mpg in a truck?

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Mykeliam- Right now the best that can be done is the Silverado Hybrid which lists at $38K vs. $21K for the basic 1/2 ton. No one anywhere makes a more fuel efficient 1/2 ton truck with the capabilities of the Chevy Hybrid.

      Ford’s Transit Connect- a relatively tiny 4 cylinder work van only manages 23Combined, 26Hwy and 21City. It is probably one of the highest efficiency trucks available, but has a small fraction of Silverado’s (or F150, etc)capability.

      • 0 avatar
        mykeliam

        -Doc- How about checking that government web site you put up and seeing what Toyota did in 1988 with a 1 ton 4WD truck?? I like the way you bring up places to confirm your opinions. But I did the comparison and the Toyota gets 21mpg combined without fuel injection and at a competitive price. If Chevy can’t beat that we are in a world of hurt.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Mykeliam- If you looked a little further you would know that the ratings from 1988 are not comparable to today’s ratings. In fact, they have essentially been downgraded a couple of times since then.

        EPA gives a “new” rating of 18MPG combined for that 1988 “1 Ton” Toyota pickup, a small, 2.7L 4cyl 5 speed manual transmission truck. I hope you are not imagining it to be anything similar to a 1 ton Silverado!
        http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/calculatorCompareSideBySide.jsp?column=1&id=4917

        If Toyota is so damn good, why can’t they match Chevy or Ford truck fuel economy today, in the real world?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        EPA gives a “new” rating of 18MPG combined for that 1988 “1 Ton” Toyota pickup

        False. The automatic version is rated 19/22 under the new system, for an average of 20 mpg.

        http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/calculatorCompareSideBySidePopUp.jsp?column=1&id=4916

        I see that you chose the manual version, which gets lower fuel economy. You did a nice job of skipping over the link that contradicted you.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Pch101- I chose the manual on the assumption that it would produce the best mileage, not to mislead. Sorry for my error. I have no desire to mislead, only to get at the truth.

        Still, why compare a small, 4 cylinder truck to today’s full size pickups? It is like comparing apples to oranges.

        The GEO Metro had some awesome economy ratings longdecades ago, but no one offers a car that light today.

        Toyota’s best today simply does not measure up to Ford or GM. Have they become incompetent since the 1988 1 Ton?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’m sure a 25MPG pickup isn’t technically impossible.

      I’d guess that a 2WD six-speed Colorado-sized truck powered by a version of the diesel engine going into the Cruze would get 25 or better. However, it definitely wouldn’t have the spec sheet of the current gas powered half tons.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @ajla- I am sure you are right. I would love to have a small manual trans pickup that would give great mileage, but then I couldn’t haul a car trailer, or carry 6 in a pinch.

        Some issues stand in the way of a business case for the package you propose.

        A base diesel engine is a lot more expensive to produce than a gas engine, and exhaust after treatment necessary for U.S. regulations adds more cost. These small trucks already cost nearly as much to produce as the full size pickups, though they have much less capability and sell for much lower margins, and the still aren’t all that popular to start with. A carmaker has to be able to charge a high enough premium to cover the material and development costs of the program. A small share of a small segment of the market is the likely forecast for a diesel Colorado. A tough business case to sell.

        Actually, it appears that Ford and GM are dropping their smaller trucks in the U.S., I suspect an unintended consequence of the footprint provisions in the upcoming CAFE law.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @doctor olds:

        I’ve wondered before if the Theta platform could be made into a Fiat Strada-style utility vehicle by being fitted with a midgate system (so it can still have CUV passenger seating if needed). I would think that would be cheaper than developing an entire new compact truck platform, but I don’t know if the Theta can ever be rated to tow at least 5000lbs. I remember rumors about a Vue based truck several years ago.

        Because GM is going to offer the Cruze diesel in the US, I’m guessing they figured out some way to keep pricing under control. Especially with the Cruze Eco starting under $20K. I have a feeling that GM isn’t going to go through the trouble of making that engine compliant to US standards only to use it in one vehicle. I’m hoping to see that motor in the Equinox and Terrain.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @ajla- I don’t know about Theta, but Lambda can currently tow 5,200#. You are right that modifying an existing platform would be cheaper. I expect we will see evolution of the current full frame, full size trucks and elimination of the smaller pickups due to the impact of the footprint factor in upcoming CAFE regulations.

