By on September 19, 2012

It’s the kind of mistake that only a blogger (said with a contemptuous sneer) would make. The Wall Street Journal reports that

“U.S. regulators rated a new Chrysler Group LLC compact car with highway fuel-economy of 41 miles a gallon, a move that fulfills a key element of the company’s 2009 federal bailout and cleared the way earlier this year for majority owner Fiat SpA to increase its stake in the Detroit auto maker.”

They got it wrong.

To hear the WSJ tell it, you’d be led to believe that

“Italy’s Fiat took control of Chrysler in 2009 after agreeing with the U.S. government to help the U.S. auto maker produce a line of new fuel-efficient on cars based on Fiat designs. Fiat was originally given a 20% stake in Chrysler, and was allowed to increase its holding for achieving certain goals, one of which was helping Chrysler produce a car that goes at least 40 miles on a gallon of gasoline.”

The WSJ isn’t technically wrong – one of the stipulations was for Fiat to help Chrysler produce a 40 mpg car. But it had nothing to do with 40 mpg highway, the Dodge Dart Aero, or even the current fuel economy regulations as we know them.

As our Editor Emeritus Ed Niedermeyer reported back in 2011, the requirement, as stipulated by the U.S. government, was for Fiat to produce a made-in-America car that got a combined 40 mpg unadjusted. This means, crucially, that the combined figure is calculated using the pre-2008 fuel economy calculation standard that led to inflated fuel economy ratings. How much of a difference does this really make? Ed laid it all out unsparingly

“40 MPG combined unadjusted translates to almost exactly 30 MPG combined on the “adjusted” EPA test cycle which is used to produce window stickers for vehicles currently on the market. This is hardly a benchmark for a meaningful “Ecological Commitment” in the sense that a significant number of currently-available mass-market cars currently achieve this standard, and the cleanest vehicles on the market exceed it by dramatic amounts. According to the EPA, at least 11 2010 model-year “compact cars” currently achieve the 30 MPG combined adjusted standard. At least six “midsize sedans” achieved the magic number for the outgoing model-year, as did two “upscale sedans,” two convertibles, two station wagons and three SUVs (although the SUVs are all derivatives of the Ford Escape Hybrid).”

The WSJ uses the 2013 Dodge Dart Aero as its example, but the Dart Aero isn’t the sole model to get the 40 MPG unadjusted combined figure – the base 1.4L 6-speed manual car returns 32 mpg combined, while the automatic 1.4L returns 31 mpg combined, which would place them above the 40 mpg unadjusted cutoff value. The Aero models get 32 mpg combined with either transmission. Meanwhile, Darts with the 2.0L 4-cylinder get 29 mpg combined with the manual (just missing the mark) and 27 mpg with the automatic.

While Ed already explored the inside story of how a few word choices effectively torpedoed any chance for meaningful advancement in fuel efficiency, (while giving Marchionne & Co a free slice of Fiat), the “40 MPG meme” is still alive and well. For all the darts that the WSJ has thrown at the Obama administration, one would think that they’d be the last entity to let the Dems dodge their well-aimed crosshairs on this issue.

 

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46 Comments on “Wall Street Journal Misses Its Mark With The Dart...”


  • avatar
    Toad

    “Wall Street Journal Gets It Miss Its Mark With the Dart”

    Not to be the Grammar Police but that headline gave me a headache. I’ve read it multiple times and still can’t figure it out.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “For all the darts that the WSJ has thrown at the Obama administration, one would think that they’d be the last entity to let the Dems dodge their well-aimed crosshairs on this issue.”
    –I see what you did there x3.
    Thumbs up.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      “For all the darts that the WSJ has thrown at the Obama administration, one would think that they’d be the last entity to let the Dems dodge their well-aimed crosshairs on this issue.”

      Hey, Derek, just wondering, are you an American transplant who was smart and fled when the getting was good? :)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Clever phrasing, but the Dart is an Alfa reconfigured for this market, its not an a purpose designed original such as Prius or Volt, its very misleading to give the administration credit. No different than when GM brought over the Cruze design or Ford the new Focus from Europe without being told too by Washington. If Fiat/Chrysler had come up with something fresh and innovative in the same time frame, then I’d shower praise on the administration.

      • 0 avatar
        billfrombuckhead

        Very few parts would switch between the Alfa and the Dart. BTW, the 4 cylinder FIAT MulktiAir Turbo engine is manufactured in Michigan.

        I give Obama credit for picking the best CEO in the business, Sergio Marchionne to run Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        CarPerson

        Excuse me but “No different than when GM brought of over the Cruze Design”???

        As a 30-year member of SAE, Detroit was very, very much involved in the Cruze design, including leaving out $10 worth of tin to better tie the roof rail and floor pan into the “B” pillar for logarithmically improved side crash protection. Over a billion years, it will save GM trillions of dollars in countries not advanced enough to call them on this.

