The Truth About Cars » EPA The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » EPA Ford Cuts MPG Figures For Six Models, Offers Rebates For Customers Fri, 13 Jun 2014 14:56:58 +0000 450x300x2013-Ford-C-MAX-Energi-Plug-In-Hybrid-450x300.jpg.pagespeed.ic.BQqqG7-Zox

Already stung by a reduction in fuel economy ratings for both the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid, Ford is yet again revising figures for various models, including the C-Max, Fiesta, Fusion and MKZ.

The breakdown of the changes is listed in the table below. Ford will also offer goodwill payments to lease and purchase customers, varying from $125-$1,050 depending on the model.

U.S. EPA-Estimated Fuel Economy Label Ratings and Goodwill Payments*
Model Year Vehicle Powertrain Revised

(City, Highway, Combined)


(City, Highway, Combined)

Lease Customers  Purchase
2014 Fiesta 1.0L GTDI M/T 31 / 43 / 36 32  / 45 /  37 $125 $200
1.6L A/T 27 / 37 / 31 29  / 39 /  32 $150 $250
1.6L SFE A/T 28 / 38 / 32 30  / 41 /  34 $275 $450
1.6L M/T 28 / 36 / 31 27  / 38 /  31 Combined MPG not affected Combined MPG not affected
2013-14 C-MAX Hybrid 42  / 37 / 40 45  / 40 /  43 $300 $475
Fusion Hybrid 44 / 41 / 42 47  / 47 /  47 $450 $775
MKZ Hybrid 38 / 37 / 38 45  / 45 /  45 $625 $1,050
Model Year Vehicle Powertrain Revised**

(Charge Sustaining, Charge Depleting, EV Range)


(Charge Sustaining, Charge Depleting, EV Range)

Lease Customers  Purchase
2013-14 C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid 38 mpg  / 88 MPGe+ /

19 mi EV range

43 mpg / 100 MPGe+  /

21 mi EV range

$475 $775
Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid 38 mpg  / 88 MPGe+  /

19 mi EV range

43 mpg  / 100 MPGe+ /

21 mi EV range

$525 $850

*Bolded figures in the above chart represent the values used to determine the customer goodwill payment.

** Combined numbers only.  Revised EPA-estimated ratings: 40 city, 36 highway MPG; 95 city, 81 highway MPGe. Charge depleting range is 20 mi.  Previous EPA-estimated ratings: 44 city, 41 highway MPG; 108 city, 92 hwy MPGe. Previous charge depleting range was 21.   

+MPGe is the EPA equivalent measure of gasoline fuel efficiency for electric mode operation.

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EPA Declares Mazda As Most Fuel Efficient Automaker Wed, 18 Dec 2013 10:30:16 +0000 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior

Though Toyota and Nissan may be leading the charge to a hybrid plug-in future, it’s Mazda who, once again, leads the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy list for the 2013 model year with an average of 27.5 mpg.

Not only does Mazda maintain its green crown in fuel economy — in part due to its SKYACTIV diesel and gasoline engines, which the automaker expects 80 percent of their 1.7 million units sold worldwide in 2016 to possess — but also has the lowest fleetwide composite carbon dioxide emissions for the outgoing model year with 324 grams per mile. Honda and Toyota make up the rest of the podium with 27 and 25.2 mpg, respectively, though Toyota’s CO2 emissions are 23 grams per mile higher than Honda’s 329 g/mi rating.

The Germans enter the list at No. 4 with VW netting an average of 26.2 mpg, while the Americans arrive with Ford at the No.8 position, rating just 22.6 mpg. Overall, the industry earned an average of 24 mpg and 370 g/mi. Kia and Hyundai were not included in this year’s EPA rankings.

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Never Say Never: Hydrogen, Diesel En Vogue Again Mon, 18 Nov 2013 14:44:19 +0000 Honda FCX Clarity

Remember this piece from the Honda Summer 2008 Hydrogen Collection? It was supposed to point the way to future of green fuel technology before the Tesla brought plug-in sex appeal down the ramp with their Roadster and, later on, the S, as well as the trend of compliance EVs from Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Kia.

But with sales of plug-in hybrids advancing far slower than originally expected regulators are taking another look at alternative ZEV powertrains.

Back in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama set a goal for 1 million EVs on the road by 2015, going so far as to place a $5 billion bet on Tesla and Fisker among other automakers. Since then, only 95,000 units have managed to leave the showroom for the open road, with sales of over 500,000 predicted for 2015 by West Bloomfield, Mich.-based Baum & Associates analyst Alan Baum. With the current administration downplaying their role in the EV market, President Obama is awarding $4 million to aid in the development of fuel cell technology and storage for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Leading the charge toward the hydrogen future is California. Aside from passing a measure to provide 100 hydrogen fueling stations as part of their clean technology vision, the state’s legislature has fine-tuned the Zero-Emission Credit formula to better benefit hydrogen vehicle producers — such as Honda and General Motors, who announced a partnership to develop their respective technologies back in July — while drawing down power from Tesla to as much as 40 percent by 2015 for each S sold.

Back in D.C., Audi is putting the pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to change their mileage formula for the showroom window sticker, and to level the playing field in taxation between diesel and gasoline. The reasoning, according to Audi of American president Scott Keogh, is that the current formula favors gasoline power on the assumption that most driving is done in the city; diesel it at its most efficient on the highway, and is one-third more efficient than gasoline in otherwise equal conveyances according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The diesels used today are cleaner as a result of the advent of ultra-low sulfur fuel and tailpipe exhaust treatment.

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Ford Fiesta SE 1 Liter EcoBoost EPA Rated At 45 MPG Wed, 30 Oct 2013 14:46:35 +0000 2014-Ford-Fiesta-1-liter-EcoBoost-engine-

The U.S. EPA has released its latest fuel economy ratings and the 2014 Ford Fiesta SE with the 1 liter 3 cylinder EcoBoost engine and a 5 speed manual transmission had the highest mpg rating of any non-hybrid gasoline powered car, 45 mpg highway, 32 city and 37 mpg combined. Both three and five door models had the same rating. Interestingly, Ford will still offer the Fiesta SFE (Super Fuel Economy), which actually gets poorer gas mileage than the 1 liter EcoBoost SE, 30 city/41 highway.

In addition to being offered in the U.S. Fiesta, the 1 liter EcoBoost is available in five different European Fords. The turbocharged triple now accounts for 32% of Focus and 26% of Fiesta sales in Europe and Ford has doubled production of the Cologne, Germany assembled engine to 1,000 powerplants per day.

2013 and 2014 EPA ratings for city, highway and combined:

Chevrolet Spark: 30/39/34
Ford Fiesta SFE: 32/45/37
Nissan Versa: 31/40/35
Smart Fortwo: 34/38/36
Scion iQ 36/37/37

BMW 328D 32/45/37
Chevrolet Cruze: 27/46/33
Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec: 28/45/34
Volkswagen Golf 30/42/34
Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon: 30/42/34
Volkswagen Passat: 31/43/35

Ford Fusion Hybrid: 47/47/47
Honda Accord Hybrid: 50/45/47
Honda Insight: 41/44/42
Honda CR-Z: 36/39/37
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: 45/45/45
Toyota Camry Hybrid: 43/39/41
Toyota Prius: 51/48/50
Toyota Prius V: 44/40/42
Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid: 42/48/45

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EPA’s Top MPG and Emissions Cop: Industry Ahead of Schedule to Meet New MPG Standards Wed, 09 Oct 2013 11:00:50 +0000 grundler

In an extensive interview with the Automotive News, Christopher Grundler, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said that the auto industry is ahead of schedule on meeting the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards that mandate a nominal average of 54.5 mpg (according to CAFE calculations) by the year 2025.


