By on February 11, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles paid $77 million in U.S. civil penalties late last year due to its failure to adhere to 2016 model year fuel economy requirements. In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a report claiming the industry faced millions in fines from 2016 and that one manufacturer was expected to pay significant civil penalties.

You can probably guess which one. But FCA is by no means the only automaker affected by stringent fuel rulings.

The NHTSA said the number of automakers with emission credit shortfalls rose to 26 in 2016. For some perspective, 2011 was a terrible year for automakers, with 18 companies coming up short for a industry penalty of around $40 million. It’s clear the automotive sector is having real trouble meeting the rising emissions rules and less clear what should be done about it.

Despite initially agreeing to the aggressive, Obama-era fuel economy mandates, automakers were quick to meet with Donald Trump and ask that national efficiency rules be rolled back at the start of his term. While several companies eventually changed their position, there’s a growing assumption that the established targets will, for many,  remain out of reach.

2019 Dodge Durango SXT

Shane Karr, head of external affairs for Fiat Chrysler in North America, confirmed the company’s $77-million penance with Reuters. Karr is one of the few automotive spokespeople willing to openly endorse a rollback. He told the outlet that the government’s fuel economy program should be reformed, thus ending the practice of automakers making “large compliance payments because assumptions made in 2011 turned out to be wrong.”

However, Karr also noted FCA remains “committed to improving the fuel efficiency of our fleet and expanding our U.S. manufacturing footprint.”

It’s not difficult to understand why Fiat Chrysler incurred the fines. While Fiat offers fuel-sipping options, the same cannot be said of the firm’s more American nameplates. Most of Dodge’s lineup doesn’t even come with an available four-cylinder, since the brand cut loose many of its smaller and less profitable models several years ago. In fact, Dodge frequently frames its surplus of powerful V8 engines as an important selling point.

Meanwhile, Chrysler’s fleet has been cut down to a full-sized luxury sedan and one minivan that can be optioned as a hybrid. Jeep is more of a mixed bag. But even its smallest and slowest models only manage to deliver average economy for the segment on their better days.

Image: FCA

FCA sells the kind of cars people still want, rather than the cars the government thinks they should own; the company knew this would come with a cost. The automaker said the federal fine was expected and incorporated into its fourth-quarter financial results. However, it partially attributed the shortfall to the fact that some front-wheel-drive utility vehicles were, in 2011, reclassified as cars.

While unquestionably true, we would have also accepted the automaker saying “big engines and SUVs lead to big fines,” before asking us to take it up with our elected officials. Boiled down, that’s what’s at the core of the issue — even if FCA still manages to turn a healthy profit.

The Trump administration has until next month to make a move on its fuel economy revisions. It’s facing stiff opposition from Congress, environmentalist groups, and a coalition of states led by California. The president and his supporters believe that a rollback would result in automakers saving more than $300 billion in regulatory costs and help ensure consumers have continued access to the types of vehicles they want. Meanwhile, the opposition claims the environmental impact would be too great and would ultimately disincentivize auto companies from pursuing new technologies, accidentally stifling the industry.

There’s also a sense that global emission rules will eventually force America to follow Europe and China’s lead, placing more EVs in the North American market and accelerating the demise of larger engines.

If the rules don’t change, Fiat Chrysler may still be forced to. But with no EV or mobility talk on the horizon, what kind of solution can the company pull together to upgrade fleet-wide efficiency?

[Images: FCA]

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90 Comments on “FCA Paid $77 Million in Civil Penalties to Sell Cars People Actually Want to Buy...”


  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    What does the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic *Safety* Administration) have to do with emissions? Thought the scope of their handiwork was crash testing cars, spending hundreds of millions on studies and creating “safety regulations” like the legalization all these obnoxious automotive LED/xenon headlights which are brighter than Xerox photocopier lamps (yay for safety!).

