Wall Street Journal Misses Its Mark With The Dart

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
wall street journal misses its mark with the dart

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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  • Billfrombuckhead Billfrombuckhead on Sep 19, 2012

    Mercedes killed the Neon and starved the PT Cruiser.

    • See 1 previous
    • Billfrombuckhead Billfrombuckhead on Sep 20, 2012

      @SC5door 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.

  • Cheezeweggie Cheezeweggie on Sep 20, 2012

    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.

    • Billfrombuckhead Billfrombuckhead on Sep 20, 2012

      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.

  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂
  • ToolGuy The dealer knows best. 🙂
  • ToolGuy Cool.
  • ToolGuy This truck is the perfect size, and the fuel economy is very impressive.-This post sponsored by ExxonMobil