He said that most redesigned cars are already meeting the proposed 2016 CAFE standards. Grundler’s office is responsible for making sure that new car’s meet pollution standards and that their advertised fuel economy isn’t overstated. Recently, Hyundai and Kia were charged by the agency with overstating gas mileage claims and the EPA has also pressured Ford about it’s mpg rating for the C-Max hybrid, whose real world fuel economy doesn’t seem to match its EPA rating of 47 mpg. Grundler says that the EPA’s aggressive regulatory stance will continue and that the agency is shifting personnel resources from developing new environmental and fuel economy technologies to compliance and enforcement. He also said that the agency is working on finishing “Tier 3″ rules for tailpipe emissions and gasoline, in order to harmonize federal standards with California’s strict tailpipe emissions rules and that the agency is also looking at ways of harmonizing U.S. emissions standards with those used globally.


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LG Chem Suspends Newly Started Chevy Volt Battery Production at Michigan Facility Over Chemical Not Yet E.P.A. Registered Sat, 07 Sep 2013 22:13:36 +0000 LG-Chem

Only weeks after starting up long-delayed production of lithium-ion batteries for the Chevy Volt at their new factory in Holland, Michigan, LG Chem has announced that they are stopping production for up to six weeks because a compound used in that production apparently had not been registered for use in manufacturing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While no shutdown order was issued by the EPA, the agency recently issued a subpoena to LG Chem, demanding a list of chemicals used at the Holland facility.

LG Chem spokesman Jeremy Hagemeyer said in an email to news agencies, “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved. We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately 6 weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.”

The $303 million factory was partially funded with a $151 million federal stimulus grant to produce batteries for electric and hybrid cars. President Obama spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in 2011. The plant had more recently been in the news when it was discovered that employees were idle there. LG Chem at the time said that the plant’s output was not immediately needed because lower than anticipated sales of the Volt meant that their Korean operations were capable of supplying all the batteries needed for Chevy’s range-extended EV. After an audit by the U.S. Auditor General determined that employees were indeed not doing production work, LG Chem reimbursed the federal government $842,000.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Hybrid and EV sales are up this year and GM will soon start selling the Cadillac ELR, which shares the Volt’s “Voltec” powertrain, increasing the automaker’s demand for batteries. Test builds on the LG Chem production line in Holland began in May. Last month LG Chem said that mass production has started at their Michigan facility and that after those batteries’ conditioning period was over the factory would begin shipments to GM by October for use in the Volt.

Hagemeyer said that during shutdown there would be no layoffs. Employees will be engaged in continuous improvement projects, training and maintaining readiness, according to the company. “We view this as a temporary issue and are very confident that we will proceed with production soon,” he said, stressing that the plant is safe. So far, General Motors has not commented on the battery production shutdown.

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EPA: Blame Ford, Not Us, For C-Max Hybrids Not Reaching Mileage Ratings Tue, 27 Aug 2013 10:00:00 +0000 cmaxhybrid

Following Ford’s announcement that they will revise downward their advertised fuel economy ratings for the C-Max Hybrid, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said that the discrepancy between rated and real world fuel mileage was not the agency’s fault and appeared to be placing the blame on Ford for relying on the agency’s own rules, substituting data derived from the Fusion Hybrid because it shares a drivetrain with the hybrid C-Max. The EPA’s chief automotive regulator, Christopher Grundler, said that when they tested the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Sonata hybrids this summer, “It was fall quite reassuring.”

Grundler told Automotive News “The problem here is really not how the testing is done.” Grundler appeared to have been responding to Ford’s Raj Nair, global head of product development for the Dearborn automaker, who earlier said, “This is an industry wide issue with hybrid vehicles. We’ve learned along with EPA that the regulations create some anomalies for hybrid vehicles under the general label rule.”

Grundler did say that the Agency’s rule that allows very different vehicles that share the same drivetrain and approximate weight to share an EPA mileage rating will need to be changed to avoid the potential of misleading car buyers. He didn’t give a timetable but anticipated that it would take less than a year for the EPA to change the rule.

Toyota joined the EPA in pointing the finger at Ford. “Toyota agrees with EPA that this is a not a hybrid issue, but strictly an issue of how the Ford C-Max Hybrid fuel economy values were determined. We believe the current labeling methodology established since 2006 provides appropriate fuel economy label values for customers, when automakers apply these rules with good common sense and engineering judgment.”

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Editorial: Time For Fuel Economy Reform Fri, 16 Aug 2013 13:00:53 +0000 Low_Fuel_Graphic_on_the_FCD

The revised fuel economy ratings for the Ford C-Max aren’t the first time that an auto maker has been forced to backtrack on fuel economy claims – nor will it be the last unless meaningful reform is undertaken to ensure that fuel economy figures more accurately reflect the way motorists drive their cars in the real world.

The discrepancies between the EPA’s fuel economy figures and what consumers can expect stem from a number of issues. For starters, manufacturers are allowed to self-report their findings, with the EPA only auditing about 10 to 15 percent of the vehicles on sale in any given year. There are all kinds of tricks that auto makers can use as well. In the case of the C-Max, Ford used data from its Fusion Hybrid to determine the C-Max’s fuel economy, which lead to inflated ratings. While this may seem nonsensical to the outside observer, this is allowed under EPA guidelines, as the auto makers are only required to submit data for the volume model of any group of nameplates that use the same powertrain – even if they bear little to no relation to one another, as was the case here.

EPA test procedures also do not permit the use of ethanol. Across the country but particularly in emissions-conscious states, many pumps dispense gasoline with up to ten or even twenty percent alcohol, which significantly reduces mileage. The driving conditions used bear little resemblance to anything encountered in the real world. Tests are conducted on a dynamometer rather than on a real road, and 48.3 mph is considered “free-flowing traffic” on a freeway while city driving cycles use a barely-crawling speed of just 21.2 mph. Despite being utterly detached from reality, there is a good reason why the EPA fuel economy tests are designed this way. They aren’t meant to really test fuel consumption.

An article by Consumer Reports quotes one expert as stating that the tests

“…were originally designed to test emissions, not fuel economy.  They wanted to test a variety of speeds and accelerations.”

CR’s own fuel economy tests revealed significant discrepancies between the EPA numbers and their own road test cycles, with the biggest culprits being small turbocharged 4-cylinder engines. These tend to do well on EPA tests, since the low speeds don’t require much boost from the turbocharger. By contrast, real world driving does require the turbo to work harder when driven at speeds above 21.2mph, which is how a car like the Lincoln MKZ, with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, can return 16 mpg in the real world despite being rated for 22 mpg by the EPA.

With gas prices edging higher and fuel consumption becoming a priority among car shoppers, fuel economy tests have become increasingly importance for shoppers. Consumers compare “em-pee-gee” figures like they would have once looked at 0-60 mph times or crash test safety ratings, and rely on the EPA numbers to make purchasing decisions. Automotive marketing types know this, it’s not unreasonable to assume that powertrain calibration has sometimes been designed specifically with the fuel economy testing procedures in mind. Being able to hit a “magic number” like 40 mpg highway is a marketing coup. But being exposed as unable to hit that number in real life is a tenfold embarrassment, as Ford and Hyundai both know.

The current regimen of fuel economy tests have clearly outlived their usefulness.If the EPA test really is designed to measure emissions rather than fuel consumption, then that’s a strong indication of how relevant their guidelines really are. The next step is, what should be done to bring them back to relevance? Can the EPA test process be reformed? Should there be an end to manufacturer reported figures? Or is it worth ignoring EPA figures from now on in favor of someone like Consumer Reports or even a self-reporting site like Fuelly?