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Yeah, what does breathing car emissions have to do with safety? Anyway, they’re CAFE fines. But the worse the fuel economy, the worse the emissions.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        > But the worse the fuel economy, the worse the emissions.

        This is not true. Fuel economy corresponds to the volume of emissions but not how clean they are.

        • 0 avatar
          dpriven

          CO2 and fuel economy are almost perfectly correlated. Other pollutants are not. For the purposes of global warming, fuel economy and emissions are reasonably interchangeable.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I think it is still a good idea to put “carbon emissions” or something similar instead of just “emissions”. I’ve seen a lot of people get their lines crossed between climate change and smog regulations.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Carbon dioxide is a trace gas necessary for photsynthesis, without which all plant life and higher life forms that depend on plants die, leaving nothing but microbes. Water vapor is thousands of times more potent than CO2, but it can’t be regulated or taxed.

            BTW, if you recite your comment out loud, your mouth will emit mostly water vapor and carbon dioxide along with the sound. If you’re really worried about global warming, why aren’t you doing something about 7.5 billion people breathing?

          • 0 avatar
            2manycars

            Except that CO2 is not a pollutant and “global warming/climate change” is a natural phenomenon that we have no ability to change. For “purposes of global warming” fuel economy of automobiles is of zero significance.

            I personally will not lower my “carbon footprint” – certainly not while the elites pushing this nonsense persist in keeping their lavish estates, fleets of fuel-hungry SUVs, and private jets.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        “But the worse the fuel economy, the worse the emissions.”

        In VWs dreams….

  • avatar
    forward_look

    “Hi…. Ribbit”

    I had a Neon that was a total piece of shit that lasted 70K miles. There’s an oil stain on my garage floor to this day. But it averaged 40 MPG. All they gotta do is get their act together and they can build efficient cars.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “FCA Paid $77 Million in Civil Penalties to Sell Cars People Actually Want to Buy”

    Yes, but spread over 2 million vehicle sales in the US, that’s only $38 per car. Doesn’t really matter. But once the greenies do the math, they’ll want to raise the penalties even higher.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      Yes, especially once they’ve calculated how much of that ‘loot’ they get per public servant and paid-off politician… Of course they want more of other peoples’ money.

    • 0 avatar
      dpriven

      As a greenie, I’d rather just have fuel costs reflect the actual costs to society of their use. If the damage due to pollution had to be born by the vehicle user, there’s be fewer Hellcats sold and more Fiats.

      • 0 avatar
        TheEndlessEnigma

        dpriven……uuuuhhh….no.

        A buyer of a Hellcat is not cross-shopping a Fiat.

        I do have to wonder, as a self proclaimed “greenie” what’s in your garage?

        Personally, our 2 vehicles are a Fiesta ST and a Jeep Patriot….but then I’m not virtue signalling like you are.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        I am not a “greenie” but I agree with this. Automotive emissions do account for vast expenses borne by the public — the cost of medical treatment of people who get sick from breathing polluted air. I am especially concerned about particulate emissions from modern direct injection engines. The US should follow Europe’s lead in requiring gasoline particulate filters on these engines.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Is it that Chrysler builds cars the people want, or they just can’t be bothered to figure out how to sell the fuel efficient cars the people want? Lots of 4-cylinders in the top 20, lots of crossovers, and yet the Cherokee can’t crack that.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      Chrysler buyers want a V8 and who can blame them?

      I don’t want a highly stressed four cylinder either.

      Hopefully, the government will roll back these restrictions instead of imposing bureaucratic beliefs on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        Yeah, I’ll pay $38 more for a V8 which will require less maintenance and will last a lot longer.

        What’s the math, like 1 turbo replacement per 50 cars and the cost is higher than everyone getting a V8 and paying the fine? 1 intercooler damaged by a rock in the road or hitting a curb per 20 cars? 1 high pressure fuel pump needing replacement per 35 cars?

      • 0 avatar
        Hydromatic

        Isn’t the whole myth of the “highly stressed four cylinder” engine just a whole bunch of baby boomer hooey?