  • avatar
    mykeliam

    Finally, I was enlightened by this data from NHTSA:
    http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/cafe/FuelEconUpdates/2000/index.html#Section IIa

    To meet the goal of doubling the 1974 passenger car fuel economy average by 1985 (to 27.5 mpg), Congress set fuel economy standards for some of the intervening years. Passenger car standards were established for MY 1978 (18 mpg); MY 1979 (19 mpg); MY 1980 (20 mpg); and for MY 1985 and thereafter (27.5 mpg). Congress left the level of 1981-84 standards to the Department to establish administratively. Subsequently, standards of 22, 24, 26, and 27 mpg were established. For the post-1985 period, Congress provided for the continued application of the 27.5 mpg standard for passenger cars, but gave the Department the authority to set higher or lower standards. From MY 1986 through 1989, the passenger car standards were lowered. Thereafter, in MY 1990, the passenger car standard was amended to 27.5 mpg, which it has remained at this level.
    Light truck fuel economy requirements were first established for MY 1979 (17.2 mpg for 2-wheel drive models; 15.8 mpg for 4-wheel drive). Standards for MY 1979 light trucks were established for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 6,000 pounds or less. Standards for MY 1980 and beyond are for light trucks with a GVWR of 8,500 pounds or less. The light truck standard progressively increased from MY 1979 to 20.7 mpg and 19.1 mpg, respectively, by MY 1991. From MY 1982 through 1991, manufacturers were allowed to comply by either combining 2- and 4-wheel drive fleets or calculating their fuel economy separately. In MY 1992, the 2- and 4-wheel drive fleet distinction was eliminated, and fleets were required to meet a standard of 20.2 mpg. The standard progressively increased until 1996, when the Appropriations prohibition froze the requirement at 20.7 mpg. The freeze was lifted by Congress on December 18, 2001. On March 31, 2003, NHTSA issued new light truck standards, setting a standard of 21.0 mpg for MY 2005, 21.6 mpg for MY 2006, and 22.2 mpg for MY 2007.

    And finally…this little nugget: Since 1983, manufacturers have paid more than $500 million in civil penalties. Most European manufacturers regularly pay CAFE civil penalties ranging from less than $1 million to more than $20 million annually. Asian and domestic manufacturers have never paid a civil penalty.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I’ll read the rest of the comments later but have a feeling that A LOT of this will be sorted out by the market’s reaction to ever higher gas prices.

    While gas prices are currently at less than $4 a Gal in most areas for regular 87 octane, a story I read yesterday says this decline in prices isn’t expected to last much longer and that gas will rise to at least $4.05 a gal by year’s end and that we may WELL see gas hit $5 a Gal next year. I don’t doubt it may happen.

    And when that happens, you’ll see people clamoring for cars that get more than mid 20′s or people truly needing a truck will scrounge for good, running small trucks like Ford Rangers and their ilk, no matter the year as long as they aren’t total rust buckets, simply because they CAN get mid to upper 20′s on the highway, while not fantastic, is better than nothing until newer more fuel efficient small trucks are available.

  • avatar
    mykeliam

    -Doc- As an automotive engineer (or former if it fits) are you saying there is no way to get less than eight cylinders in a pickup truck with 300 ft/lbs of torque and 25 mpg combined?? I am in no way disagreeing with you. I am asking for information. You have more experience in this arena than I do. So why can’t that be done with a six cylinder engine??
    By the way, have there been many times when an average p/u buyer needs over 250 ft/lbs of torque?? I mean, the poser, who drives the pickup everywhere, does he actually need that much???

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      All he needs is a “ute” as the Aussies would say but we know the fate of the El Camino and Rachero in this country. Killing Pontiac gave GM a great excuse to not try the experiment again with it’s “G8 Ute.”

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Killing Pontiac gave GM a great excuse to not try the experiment again with it’s “G8 Ute.”

        If they really wanted it, they could sell it badged as a Chevy.

        I would expect that the Aussie dollar/ US dollar exchange rate puts the kibosh on much more dabbling with rebadged Holdens. They would have to be assembled in North America to make it worthwhile, and an experiment of that kind could prove to be an expensive failure.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      mykeliam, I’m not speaking for Doc but I want to tell you that until 1988, when I bought my first V8/Automatic pickup truck, all I ever drove and owned were full-size half-ton domestic brand pickup trucks with an inline six and three on the tree.

      My first truck was my Dad’s worn-out Fleetside Ford hand-me-down. It had to be scrapped because an overload of cinder-blocks bent the frame and buckled the bed where it connected to the cab. Mea Culpa! I did it.