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Lake Michigan Car Ferry, SS Badger, and EPA Reach Agreement Mon, 25 Mar 2013 05:04:03 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

The Lake Michigan Car Ferry website is reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency and the operators of the Lake Michigan car ferry, the SS Badger, which runs between Ludington MI and Manitowoc, WI, have reached and agreement that will allow the historic steamship to continue operating. The Badger is one of the last coal fired vessels operating commercially on the great lakes and its continued operation means millions of trade and tourist dollars for the region it serves. During the summer months, the 6650 ton vessel makes two round trip crossings per day and can carry 600 passengers and up to 180 automobiles.

The SS Badger’s future was cast into uncertainty when the ship’s permit to dump coal ash into the waters of Lake Michigan, something that was common when the ship was constructed in the early 1950s, expired in December of last year. The current agreement allows the company to continue dumping ash into the lake with a 15% reduction for the next two years while constructing a containment system that must be in place by January 1, 2015. After that date, no more ash can be dumped overboard.

Yours truly made the Ludington to Manitowoc crossing in the summer of 2004 and had a wonderful time. Having spent around 5 years as an engineer on large, oil fired steamships in the Pacific, I was excited when, planning a cross country trip, I discovered the ferry service. Instead of driving south through the maelstrom that is Chicago area traffic, I cut across bucolic upstate Michigan and made a leisurely passage in fine weather. Like many other fans of the SS Badger, I am thrilled that this historic old vessel will continue sailing into the foreseeable future.


Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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EPA Confirms: America’s Most Fuel-Efficient Cars Are Not American Fri, 15 Mar 2013 20:03:22 +0000

Fuel economy of vehicles sold in the U.S. is on the rise, recording the sharpest gains in almost four decades, an annual report by the EPA shows. Foreign automakers have the most efficient fleets.

The EPA report shows an average 16 percent gain in fuel efficiency for in the past five years, to 23.8 miles per gallon.  The EPA’s list is led by foreign carmakers, with Detroit sharing the bottom places with purveyors of thirsty performance cars.

EPA Fleet Fuel Economy 2012
Honda 26.4
VW 26.2
Mazda 25.9
Toyota 25.6
Subaru 25.2
Nissan 24.6
All 23.8
Ford 23.2
BMW 23.1
GM 21.4
Daimler 21.4
Chrysler-Fiat 20.6

TrueCar’s sales-weighted fleet fuel economy report paints a similar picture. Remember: Fuel efficient cars do no good if they sit in the showroom or in the catalog. They must be sold and replace fuel thirsty cars to make a difference.

TrueCar Sales-weighted  Fleet Fuel Economy
Average MPG Average Car MPG Average Truck MPG
Manufacturer Jan’13 Jan’12 YoY Jan’13 Jan’12 YoY Jan’13 Jan’12 YoY
Hyundai 26.8 26.8 0 28.4 28.5 -0.1 23.1 23.2 -0.1
Honda 25.9 25.4 0.5 29.6 28.9 0.6 22.4 22.4 0
Volkswagen 25.9 25.8 0.1 26.9 27.2 -0.2 21.9 21.7 0.2
Nissan 24.9 23.6 1.3 29.8 26.6 3.1 20.1 20 0.1
Toyota 24.6 24.6 -0.1 29.6 29.6 -0.1 19.2 19.4 -0.2
Industry 23.4 22.9 0.5 27.4 26.6 0.8 19.9 19.6 0.3
Ford 22.8 21.7 1.1 29.2 26.8 2.4 19.9 19.6 0.4
GM 21.3 21.2 0.1 25.3 24.9 0.3 19 18.9 0.1
Chrysler 20.7 19.5 1.2 23.9 22.5 1.4 18.9 18.2 0.8
Source: TrueCar TrueMPG

The EPA punished Hyundai’s MPG-shenanigans by not listing the Korean maker. TrueCar uses the restated data, with Hyundai still on top.

If you miss data broken out by segment, size, and other criteria, the EPA has a long list of data. TrueCar does likewise.

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After The Hyundai EPA Scandal, The Stench Of Insider Trading Fri, 21 Dec 2012 14:16:11 +0000

Possibly a bigger scandal is following Hyundai’s MPG brouhaha: There is a stench of insider trading. “This smells pretty bad,” Robert Boxwell, director of consulting firm Opera Advisors in Kuala Lumpur who has studied insider dealing patterns, tells Reuters.

On November 2, 2012, it was announced that Hyundai and Kia had overstated the fuel economy ratings on many of its cars. Not surprisingly, the Hyundai share did a nosedive on the news. However, the stock had already cratered before the announcement. The stock fell 4 percent on November 1 with about 2.2 million shares changing hands, the highest trading volume of the year at that point.

Some say, it is par for the course at Asian bourses. “The idea that insider trading is wrong rather than smart is only being ingrained in the current generation of Asian players, not the older generation who are often still in the driving seat,” said Peter Douglas, founder of GFIA, a hedge fund consultancy in Singapore, told Reuters.

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Detroit Three Dimed Out Hyundai/Kia Over MPG: Automotive News Mon, 17 Dec 2012 17:43:59 +0000

Could one of the Detroit auto makers blown the whistle on Hyundai and Kia’s mileage figures? Automotive News seems to think so.

According to AN, Margo Oge, a retired EPA official, said it was

 a “credible” senior vice president from a domestic automaker called her in 2010 to accuse the Korean brands of “cheating” to get inflated mpg numbers. Based on the tip, Oge launched an audit that led Hyundai and Kia to admit they made bogus fuel-economy claims.

GM and Chrysler issued unequivocal denials over whether they were the guilty party. Ford’s answer didn’t pass AN‘s smell test. Ford stated that

“We cannot comment on any specific discussions, but Ford routinely speaks with policymakers about a wide variety of issues affecting our industry,” a company spokesman wrote in an e-mail. “We have been — and remain — an advocate of driving real fuel economy gains because it is in the best interest of our customers.”

Two issues here

1) We put forward a rather veiled suggestion that this whole thing was somewhat fishy in light of the circumstances surrounding previous questions about the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s fuel economy claims. Backroom chats with other industry types yileded more explicit suggestions that despite Hyundai/Kia’s wrongdoing, this whole thing was a witch hunt.

2) If Ford really was behind this, it’s hardly an opportune time for them to be pontificating about fuel economy claims.

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Fuel Fiasco Mk II: Consumer Reports Fingers Ford Thu, 06 Dec 2012 20:40:58 +0000

If you know how to listen and who to listen to, you have heard for weeks that Hyundai is not the only one with overenthusiastic EPA ratings, and that other car companies might soon have to restate their MPG numbers. The carmaker mentioned most often in those whispers was Ford.  Today, Consumer Reports magazine said that Ford’s C-Max and Fusion hybrids fall about 20 percent short of their fuel economy claims.

After running tests, Consumer Reports said the Fusion hybrid delivers 39 MPG both on the highway and in the city. The C-Max rated a combined 37 MPG in Consumer Reports’ test. Ford said both vehicles get 47 miles per gallon.

Says Consumer Reports:

“These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we’ve seen among any current models.”

According to Consumer Reports, the magazine usually sees-MPG results in its tests that are pretty close to the EPA’s combined-mpg estimate. More than 80 percent of the vehicles CR tested are within 2 mpg.  “But the overall mpg for these C-Max and Fusion models is off by a whopping 10 and 8 mpg, respectively, or about 20 percent.”

Reuters tried to contact Ford, but did not get an answer.

Says CR:

“We’re not alone in these findings. Some Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid owners have reported fuel economy below the EPA estimates and other media outlets have experienced a similar shortfall.”

CR reported the results to the EPA.