        • 0 avatar
          Lockstops

          Hydromatic:
          Tell that to all those people who have had turbo, intercooler, or high-pressure fuel pump issues.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “Tell that to all those people who have had turbo, intercooler, or high-pressure fuel pump issues.”
            _________________________

            “a V8 which will require less maintenance and will last a lot longer. ”

            Tell that to all the people who have had VVT or cylinder deactivation issues.

            I like the characteristics of naturally-aspirated V8s but it is naive to think you aren’t throwing your ball on the roulette wheel either way.

          • 0 avatar
            NoID

            In theory, the most reliable vehicle would 1-cyl naturally aspirated vehicle with light weight and one primary drive axle.

            So if you’re really worried about repair bills, buy a small motorcycle.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          I mean, I don’t think the four-cylinder Camry is a common taxi because they’re prone to dying quickly.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            The 4 in the Camry isn’t over stressed. Nor turbocharged. At least not in the US. Perhaps why that particular 4 is used as a Taxi?

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      “Lots of 4-cylinders in the top 20”

      Exactly. Most of us don’t care about cylinder count. A car just has to look nice, fit right and make it easier to see around us in parking lots.

      • 0 avatar
        Maxb49

        And lots of us do. If you don’t want a V8, that’s fine, just don’t force your choices on those of us who do.

        • 0 avatar
          jatz

          “just don’t force your choices on those of us who do”

          Deal! I’m no Obamaniac.

        • 0 avatar
          Erikstrawn

          “If you don’t want a V8, that’s fine, just don’t force your choices on those of us who do.”

          Nobody’s forcing your choices, you just have to pay more for a choice that carries higher long-term costs for our country.

          I don’t hear anyone raising a complaint about cigarette taxes. Same thing.

          …and yes, I drive a V8 and I’d be willing to pay a little more tax to offset the societal burden of its extra pollution and poorer fuel economy.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            We already do, in the form of a gas guzzler tax.

            The implementation of it could be better and more accurate, but it is there for many V8 powered vehicles already.

          • 0 avatar
            MoparRocker74

            Erikstrawn you just fixed the problem: Since YOU’RE willing to pay a little more tax for V8’s but most of us aren’t, this is easy. Whoever’s in the ‘taxes are good’ camp can put their name on a list so that whenever one of us buys the V8 and isn’t convinced that our hard earned money is better off with politicians then we’ll pay an adjusted price less the taxes, and that bill will be distributed to the ‘do-gooders list’ so you can put your own money where your mouth is. Problem solved.

          • 0 avatar
            Erikstrawn

            I’d be fine for getting rid of the CAFE rating system and upping the fuel tax. We would think a lot harder about our fuel economy choices if we paid the true cost every week.

            Mopar, I already do a fair amount of do-gooding and charity work. I’m willing to pay higher taxes for my V8. Pay your own way for your fun. Don’t be a mooch.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    It’s silly to not mention FCA is raking in at least a Billion in straight cash profits off the cars and trucks that aren’t in compliance.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I’m a little fuzzy on how an automaker paying a $77M fine (which isn’t that much) is a great example of how rolling back fuel economy regulations can save the auto industry as a whole about 400x that amount. Sounds like if the whole industry just said “F— It, Take My Money, You Filthy Feds” they’d save beaucoup bucks if $300B is what they’d truly have to spend otherwise.

    This isn’t about “people not buying the cars the government wants them to drive”, this is about recovering costs (and increased emissions have real costs) from those disproportionately responsible for them.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Of course, the auto makers could do the obvious thing: Calculate what the offending models will cost them in penalties, and put a line item on the window sticker: “excessive fuel consumption assessment: $XXX.XX” and let the consumer decide, rather than bury the cost of the penalties they will pay in the top line price, then cry a river when the bill comes. That way, the company already has the money in hand from the fee added to the sticker price to pay the penalty, and the consumer is better informed.