        An engineering manager actually bragged about this in “Automotive Engineering”, the monthly SAE magazine.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes the Dart is just a rework of an Alfa but if Fiat hadn’t been given the keys to Chrysler we would not be getting this Dart and if there wasn’t a stipulation that to be given more ownership they had to build a “40mpg” car it certainly wouldn’t have be rushed to market as quick as it did if at all.

  • avatar
    snabster

    This is the problem with the entire right wing; they’ve been sniffing glue for so long they don’t care about facts.

    But it nice to know that up in Canada the facts run free. Well, that’s not really true, they still really want to pretend to be Americans.

    Where did I put that report on BMW and Jewish slave labor?

    • 0 avatar

      And here lies the irony; at the Jewish day school my brother and I attend, nobody would drive German because of that legacy, but Acura and Lexus were fair game. My parents friends who are Singaporean/ethnic Chinese felt the same way about Japanese products…

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        I’ve heard that sentiment before. My response is always: how much sooner would the Allies have defeated Hitler if half our Army & Navy (and all of our Marines) hadn’t been involved in the Pacific? “Your Honor, I didn’t rape her, I just held her down for my friend.”

        That war ended a long time ago. Unless you were personally affected, in which case I can understand, it’s probably time to leave the past in the past.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        My Jewish friend and her family have the same sentiment, from what I can tell to them its ‘the Germans wronged us so we have to buy Japanese’. I can’t speak to it myself.

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        We are getting off topic, but I think there is value in making a distinction between a people and a company. There are those who do not forgive VW, Benz, etc. for their deep involvement in the Nazi war machine, including in some cases support for human extermination programs. There is a logic to that, but at some point, I wonder if we get to a stature of limitations, or whether we can allow these firms to do pennance.

        Then there are people who don’t buy a vehicle because we were once enemies with the country of origin of its ownership structure. I have some difficulty here. My Accord was built in Ohio by Americans working for a company that was founded long after WWII.

        I do not get this sort of boycott. We were once at war with the British, actually twice. Would you buy a Morgan? What about a Ford built in Mexico. Remember the Alamo?

        At some point it starts to feel less like principled buying and more like prejudice.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Facts don’t matter when the truth (or Jesus) is on your side. Or something like that.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Snabster, your first sentence demonstrates a huge problem with political discussions today. You ascribe motive, “don’t care about facts” and generalize, “the entire right wing”, in response to a fairly technical misunderstanding. No need to defeat a whole national army of straw men.

      The Wall Street Journal is clearly wrong, but I doubt political ideology has anything to do with this mistake. Journalists, basically specialized English majors, have always done a lousy job of reporting on technical subjects that they don’t understand. I’m not surprised that they didn’t understand the difference between the various EPA fuel economy numbers. I read enough about cars to know that the EPA uses somewhat unrealistic test conditions and that the test results for CAFE are higher than the adjusted down window sticker numbers, but I don’t know how the sausage is made.

      Even reasonably competent people get car fuel economy numbers wrong. I remember yelling at the TV as Mythbusters tested fuel economy windows up vs. windows down at insanely low speeds like 45mph and 55mph. I hit 80mph, 70mph speed limit, on my basically city cycle 13 minute dash to work today. Cold start, 4 stop lights, 4 stop signs, drive as fast and aggressively as the police will tolerate, A/C on. For this drive the EPA test undervalues light weight, aerodynamics, and A/C efficiency.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Shocked, deeply shocked I tell ya! The US Government used semantics to bamboozle us. Round up the usual suspects and increase page clicks.
    Tightening tinfoil hat, I can envision someone testifying on the hill, that “different definitions of the data causes different truths but they mean the same thing” or something like that. This is just a few drops in the pond of government lies. Tinfoil hat off, back to cars.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Regardless- I am pretty impressed with the current crop of ’40mpg’ conventional gasoline cars. If you want to slam the Obama administration of being too unambitous that’s fine, but you have to at least acknowledge that he was right to push in this direction, and he has achieved notable results that you can see and buy off of showroom floors.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      +1 imc. Victory often starts with baby steps towards a goal.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I believe that $4-a-gallon gas deserves the credit. It hit that mark in 2008, before the current president was in office. Given industry lead times, the products are now showing up on the showroom floor.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Sir, Geeber’s accurate comment “given industry lead times, the products are now showing up on the showroom floor.” shows the current administration had NOTHING to do with the products available to you. Their impact (if any) would be felt in the next generation of products developed during their administration.

      You could make the argument the Dodge Dart is a result of the early 2009 bailout, but its an Alfa design, not original. Although personally I have high hopes, it remains to be seen whether it is a home run product or not.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The Dart was started after Fiat was given the keys to Chrysler and the total time spent on the project of turning an Alfa into a Dodge was done by the few engineers left after Daimler and Cerebus house cleaning in 18 months according to engineers who worked on the project I know. So yeah it does sort of fall under the we will give you even more of Chrysler if you produce a 40MPG by CAFE guidelines car. Because of that fact that it was largely designed and rushed to production with over worked engineers, on a tight deadline I have some serious concerns as to how it will turn out over the long run.