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Hyundai Fuel Fiasco: Whose Shoe Will Drop Next? Fri, 30 Nov 2012 05:25:36 +0000

“Who’s next?” This is the number one topic at the Los Angeles auto show. After Hyundai had to restate its MPG numbers and pay compensation to customers, executives and analysts are convinced that more automakers may have to do the same, reports the well-connected Reuters reporter Bernie Woodall from the back-rooms and cocktail parties in LA.

“I think we might see more of this,” said Jake Fisher, the head of automotive testing at Consumer Reports. “There are other vehicles that don’t really stack up to the EPA estimates.”

Auto executives at Nissan, GM , Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Chrysler, told Woodall they are confident that their mileage claims are true.

So what do you guess? Who’s next?

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TTAC Rewind: Fuel Economy Skulduggery Is Nothing New Sat, 03 Nov 2012 13:00:26 +0000

Hyundai and Kia being called on the carpet for inflated fuel economy claims is a great story for a slow Friday; everybody likes to see a rising star get taken down a notch, and the two Koreans have been the Cinderella story of the auto industry for the last couple of years.

Small wonder then, that in 2010, TTAC reported on some suspect fuel economy figures over in Detroit, similar to what happened with Hyundai/Kia. And nothing was ever done about it.

TTAC examined the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Equinox back in February, 2010. A survey of various road tests (including the vaunted Consumer Reports test) revealed that the Equinox was far from achieving its stated 32 mpg highway rating. The results ranged from 18-25 mpg, far from the advertised figures. That’s anywhere from 22-43 percent lower than Chevrolet’s claims.

In the case of the Fusion Hybrid, the claimed 39 mpg didn’t materialize; most outlets returned 34 mpg. In both cases, the results returned were similar to their competitors, but not close to their stated ratings.

In light of all that, it’s worth asking, why Hyundai/Kia and why now? And why not GM and Ford in 2010? The official line is that the EPA decided to re-test those vehicles as part of their annual campaign to randomly test 15 percent of cars for fuel economy accuracy. The process supposedly validates the self-reporting process for automakers, though they made a point of stating the magnitude of the Hyundai snafu.

The EPA’s auditing of mileage claims by automakers rarely uncovers misrepresentations. It has happened only twice since 2000, the EPA says.

But this is the “first time where a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer have deviated so significantly,” the agency said.

Compared to the discrepancies at Hyundai (1-3 mpg on average), the missing mpgs for the Equinox are a big deal. The Equinox is a volume product for GM, one of the best-selling crossovers in the segment, and one of its selling points is its superior fuel economy. Why wasn’t anything done about it? I’ll turn it over to Paul Niedermeyer, author of the Equinox piece, to explain

Conspiracy theories are not exactly our preferred fall-back explanation, but it really is rather curious that these two particular cars (Equinox, Fusion Hybrid) are both being heavily advertised (despite the Fusion hybrid’s limited availability) as symbols of American auto manufacturer’s ability to deliver class-leading fuel efficient vehicles. And they carry that EPA stamp of approval. Yet neither of them delivers; in fact the Equinox actually underperforms its peers.

Keep in mind that the EPA tests are not actually performed by the EPA, but by the manufacturers themselves, with a small percentage of cars potentially retested by the EPA. Have they retested the Equinox or the Fusion Hybrid? And if they fell short, would we actually ever hear about it?


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Hyundai And Kia Get Less MPG, Customers Get Their Money Back Fri, 02 Nov 2012 15:06:24 +0000

Hyundai has long been in the top spots of America’s most fuel miserly vehicles. Over night, Hyundai will drop a few rungs down. Audited and found wrong by the EPA, Hyundai and Kia agreed to restate the fuel economy ratings on many of its cars. Cars in showrooms will be relabeled. Customers of more than a million 2011 through 2013 vehicles in the U.S. and Canada will receive debit cards.

Most labels see a reduction by one to two miles per gallon. The Kia Soul receives a a six mpg highway reduction. The 2012 Hyundai/Kia fleet fuel economy level will drop from 27 to 26 MPG, the company says.

With the debit cards, customers will be reimbursed for the difference between the overstated and the restated fuel economy rating, based on the fuel price in their area and their miles driven. An extra 15 percent will be added for the inconvenience. Current owners will be able to refresh their debit card for as long as they own the vehicle. Prior owners of affected vehicles who have already sold their cars will also be reimbursed using the same formula.

“Given the importance of fuel efficiency to all of us, we’re extremely sorry about these errors,” said John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America. “When we say to Hyundai owners, ‘We’ve got your back,’ that’s an assurance we don’t take lightly.”

For more information about reimbursement and a complete list of eligible vehicles, customers can visit and

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How CAFE Killed Compact Trucks And Station Wagons Mon, 01 Oct 2012 18:50:30 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Close your eyes and imagine it’s 1979. A first-term Democratic president struggles with unemployment, malaise, high energy prices, and embassy trouble. The landscape of today looks like the landscape of then, but there’s one important thing missing: The compact pickup. Where did they go? The small pickup was an indelible symbol of America’s lowered expectations in the Seventies and Eighties. Now that crappy times are here again, where are the paper-thin truck beds and wheezy-but-indestructible four-cylinders to pull them?

As car guys, we tend to view things through a certain lens; the design and performance characteristics of a car are what’s considered important. The proliferation of cars and trucks that are antithetical to these characteristics, like crossovers and larger, heavier passenger cars, are something that we’ve collectively lamented for some time. But to understand why this has happened, we need to view product decisions through the lens of CAFE and its incentives. The choices of American consumers are a factor; we like to buy pickups and SUVs, no doubt. But what if the government’s decisions played a part in moving the market, and the very laws set up to ostensibly promote more fuel efficient vehicles ended up doing the opposite?

CAFE for Decaf drinkers

CAFE (industry short hand for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) came as a result of the 1973 oil embargo, as a means to mandate fuel economy targets for cars and light trucks. Over the last four decades, the standards have evolved, with the latest iteration being the targets set for fuel economy in the year 2025. The 2025 targets were released this summer, and comprise a 1,944 page tome full of arcane language and legalese that, while essential for understanding CAFE, are totally inaccessible to the general public. No wonder, as our Editor Emeritus Ed Niedermeyer wrote

“…only a handful of experts truly understand the details of CAFE compliance, with its complex system of footprint-based categories, formula and credits.”

One of CAFEs biggest impacts in recent times has manifested itself in how auto makers classify products. Under CAFE, vehicles can be labeled “passenger cars” or “light trucks”, with the latter category required to meet less stringent standards for fuel economy and CO2 emissions. A decade ago, the Chrysler PT Cruiser was the most egregious example of this.

( N.B. CAFE uses the EPA’s unadjusted fuel economy standard, so the mpg values discussed in relation to CAFE bear little resemblance to the real world values used on Monroney stickers and common discourse on fuel economy. For our purposes, we’ll refer to the fuel economy numbers we are familiar with as “In Real Life” (IRL)  to distinguish them from the CAFE numbers. )

Despite being based on a Neon platform and retaining the dimensions of a compact car, it was classified as a light truck by NHTSA.  The PT Cruiser was designed to meet NHTSA standards for classification as a light truck, for the express purpose of raising Chrysler’s light truck average fuel economy. At the time, the minimum fleet average for passenger cars was 27.5 mpg CAFE, while for light trucks it was 20.7 mpg CAFE. A small, four-cylinder vehicle like the PT Cruiser was effectively a “ringer” for Chrysler’s fleet average. The year 2000 CAFE targets discussed above translate to 21 mpg IRL for passenger cars and 15 mpg IRL for light trucks.  A “light truck” like the PT would obviously have no trouble surpassing these standards.