    When the CAFE reg was changed a dozen years ago, the mathematical formulas were intentionally designed to encourage production of larger vehicles over smaller ones and to encourage production of trucks over cars.

    Under the revised reg, you could take a passenger car platform, put a big boxy body on it, call it an SUV and it automatically qualified for the lower, easier to meet, truck MPG reg. The Obama administration threw a curve saying that an SUV couldn’t simply be a jacked up sedan, but had to be either AWD, or seat 7 to qualify as a truck. That is why the VW Tiguan has a 3rd row seat as standard on the front drive trims, but the 3rd row is optional on AWD trims.

    The bias in the changed regs was obvious. When the regulatory bodies invited public comment, VW’s response was blistering, and on target “Volkswagen does not endorse the proposal under discussion. It places an unfairly high burden on passenger cars, while allowing special compliance flexibility for heavier light trucks. Passenger cars would be required to achieve 5% annual improvements, and light trucks 3.5% annual improvements. The largest trucks carry almost no burden for the 2017–2020 timeframe, and are granted numerous ways to mathematically meet targets in the outlying years without significant real-world gains. The proposal encourages manufacturers and customers to shift toward larger, less efficient vehicles, defeating the goal of reduced greenhouse gas emissions.” In the years since VW issued that statement, the market shift toward SUVs and trucks, and the increasing size of those SUVs and trucks, has been dramatic.

    When FCA started putting 400-500hp V8s in the Charger and Challenger, which are subject to the harder to meet passenger car reg, they were not dewy eyed innocents. They knew exactly what the CAFE repercussions would be.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Hey, look, someone has been paying attention. I think a lot of auto journalists would do well to read this post.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      This is correct.

      Slightly relevant: I met some distant family members for the first time, who live in the same state, but about two-and-a-half hours away. All seven of them piled into the car and drove down to see the rest of the family (that was here). We got to talking and I asked Great-Uncle Somethingorother which vehicle they drove to make the trip, and he said it was a big SUV.

      Nope.

      Turns out my cousin drives one of the new Tiguans, an SEL Premium with the 7 seats. All of them squeezed into her Tiguan. And two of them, an infant and a toddler, were in full-size car seats. I was impressed.

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Wade

      My Challenger had a line item for fuel penalty on the sticker.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Bury the costs? It’s barely $250 per offending vehicle, assuming 300,000 non-compliant trucks or whatever that year. There’s probably a lot more.

      The problem too is most of those are huge profit makers, like pickups, SUVs, Wranglers, R/Ts, demons and other monsters. Plus new Dakota and Wrangler pickups planned.

      An other problem, fines have never been adjusted for inflation.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Bingo, DenverMike. FCA is crying the blues on vehicles that pack the highest profits in their portfolio. Consider it the cost of choosing to do business the way they want and move on. The opening article states that Jeep’s smaller offerings are not leaders in their class; they are marginal at best. Yet they sell plenty. Why are they laggards in fuel economy? Poor design, that’s why. I don’t mean to minimize the issue but the fact is the company did not do a good job with vehicles that would most easily meet the target. So stop blaming others – FCA is a victim of itself and the way mileage regs are written.

        Steve2003 Well written and nice to see actual facts.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        This is not a viable long term strategy. What if the country turns harder left in 2020? Will those costs remain palletable?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Don’t look for the Democrats to do anything to screw the automakers too badly – the UAW puts tons of money in their pockets.

        • 0 avatar
          Lockstops

          I don’t think that even the leftists will be so greedy as to ask for more than a few hundred million per year in ‘campaign donations’, bribes, taxes etc. to enrich themselves (which is their main goal). So in that sense I don’t think thing will change that much.

          Also, if they win an election then their need to make outrageous claims, policies, as well as virtue signal & throw tantrums like crazy will decrease.