      My next truck was a used IHC that lasted longer but required an inordinate amount of maintenance and repair. Served its purpose.

      After I bought my first Silverado in 1988 with a 350 and the 350THM, I’ve bought them that way ever since. Not because I needed it. but because I wanted it, and I could.

      My current truck is a 2011 Tundra 5.7 DC SR5. Don’t need that much truck either. But I wanted it, so I bought it because I could. Can’t imagine life without that jewel. Seriously! Finest truck I have ever owned. Does everything my other trucks could do and does it with more finesse, better ride and handling, and infinitely more power.

      I hope it continues to be problem-free. Only time will tell.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @mykeliam- Ford has a great turbocharged 3.7L V6, and it does achieve 1MPG better than GM’s much lower cost V8, at least this year. I would not bet that GM can’t step up with the next Gen Small block family with Direct Injection, still at lower cost than Ford’s turbo V6. GM also has an innovative 4.5L diesel on the shelf, if a business case can be made for its production. Still, all of these technologies cost a lot of money.

      The question of whether a consumer needs the capability of the full size truck is another matter. I suspect some may never use them for anything but transportation. I have asked folks with full size SUV’s why they prefer them, and other factors such as roominess for a large family with stuff to take on vacation in addition to boats to pull are typical responses. We still get to choose what we want to buy, and consumers choose light trucks a lot. They comprise 1/2 the market even with today’s fuel prices.

      The CAFE proposal will reduce choice and increase costs, dramatically so for the capability we now take for granted.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Someone said it here that if GM had failed in better times, we’d have let it die on the vine, but in troubled times, we had no choice to save it due to the ripple effect of suppliers and such if it had folded.

    Don’t know if any of you remember this but I recall a discussion with my Dad in the early 1990′s of the fear that GM then could be going bankrupt. They didn’t but even they have been perilously close going under at least once, and Ford was in deep doodoo in 2006 when it was feared they might be heading in a similar direction, but found that they had enough funds to prevent that, but it was tenuous at best for a few months. They were really were in the best position of the 3 back then and during this latest crises that began to show around 2008, 09.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I just bought a 600$ Ranger PU to replace my rusted out Grand Wagoneer. I hope to see at least a 5 mpg increase. I had the old 360 V8 timed and adjusted to gnat’s eyelash. On its best day, it got maybe 15 mpg. Its hard to go dumpster diving when all you have are BMWs

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Posters here talk about an “American can-do spirit” but driving that spirit is neither consumer demand nor the reality of physics. What we have is a Sovereign and his Regents, DEMANDING that this be done.

    Well, ordering something done and engineering it to be so, are two different issues. And there’s been no engineering data to even suggest these standards are possible; or practical if they are. Forget towing; can such a vehicle even CARRY four people? And it will have to; because if the wet-dream of a punitive gasoline tax becomes reality, a LOT of people are going to be carpooling.

    Compare, say, motorcycles. Any experienced rider can tell you that a passenger drops both top speed and fuel mileage…dramatically. And most motorcycles don’t even achieve 50 mpg. So we’re going to create vehicles that weigh four times as much, and do better? Not in this universe.

    That gas-tax concept, if put into place, isn’t going to sell little cars. It’s going to put many, many formerly-qualified buyers OUT of the market.

    And put the nation in the poorhouse. An added cost on energy, will affect the price of every item needed or used by every person.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    @Ed- I took a few minutes to search the fueleconomy.gov site for vehicles that achieve over 40MPG combined and found that there are just (7) cars listed, all either electric or hybrids: Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt(electricity only),Smart electric, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Lexus CT 200h. Volt is the only one that can accelerate to 60 in under 9.0 seconds.

    I wonder how you think the whole domestic fleet including light trucks can achieve an average of 41MPG given these current max economy examples, several of which (Civic, Insight & Lexus) just match that 41MPG average?
    This reality is why I mention the laws of physics standing in the way. The heaviest is Volt, about 3,781#. That is almost a ton lighter than an average full size pickup. Excluding the heavier EVs, the next heaviest to achieve 41MPG combined is the Lexus at 3,042#. You can not beat the laws of physics, and none of these cars is very large or capable of trailer towing. How would you expect to get there with a vehicle people really want to buy and can afford?

  • avatar
    Zombo

    It probably really doesn’t matter whether these CAFE standards are enacted or not . In 15 years when a gallon of gas is 8-10 dollars consumers will demand these high mpg vehicles anyway . And if Detroit can’t build them someone else will .


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