In 2006, CAFE altered the formula for its 2011 fuel economy targets, by calculating a vehicle’s “footprint”, which is the vehicle’s wheelbase multiplied by its wheel track. The footprint is expressed in square feet, and calculating this value is probably the most transparent part of the regulations. Fuel economy targets are a function of a vehicle’s footprint; the smaller the footprint, the tougher the standards are. A car such as the Honda Fit, with its footprint of 40 square feet, has to achieve 61 mpg CAFE, or 43 mpg IRL by 2025 to comply with regulations. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a full-size truck like the Ford F-150, with a footprint of 75 square feet, only needs to hit 30 mpg CAFE, or 23 mpg IRL, by the same timeframe.

How the fix is in

On the surface, the footprint requirements can be viewed as logical; a compact, fuel-efficient car like the Honda Fit, should be able to hit tougher targets, by virtue of its small size, aerodynamic profile and powertrain choices. Without any advanced technology like direct-injection, lightweight steel or aluminum construction or even low-rolling resistance tires, it manages a respectable 28/35 mpg IRL, while offering a practical, fun-to-drive package. The Ford F-150 has a very different mission; it must be large, durable, powerful and able to meet the needs of a full-size pickup, and will naturally be less conducive to achieving the kind of fuel economy that a Fit can.

Unfortunately, the footprint method has the opposite effect; rather than encouraging auto makers to strive for unprecedented fuel economy in their passenger car offerings, it has incentivized auto makers to build larger cars, in particular, more car-based crossovers that can be classified as “trucks” as used to skew fleet average figures, much the same way the PT Cruiser did. Full-size trucks have become a “protected class”, safe from the most aggressive targets, while compact trucks have become nearly extinct as a result.

Real world examples

Before we can delve into the demise of compact trucks, we need to examine how the footprint formula works, and how it allowed the car-based crossover to usurp the station wagon as America’s family hauler of choice.

The footprint is expressed graphically via the “curve”, which plots a vehicle’s footprint on the X axis and CAFE mpg on the Y axis. There are different graphs for cars and light trucks, and as we’ll see below, a car and a light truck with identical footprints are subject to very different standards. (N.B. the full document is available here, with the full-size curve graphs on page 29 and 30)

A concrete example of this phenomenon is Volvo’s decision to do away with the traditional wagon at the start of this decade. Wagons are what put Volvo on the map in North America. The rear-drive 200, 700 and 900 wagons held universal appeal for their durability and sportiness, while the 850 and V70 cemented their place in the mainstream, as a car for those who were upper-middle class, or aspiring to be.

Volvo’s current lineup offers two SUVs, the XC60 and XC90 and one pseudo-wagon, the XC70. The XC70 is virtually identical to the V70, Volvo’s stalwart station wagon, save for some extra ground clearance and lower body cladding. But while the V70 was classified as a passenger car, the XC70 joins its siblings as a “sports utility vehicle” according to the EPA. The fuel economy of the entire XC lineup is far from stellar. The best XC models, the front drive variants of the XC60 and XC70 with the naturally aspirated 3.2L inline-six engine, return 19/25 mpg IRL. The V70, in 2010 (its final year of sale for North America) returned 18/27 mpg IRL. All three vehicles have footprints of 48 square feet. The key difference is that while the V70 is a passenger car, the XC models are light trucks, and of course, given an easier time regarding CAFE compliance.

Mazda is another company that must also play against the stacked deck of CAFE. The Mazda6 wagon was offered here for a few years, and axed after it sold poorly. For 2014, Mazda is launching a third-generation Mazda6, including a gorgeous station wagon (and yes, a diesel engine), but it won’t be coming here. Enthusiast blogs have been harping on Mazda’s decision to withhold the car from the U.S. market, but a simple analysis using CAFE methodology reveals why. The wagon, with its footprint of 48 square feet, is subject to the same standards as the Volvo V70. On the other hand, the Mazda CX-5, with a footprint of 45.6 square feet, is smaller, and again, subject to light truck fuel economy standards. For a model that must be sold over 5-6 years (as previous generations were), the Mazda6 wagon starts out having to achieve a CAFE mpg figure in the high 30s.

Assuming the model lasts until 2020, the Mazda6 would have to achieve fuel economy figures in the high 40 mpg CAFE range. Engineering a low volume, niche market wagon for sale in America that would be subject to increasingly tough targets is arguably beyond their means, especially given the small volumes the car would sell in. Instead, Mazda offers the CX-5 crossover. Aside from being classified as a crossover, with all the CAFE advantages built in, the CX-5 is able to sell in economically viable volumes not just in the United States, but across the globe. The realities of CAFE have likely made sales of the third generation Mazda6 wagon impossible in the United States.

CAFE’s other victim is the compact truck segment. Many consumers don’t need a full-size truck (whether they acknowledge it or not), and the Ford Ranger, along with GM’s own compact pickups, had respectable followings among consumers looking for a smaller fuel-efficient pickup.

But the Ranger happens to fall into the “dead zone” of the CAFE footprint formula. Both curve graphs show a flat line at 55 square feet; in practical terms, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class carries this footprint. The Ranger, even in SuperCab configuration, has a footprint of 50 square feet, just short of the magic number. The best Ranger, fuel economy-wise, was a 4-cylinder manual truck, returning 22/27 mpg IRL; a respectable number, but one only available in a configuration that a minority of buyers would opt for. Equipped with a V6 and an automatic transmission, it would only return 14/18 mpg IRL, a figure that can be equalled by certain version of Ford’s V6 and V8 F-150 full-size pickups. By 2025, a theoretical Ranger with a footprint of 50 square feet would have to achieve fuel economy somewhere approaching 50 mpg CAFE. The 75 square foot F-150 would only have to reach in the high 30s CAFE.

Ford will offer a new Ranger in world markets, but again, it won’t come here. GM, on the other hand, plans to offer their new mid-size Colorado and Canyon trucks here, but the reasons for Ford and GM’s divergence aren’t as cut and dried as they are in the case of Mazda and Volvo. Ford has decided to offer full-size trucks exclusively, with the V6 options as a means of attracting economy-minded buyers, and perhaps taking advantage of CAFE regulations (not to mention, sell more F-Series, which are immensely profitable).

GM’s strategy is to forgo to advanced V6 powertrains that Ford offers, and market their full-size trucks alongside their smaller stable mates. If Ford offered a Ranger, it could theoretically cannibalize sales of the lower end F-150s, while muddling their marketing message. GM will presumably have no such conflict. Chrysler is rumored to be taking a third route; offering advanced V6s in their RAM trucks, while exploring a car-based compact pickup, possibly based off of a Fiat product. A truck like that would be a huge boon as far as CAFE compliance goes, and put a decisive nail in the coffin of the Dakota, which offered a V8 engine in a compact body.

Cui Bono

In the trial of Sextus Roscius, a young Cicero defended him by posing a famously concise question; “Cui Bono?”, or “who benefits?” CAFE merits a similar line of inquiry.

When examined side by side with European emissions standards, the economics of CAFE become more transparent. EU are relatively straight forward by comparison. Tailpipe CO2 emissions are measured and a de facto consumption tax is levied based on a vehicle’s output. There are no footprint formulas or regulatory loopholes that can be manipulated, though there are different standards for diesel and gasoline engines. Either way, the principle is the same; if you want a bigger, more powerful engine, you will have to pay for it via increased taxes. The most tangible examples of these policies in effect are the newly downsized motors being fitted in American-sized cars, like the 1.0L three-cylinder Ford Mondeo (our Fusion).

On the other hand, a consumption tax related to the profligacy of their vehicle would be disastrous to the Big Three. Full-size trucks, rather than cars, are the profit-makers for the Big Three, and no segment has more to lose from tough CAFE standards. The official line is that the big pickups and SUVs have to make up the most ground when it comes to fuel economy, so they are given more leeway with the regulations.