          However, their policies will most certainly make the economy tank and people will be less able to afford nice cars so in that sense the party will probably be over. Purchasing power of consumers will go down, company profits will go down, sales volumes will go down, prices will go up…

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Posky strikes again with the clickbait.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “FCA sells the kind of cars people still want, rather than the cars the government thinks they should own; ”

    Burn the witch!

    Oh and I had to fix this:

    There’s also a sense that global emission rules will eventually force America to follow Europe and China’s lead, placing more EVs in the North American market and accelerating the demise of smaller players such as FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      That’s what emission rules are made for primarily: to make absolutely sure that the biggest players are protected from up-and-coming competition. Still, VW, probably the most corrupt, most guilty of paying off politicians to set emissions standards the way they want (and get information before others about what the future regulations will be) managed to burn themselves with their own game since mere corruption wasn’t enough for them, they had to try to cheat on top of that…

      Politicians love emissions rules because that gives them more say on that massive market, therefore they make themselves more valuable = more incentives for companies to bribe them even more.

      If politicians (and public sector bureaucrats) were to just but out and let market economy work then they would effectively cut themselves out of the loop, make themselves unimportant and be saying “no thanks” to more bribe money.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Lockstops makes another very interesting point. Give up a lever of power over a major industry? Where’s the fun in that?

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …If politicians (and public sector bureaucrats) were to just but out and let market economy work then they would effectively cut themselves out of the loop, make themselves unimportant and be saying “no thanks” to more bribe money…

        Except that when the crap hits the fan people turn to the government and bleat “how could you let XXX happen!”. As a little kid in the 70s I recall the first gas shortage. Regardless of the politics of what made that happen, America was caught flat footed. Fuel was scarce. The economy tanked. Manufacturing entered a decline that continues today. And everybody was blaming the gov’t for “allowing” this to happen. Hence the setting of the first mileage standards.

        The idea of a “hands off” approach to the economy was tried before. Its call the Industrial Revolution. Really want to go back to letting the industrialists setting the stage?

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          i worked in Houston when the 1973 “Arab oil embargo” started. It was a great photo op to shoot pictures of long lines of cars waiting around the block that incorporated the Exxon Building, then headquarters of Exxon Company USA, which had an Exxon service station at ground level. I’ll agree with you partly that the public belly-aching about a sudden doubling of retail gas prices caused a government response — which was a complex system of price controls on petroleum.

          But, in a larger sense, the gas lines were the result of a perfect storm of government regulation. It so happened that emission standards went up sharply in 1972 and the technology that we take for granted today that was needed to meet them — digital engine management systems that operate a feedback loop to adjust engine operating parameters in real time to optimize power, efficiency and emissions — didn’t exist. The computing power required just wasn’t there.

          As a result, engines were modified to decrease pollution in ways that cut efficiency and power: greatly lower compression ratios (lower combustion temperatures reduces the amount of NOx, a pollutant. Retarding static spark timing, leaning out mixtures. This produced cars that were hard to start, weakly powered, and which ran unevenly — all the while drinking gobs of fuel. One early solution trhat worked pretty well and was used by Mazda’s rotaries and some BMWs — the thermal reactor — worked by intentionally generating an exhaust with a lot of unburned fuel, all of which was burned up in the downstream reactor. This resulted in an engine that started and ran well, was powerful . . . but used gobs of fuel. My Mazda RX-2 rotary sedan — a subcompact by today’s standards that probably weighed 2500 lbs,– would get 20 mpg at 60 mph — the same as my Dad’s 1963 Chevy sedan did on a family trip from DC to Denver with 3 people and luggage . . . and going 70.

          So, you had a rather sharp increase in demand coupled with an abrupt restriction on supply. The normal marketplace response to this would have been a sharp increase in price — which would have produced a reduction in demand by people limiting their car use and by buying new vehicles that used less fuel — for whatever reason, because they were smaller and lighter, because they had diesel engines, etc.