  • avatar

    Nice explanation of the mileage ratings. Thanks.

    Last paragraph: “(while giving Marchionne & Co a free slice of Fiat).” Should Fiat be Chrysler?

  • avatar
    Dan

    “a combined 40 mpg unadjusted. This means, crucially, that the combined figure is calculated using the pre-2008 fuel economy calculation standard that led to inflated fuel economy ratings. ”

    The unadjusted number isn’t the pre-2008 standard. It’s the pre-1985 standard. Which is the same treadmill as 85-07, but without the -25% “6 years in we admitted this test is wrong” fudge factor.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      My understanding is that it was based on the CAFE calculations that are not really related to the EPA sticker standards either new or old which are run on good old fashioned gasoline something many of us can not purchase any more.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    ‘Darts with the 2.0L 4-cylinder get 29 mpg combined with the manual (just missing the mark) and 27 mpg with the automatic.’

    The auto with 2.0l Acura ILX for example, gets 28mpg combined. And this is made in Indiana…albeit owned by Japanese automaker soon to be based (?) in Ohio, and a thinly veiled Honda Civic, and not a guised Gulietta with a muscle car name. (That said, one of VERY FEW ‘domestic’ rides built in the last two or three years i’d even consider buying, LX Charger and Panther Vic/Grand Marquis/TC notwithstanding)

    IMO the Civic/ILX is more ‘Murican than the Dart, that said, it really is a sexy looking car.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Leaving politics out of it, I think it is frankly amazing how much the Chrysler products have turned around under Italian control. I would live to hear about the internal changes to the company that has led to these drastic changes. As for the Dart, this is really more if a mid sized car that looks fun to drive, has 160 hp, looks good, and is affordable for under $20k… Oh, and it’s rated at 41 mpg highway in regular gas. Why the hate?

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    The Dart is just another example of how every time the American car industry doesn’t completely fail, it gets gushing praise. Such an average car wouldn’t even register if it were sold by Honda, Toyota, or Nissan. But when the Gubment bails out Chrysler and sells them off to the Italians who reskin a old FIAT/Alfa and give it fancy LED panels inside… it’s groundbreaking.

    • 0 avatar
      challenger2012

      FJ60etc Being that you are a Japanese fan boy, you can’t see 20/20 when it comes to the short comings from Japan. You mention that if the Dart were made by a Japanese maker it would be an average car. The Toyota Corolla is a laughing stock when compared to other cars in its class. The Honda Civic has been universally panned as a cheap copy of the previous model. Both cars are average at best.

      As for Government motors, are you referring to the protectionism offer by the Japanese government to protect the Japanese domestic automakers? Wonder why no foreign car maker builds in Japan? I also wonder why imports are about 7% of the Japanese market. If you are going to feed me the nonsense that Japanese are highly nationalistic, they seem to lose their nationalism when it comes to buying very expensive high ends cars like, MB, BMW, Audi, while ignoring cheaper foreign makes like Kia which sold only 3 cars in Japan in 2011. Audi 21,166, MB34,435, BMW 34,195 source, Japan Automobile Importers Association 2011.

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        I’m a realist.

        This car screams Avis and Enterprise inside and out, which is where most will wind up. Every one of its specs is within the barely adequate spectrum, and it’s obvious that the most attention was put into its gaudy instrument panel and awkward blend of Euro and Dodge outside styling.

        You can take an old FIAT and dress it up to the praise of the Obama, call mission accomplished, but you’re no closer turning around Chrysler and its many problems.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        FJ:

        I guess the Dart will live next to the Camry at the rental counter.

        My last 3 rentals from Enterprise have been Camry SE’s. 2 white, one black.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    If dodge had not killed the Neon they could have developed a fuel miser themselves.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    Mercedes killed the Neon and starved the PT Cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      I guess they saw the warranty costs of the Neon and decided to cut of the bleeding limb.

      Mine spent more time in the shop before 80K with warranty work than any other car I’ve ever had.

      Transmission issues were the most of it.

      • 0 avatar
        billfrombuckhead

        Neons have held up very well, my neighbor has one with over 200k for his daughter. There are very many still driving around and it was one of the best showroom stock racing cars ever made.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    So many comment on the big turnaround at Chrysler, but their products still make the bottom of the list in consumer magazines. As I recall, about every ten years there are claims that Chrysler finally got it right, but not long after they are bleeding money and back up for sale. As I’d hate to see another American company die, It’s long to take this zombie off of life support for good. The Italians will eventually figure it out and pull the plug.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Chrysler had 13 billion in the bank and was the world’s most profitable car maker in the world at the time of the ‘merger” Chrysler historically has been one of the world’s most innovative car makers. For 2013 Chrysler has the most fuel efficient truck lineup in America.


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