But the reality is that Detroit’s car makers need trucks to be affordable to stay in business. CAFE compliance for full-size trucks is a major topic in the auto industry, with concerns about rising costs being a major bugaboo for the Big Three. Ford is said to be moving to an aluminum body for the next F-150, while various reports have claimed that compliance with CAFE 2025 standards could add as much as $15,000 to the cost of a full-size truck. This kind of financial burden would make pickup trucks unaffordable to a significant portion of its customer base, and erode a massive source of profits for American automakers. As Niedermeyer noted, full size trucks would “…become a purely professional purchase, bought only by those who use them for work or by the wealthy.” A European-style consumption tax based on emissions of fuel efficiency would be devastating for the full-sized truck market, and it’s hardly a coincidence that CAFE is structured in such a way that best protects these vehicles.

In this context, it’s easy to see why the two major dissenters from the 2025 CAFE rules were Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. Representatives from both companies spoke out candidly about CAFE, with a Volkswagen spokesman stating

“The proposal encourages manufacturers and customers to shift toward larger, less-efficient vehicles, defeating the goal of reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Mercedes-Benz was equally forceful, claiming that CAFE

“clearly favors large SUVs and pickup trucks. Our customers expect a range of vehicles from which to choose so this program creates a very real disconnect between government regulation and customer demand.”

Europe’s own Euro VI standards measure a grand total of 18 pages in PDF format, and are generally regarded as stricter than CAFE. That, combined with the substantially more egalitarian nature of the consumption tax model employed by Euro VI brings the legitimacy of CAFE into question even further.

Ironically, CAFE has much in common with the chicken tax, which is erroneously cited as being the sole impediment to the success of compact pickups in America. Both are horribly protectionist, anti-market laws that restrict consumer choice and give an unfair advantage to homegrown manufacturers. But at least the chicken tax compelled the OEMs to build compact pickups Stateside. Under CAFE, there isn’t just no reason to do so – there is every reason not to do so.


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Ford C-Max Kicks Honda Civic Hybrid From 3rd Place Tue, 07 Aug 2012 13:19:04 +0000

Ford is attacking Toyota’s miserly image. The blue oval announced today that its 2013 C-Max Hybrid crossover gets better mileage than Toyota’s Prius V, Reuters says.

Ford’s C-Max Hybrid, to go on sales this fall, delivers an EPA rating of 47 miles per gallon, city, Highway and combined. shows the 2012 Prius V with 44 mpg city, 40 highway and 42 combined. Once the C-Max goes on sale, it would topple the Prius V from its 4th place ranking, even take the 3rd ranked Honda Civic Hybrid down a notch.

The top spots in the hybrid ranking currently go to the Prius c with a 53/46/50 ranking, followed by the Toyota Prius (51/48/50) and the Honda Civic Hybrid (44/44/44), all for their 2012 models.

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Piston Slap: To Test in 4WD…or Not? Wed, 09 May 2012 10:44:09 +0000


Jonathon writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Long time reader, not a commenter though. I have simple situation, and a simple question. Last Friday my beloved, and owned from birth, 1995 Grand Prix GTP developed a head gasket leak. This is something I can, with father-in law help, tackle in the summer. However living in Northern Ontario, a driveway repair is just not an option right now. It’s time for a new ride.

Since all those years ago I did not give my wife (g.f. at the time) any option into the purchase, this time around it will be something we both are in love with. Sadly that leaves a V6 Mustang or the 2013 Genesis 3.8 out. Also we lost our niece at the beginning of the year in a highway car accident that killed three other teenagers (the quality of highway maintenance is now privatized and sub-par). Anyways, that has my wife eying a 4×4\awd even more then ever.

Top on her list is a 2012 Wrangler Sahara Unlimited (bare bones except auto & A\C). The mileage for this is 16\20. Our car, new, apparently was 16\24. From our sleepy little city to Toronto is ~360km. At the current 1.28\l, it would mean another $14 there and back for one of our escapes to the big city. So the question I have is, when the EPA tested the wrangler did they do it in 4wd, so that we could expect to see better mileage, or 2wd, and that is what we should expect?



ps…anyone have any suggestions for a driveway mechanic preparing to replace a headgasket on a 1995 Pontiac 3.4 with DOHC?

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes, I certainly do have some suggestions!

My first preparation? Take one of the larger wrenches in your tool box and use it to crack every finger on your hands…as this is what most GM service techs experienced when they had to work on the cool, yet terribly designed “Twin Dual Cam” motors when they were new. If you don’t have the proper GM service manuals, better get them on eBay now…and start drinking, too.  Only then can you be ready for what nightmares lie ahead!

That said, I truly admire you for keeping a GM-10 on the road.  While I didn’t appreciate them initially, they have aged well. Kudos to you, sir!

About your new vehicle concern: the EPA does indeed test 4WD vehicles in 2WD. So you can’t expect any better mileage, that’s the best the drivetrain shall give. But you are actually concerned about safety after a fatal accident of a loved one, the Wrangler is last on my list.  Compared to a normal CUV and maybe most SUVs, the off-road ready Wrangler is less confident in emergency maneuvers, and that cramped footwell might mess up your foot.  Get a car-based CUV instead, unless you must have the coolness only available in the Wrangler.

Not to mention that most (all?) CUVs in the Wrangler’s price range get better fuel economy too. Because, after all, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Pumpcast Newsbreak: Ford And Toyota Sink To New Lows Wed, 15 Feb 2012 06:41:00 +0000


According to current propaganda, Toyota’s Prius c (2012 EPA-estimated 53/46/50 city/highway/combined mileage ) has “the highest rated city fuel economy of any vehicle without a plug,” whereas Ford’s new Fusion Hybrid (EPA-estimated 41 city/36 hwy/39 combined) is “expected to be America’s most fuel-efficient non-rechargeable sedan.”

Consider me confused.

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Why Is Mazda Marketing a 58MPG Mazda3 SkyACTIV In Canada? Fri, 13 Jan 2012 17:58:47 +0000

It was around April of 2011 when I noticed an ad in the Toronto subway for the 2012 Ford Focus, touting fuel economy of 59 MPG. I dwelled on that outrageous figure for a second, made a mental note to check if they were using Imperial MPG measurements and then promptly fell asleep on the train home and missed my stop. A Google search for the Ford Focus mpg claims didn’t yield anything from the Blue Oval, but did reveal a Google ad showing Mazda touting the same figures for its 2012 Mazda3 SkyACTIV, rated for 40 mpg on the highway. Even so, this would only be 48 mpg Imperial. So what gives? 10 mpg is not an insignificant difference.

The wildly exaggerated fuel economy claims came up again,while doing research for my Dodge Avenger story. Dodge’s Canadian website shows at 29/42 mpg city/highway, along with some other comically high figures, like the Challenger and Charger returning 24/39 mpg. Dodge notes that as far as fuel economy ratings go “Transport Canada test methods used. Your actual fuel consumption may vary.” Of course, when you convert the Avenger’s L/100km rating into US MPG (9.9 and6.7 respectively), the conversion works out to 23.76 mpg in town and 35.11 on the highway, which still doesn’t jibe with the notion that they are using Imperial MPG figures.

So, what exactly are the Transport Canada test methods? Canada’s Fuel Consumption Guide offers a long-winded explanation involving cars being broken in for 6000 km, and then tested on a dynometer using a standardized procedure. The only problem is that all fuel economy ratings are voluntarily reported to Transport Canada by the OEMs. A report by the Canadian Broadcasting Company found that the Consumption Guide regularly overstated fuel consumption figures, sometimes by as much as 22 percent. The Canadian guide even offers a warning on page 10 advising consumers that

“Fuel consumption ratings in Canada and fuel economy ratings in the United States will differ significantly. Beginning with the model year 2008, the United States implemented additional testing cycles and procedures for its fuel economy ratings.  Furthermore, U.S. fuel economy ratings are listed in miles per U.S. gallon and are averaged based on U.S. sales and adjustment factors.”

The CBC report also stats that Canadian tests are done under “ideal conditions”, while the EPA’s 2008 revisions to their fuel economy standards “…added tests using air conditioning and during cold temperature at city speeds and harder acceleration and braking at highway speeds…” Canada’s methods, on the other hand, date back nearly 40 years.

What makes this so nefarious is that the L/100km metric is rarely understood by a population that ignored Canadian car publications for U.S. rags, making MPG the most common fuel economy heuristic in people’s minds. The cavalier attitude towards the marketing of mpg figures, in a country with a high cost of living, pricier cars and more expensive gasoline is quite frankly deceitful if not nefarious.

On Monday, I will be picking up a Mazda3 SkyACTIV, and while I had originally intended to do a Take Two Review of the car, I will be keeping a very close eye on fuel consumption. Canada’s fuel guide lists the car as returning 37/56 mpg for the sedan with a 6-speed manual, and 40/58 for the automatic equipped version – likely the Mazda reported numbers under “ideal conditions”. This works out to 7.7/5.0 L/100 km and 7.1/4.9 respectively. Converted to US MPG, this would be 30/47 or 33/48 mpg respectively. A discrepancy between the numbers is still present. Let’s see what I come back with at the end of next week. The Globe and Mail’s Michael Vaughan wrote a report about the matter this week, but nobody from AJAC, Canada’s Auto Journalist guild, has raised the issue so far.

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Feds Predict The Future Of The Auto Industry, Foresee Chrysler Freefall, GM Stagnation Fri, 23 Dec 2011 01:32:57 +0000 Automaker 2008 model year 2025 model year % Change Aston Martin 1,370 1,182 -13% BMW 353,120 550,665 56% Chrysler-Fiat 1,659,950 768,241 -54% Daimler 287,330 441,786 54% Ferrari 1,450 7,658 428% Ford 1,770,893 2,224,586 26% Greely/Volvo 98,397 143,696 46% General Motors 3,095,188 3,197,943 3% Honda 1,511,779 1,898,018 26% Hyundai 391,027 845,386 116% Kia 281,452 460,436 64% Lotus 252 316 25% Mazda 302,546 368,172 22% Mitsubishi 100,729 109,692 9% Nissan 1,023,415 1,441,229 41% Porsche 37,706 51,915 38% Spyker/Saab 25,956 26,605 3% Subaru 198,581 331,692 67% Suzuki 114,658 124,528 9% Tata/Jaguar-Land Rover 65,180 122,223 88% Tesla 800 31,974 3897% Toyota 2,211,500 3,318,069 50% Volkswagen 318,482 784,447 146% TOTAL 13,851,761 17,250,459 25%

Reasonable minds can disagree about the wisdom of the auto bailout, but according to analysis by the EPA and Department of Transportation (based on data from the Department of Energy and auto forecasters CSM), the Government’s rescue of GM and Chrysler may not have been the best idea (at least from a market perspective). According to data buried in the EPA/DOT proposed rule for 2017-2025 fuel economy standards [PDF here], Fiat-Chrysler is predicted to be the sick man of the auto industry by 2025, losing over half of its 2008 sales volume, while GM is expected to improve by only 3%, the second-worst projected performance (after Aston-Martin). In terms of percentages, even lowly Suzuki and Mitsubishi are projected to grow faster than The Mighty General. Ouch.

On the other hand, the proposed rule notes that data will be finalized before the final rule comes out. Besides, the agencies appropriately admit (in as many words) that projecting auto sales so far into the future is one hell of a crapshoot. Still, with the obvious exception of “Saab-Spyker” and with some skepticism about the projection’s optimism about overall market growth aside, these are not the craziest guesses I could imagine. Who knows what the future holds, but it certainly is a bit troubling that the government’s own data suggests the two automakers it bailed out may well have some of the weaker performances of the next 14 years. At least the Treasury could have sold off their remaining GM stock before this report was released…

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EPA Releases 2017-2025 CAFE Proposed Rule Wed, 16 Nov 2011 19:15:15 +0000

Over the last few days we’ve been discussing the implications of the growing gap between global oil demand and production, looking at the responses of a global automakera radical startup and the oil industry itself. And make no mistake, it’s an uncertain future out there… unless you’re selling cars in the US. In that case, your future just arrived, planned all the way through 2025. That is, if you think this proposed rule will survive four presidential elections and one industry-government “mid-term review.” Want to familiarize yourself with this pre-planned fuel economy future? All 893 pages await your perusal, in PDF format here. Or, hit the jump for a few broad strokes.



So, what does this mean for specific classes of cars? According to an EPA factsheet (PDF here), this is how cars in the year 2025 will have to perform:How about trucks?

 Now that may seems scary, but you have to remember that these numbers are not comparable to the EPA’s “window sticker” numbers. For inexplicable reasons, probably having to do with the political benefits to both industry and politicians of making the number seem higher than it is, NHTSA’s CAFE fuel economy uses a different test than the EPA. Edmunds Autoobservercovered this issue well a few years back, but the upshot is that a 2025 full-size pickup will be required to get a window sticker of around 25 MPG combined, not 33 MPG. Still tough, but considering that full-sizers are getting over 20 MPG on the freeway already, this does not seem like a hill that can’t be climbed in a decade or so. Especially when you can slap a hybrid drivetrain in there and get a 20 grams of CO2 per mile credit.

Of course these standards will cost consumers. The EPA estimates that the proposed rule will add some $2,000 to the price of each vehicle on average, but insists

Those consumers who drive their MY 2025 vehicle for its entire lifetime will save, on average, $5200 to $66003 (7 and 3 percent discount rates, respectively) in fuel savings, for a net lifetime savings of $3000 to 44004 — assuming gasoline prices remain at essentially current levels.  For those consumers who purchase their new MY 2025 vehicle with cash, the discounted fuel savings will offset the higher vehicle cost in less than 4 years, and fuel savings will continue for as long as the consumer owns the vehicle.

Of course if gas prices aren’t kind enough to “remain at essentially current levels,” those fuel savings could be wiped out… but then, if gas prices rise too precipitously, this entire rule could become moot. The future is notoriously resistant to our mortal plans…

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Which Automaker May Be Fudging Their EPA Numbers? Fri, 02 Sep 2011 17:12:34 +0000

The Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy testing system is notoriously weak, relying on self-reporting for the vast majority of vehicles, and exhibiting vulnerabilities to “gaming.” But rather than attacking each others’ EPA numbers, automakers seem to have agreed that it’s best if everyone does their best to juice their own numbers and allows the imperfect system to limp on. But over at Automotive News [sub], we’re hearing what could be the first shots fired in a new war over EPA ratings, as Product Editor Rick Kranz reveals that an OEM is starting to complain about another OEM’s fuel economy ratings. He writes:

An executive of one U.S. automaker suggests there might be some sleight of hand going on and that the EPA is not catching the offenders.

The issue: There’s a noticeable difference between the mpg number posted on some cars’ window sticker and an analysis of the data submitted by automakers to the EPA.


Kranz continues:

The executive raised a red flag earlier this year. He told me his company was unable to replicate the city, highway and overall fuel economy numbers achieved by some automakers for their 2011 car models.

He didn’t name the automakers or the car models in question. Neither would he give the percentage differences between the mpg numbers posted on new-car window stickers and an analysis of the data taken from dynamometer readings his company purchased for certain competing models.

But he said consumers are being misled. The mpg numbers on some window stickers or in advertising are being misrepresented, he said.

Here’s the thing: if an executive is complaining about another OEM gaming the EPA test or somehow fudging its results, this executive must be extremely angry or frustrated. After all, a weak EPA testing regime benefits all automakers at the expense of customers. And if someone is willing to blow down the EPA’s house of cards, there’s no knowing where the fallout could end. There are basically three possibilities:
1) The accusing executive has the wrong end of the stick, and is just lashing out without cause.
2) The accusing executive is on to something and an automaker is fudging its EPA numbers.
3) The accusing executive is on to something, and he’s just scratching the surface of a problem infecting a large part of the industry.
As fuel economy becomes a bigger factor in car-buying decisions, the EPA needs to recognize that there is more riding on its weak, “faith-based” fuel economy testing regime than ever. It should not only investigate this allegation, but it should perform supplemental targeted verification tests on vehicles with “suspiciously high” fuel economy ratings. Consumers need to trust their window stickers, and if there are rumors of gamesmanship around the production of those numbers, competitive pressure will spread deceptive practices around the industry. This needs to be nipped on the bud.
So, in hopes of helping the EPA get a handle on this situation, I ask the B&B to share their thoughts about what automakers might be fudging their numbers. What vehicles would you spot-test to see if they can achieve their window sticker numbers?
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The Battle Of 62 MPG Mon, 09 May 2011 23:16:47 +0000

Though the EPA won’t actually announce its 2025 CAFE standard until September, the California Air Resources Board’ insistence on a 62 MPG standard for ’25 has the industry’s analysts and talking heads in something of a frenzy. Smelling the smoke on the breeze, Automotive News [via AutoWeek] trots out a range of interpretations of the proposed 62 MPG standard, from the frightening to the apocalyptic. Cost increases per vehicle for a 62 MPG by 2025 standard are estimated by government agencies at $3,500 “at most,” while Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers reckons they’ll run “as much as $6,400.” Sean McAlinden of the notoriously industry-friendly Center for Automotive Research figures the market will have to shift to 64% plug-in hybrids, at a price increase of $9,970 per vehicle, while the AAM adds that 62 by 20205 “could cut car sales by 25 percent, costing the industry 220,000 jobs.” And the EPA seems to be listening to the rising chorus of grumbles, as the agency’s Margo Oge soothed the locals on a recent visit to Detroit with the words

We will be very mindful — and I underline ‘mindful’ — of the consumer throughout this process. Unless people buy these new clean cars and trucks, and buy them in large numbers, everyone loses.

But if CARB wants 62 MPG by 2025, it will get it from the EPA. Which means the real question is simply how much will the standard actually add to per-vehicle costs? Is the industry inflating its numbers in hope of a teaspoon of federal sugar to help the medicine go down? Is the 62 MPG standard really an industry killer?

The answer, it turns out, is a big, fat “depends on who you ask.” But one thing is certain: the automakers are going to use everything they have to fight the standard, a fact evidenced by the absence of clarification anywhere in the media that the scary-sounding 62 MPG standard does not mean vehicles will need achieve window stickers with ratings anywhere near that high. As Hyundai has pointed out already, CAFE is measured using the old “unadjusted” mileage test, while modern EPA window sticker ratings use the tougher “adjusted” test. As a result, there’s a huge discrepancy from the ratings consumers use in their day-to-day lives, and the staggering CAFE numbers that are being thrown around.

As you can see, 63.7 MPG CAFE is roughly equivalent to 44 MPG EPA. Not so bad after all. And yet the industry continues to use the scary-sounding CAFE numbers without any kind of qualification. Well, except for Hyundai, which points out that its 40 MPG EPA highway Elantra will achieve around 50 MPG CAFE combined by the next generation… which will debut around the same time the 39 MPG CAFE combined car standard comes out in 2016. Clearly the fear that the industry won’t build anything besides cartoonish “Pelosimobiles” when CAFE increases are overblown.

On the other hand, as a limited-line manufacturer, Hyundai has a much easier time with CAFE than the Detroit firms which have built huge portions of their businesses around large body-on-frame trucks. And even though CAFE standards are notoriously riddled with loopholes allowing vehicles like the Chevy HHR count towards the truck-side efficiency number, this is where the real challenge comes into play. GM reportedly has to cut 500 lbs from each truck by 2016, and as much as 1,000 lbs per truck by 2025, a task that has both GM and Ford looking at exotic frame materials like aluminum and magnesium.

There’s no doubt that creating direct descendants of today’s Silverados and F-150s, to be sold at the same volumes they sell at today, would be a huge struggle under a 62 MPG CAFE standard. But forcasting isn’t that simple: even five years away from the 2016 30 MPG CAFE truck standard, with gas averaging around $4 per gallon, WardsAuto reports that the US pickup market has hit its lowest level in 30 years.

Against a backdrop of sluggish housing starts, high unemployment and skyrocketing pump prices – key historical barometers for the segment – fullsize and small pickups accounted for 11.8% of total light-vehicle deliveries in the month

It is the segment’s lowest market share in the Ward’s database, which dates back to 1980. At their peak in July 2005, pickups accounted for 22.9% of U.S. LV sales.

The share shortfall occurs as sales climb. Through the first four months of 2011, pickup deliveries were tracking 17.9% ahead of like-2010. However, total U.S. light-vehicle sales were pacing 19.4% ahead of prior-year, according to Ward’s.

By 2005, the two segments were running bumper-to-bumper, with pickups controlling 18.77% of the market compared with the Middle Car segment’s 18.79%.

Through April, pickups accounted for 12.6% of U.S. light-vehicle sales, while the Middle Car segment made up a whopping 20.8%.

If pickup sales are already declining steadily as a product of higher gas prices, it’s fairly safe to say that, barring any major reductions in the price of oil, the pickup market could well be dramatically smaller come 2016. In fact, having lost about seven points of market share since 2005, it’s conceivable that the pickup segment will be closer to eight percent of the market come 2030. Yes, pickups have made a comeback as gas prices bottomed out over the last two years, but in the sweep of history it’s fairly safe to say that Detroit’s truck dependence isn’t a viable strategy for the future. The good news: Ford and GM are finally making money on smaller cars, and, as the market for pickups retracts, pickups’ impact on CAFE numbers will go down as well, as CAFE is sales-weighted.

Will the cost of developing large pickups go up as the US approaches a 62 MPG standard? Sure. But if pickups aren’t selling in huge volumes, those costs will simply be passed along to the remaining buyers who absolutely need a full-sized truck’s capability, without affecting CAFE overall. The insanely high costs and and 62-percent plug-in hybrid penetration foreseen by Sean McAlinden must surely assume that truck volume will not change dramatically between now and 2025, a foolishly dangerous assumption that, if taken seriously, would likely sink Detroit whether CAFE increases or not. With gas prices rising steadily and inexorably, the market is likely to change before CAFE even makes much of an impact. Whether the standard for 15 years from now is set at 50 MPG or 62 MPG CAFE really shouldn’t make much of a difference.

Look at the SUV market: after the crash of 2008, which was instigated by a sharp spike in gas prices, SUVs came back strong and have been growing faster than pickups and vans ever since. But there was a key difference: as the chart below proves, “SUVs” were increasingly car-based CUVs before the crash even started. When “SUVs” came back post-crash, they were largely replaced by vehicles that served the same function with slightly higher costs and greater efficiency. And not because pre-crash SUV buyers weren’t convinced that they “needed” the allegedly unique capabilities of their body-on-frame utes. Who’s to say the same dynamic won’t happen with trucks?

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