          So, the government’s action probably limited the sharpness of the price increase, but resulted in shortages (gas lines that undoubtedly wasted tons of fuel). But it delayed a supply response. In 1980, sparked by the revolution in Iran, there was a second “oil embargo” by OPEC. However, by that time even the American public had wised up to the ineffectiveness of the petroleum price regulation scheme, so it was scrapped. There was a supply response and, as a result, oil prices collapsed by the mid-to late 1980s. In fact, as a result of that collapse, the old Soviet Union fell apart. The government had borrowed a lot of money and had to default. The collapse in its access to international credit markets and the collapse in oil revenues meant that the Soviet government simply could not keep its people satisfied and pay the costs of maintaining its empire.

        • 0 avatar
          Lockstops

          I don’t remember any politicians ever facing any reprecussions, let alone public sector bosses. Seems to me that their only threats are internal power politics.

          I have no recollections of any events of the 70’s. Since then AFAIK there have been pretty much zero purges of greedy/incompetent/corrupt public sector or politicians. Anywhere in the world. They tend to have the numbers and connections, not to mention that first and foremost they cover their backs. Thats what they primarily use the resources at their disposal for, only after that do they begin to perhaps ‘serve the public’. At worst they get ‘demoted’ into another cushy job.

  • avatar
    George B

    I predict that the federal government will come up with face-saving CAFE credits that make it easier for auto manufacturers to achieve the weighted average even if consumers refuse to buy the most fuel efficient models. One way to do this is to give manufacturers some minimum fuel economy credit for designing and manufacturing a hybrid drivetrain option independent of the actual take rate by consumers. Assume at least 10% were hybrids for CAFE calculations even if only 1% were sold that way, for example.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      “I predict that the federal government will come up with face-saving CAFE credits that make it easier for auto manufacturers to achieve the weighted average even if consumers refuse to buy the most fuel efficient models.”

      They have already been doing that. iirc, automakers get a credit for building “flex fuel” cars that can run on E85, even though the car may never see a tank of the stuff. iirc, automakers also get a credit for installing the auto start/stop system, whether consumers like it or not. As the quote from VW I posted above pointed out, there are several ways automakers can game the system without improving real world fuel economy one whit.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        How about abandoning the CAFE model of today and putting all vehicles designed for passengers on the same playing field and setting technologically feasible targets? Much of the problem is the structure of the program not the concept itself (at least to most rational people). But don’t feel pity for the automakers. They were heavily involved in the structure of CAFE today. They wanted to give a break to light trucks and they got it.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve203

          “…putting all vehicles designed for passengers on the same playing field and setting technologically feasible targets?”

          The CAFE rulemaking in 2006 did include extensive study of technologically and economically feasible targets.

          “But don’t feel pity for the automakers. They were heavily involved in the structure of CAFE today. ”

          Yes indeed, and the big three got what they wanted: SUVs classified as trucks so compliance would not impact their usability as badly as the regs compromise passenger cars, probably due to a big three perception they are better positioned on SUVs and trucks.

          The second vector of the big three’s input was the bias against small vehicles that is built into the mpg target setting methodology. I read the regulation when it was released a dozen years ago. The reg used the excuse that smaller vehicles are “less safe” to skew the methodology so that smaller vehicles were required to make larger improvements in mpg than larger vehicles to discourage the production of smaller vehicles. This was plainly stated in the regulation.

          So, the reg was designed to favor the production of the vehicles the big three want to sell, because they are the most profitable, and the big three figure they have a market advantage: big trucks and SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      “I predict that the federal government will come up with face-saving CAFE credits that make it easier for auto manufacturers to achieve the weighted average even if consumers refuse to buy the most fuel efficient models.”

      I think CAFE already has something similar with E85. If a vehicle is capable of using E85, then CAFE assumes that something like 20% of all miles traveled are on E85 and so are consuming no gasoline at all with respect to the MPG calculation (i.e.: automatic 20% improvement in MPG figure). That calculation is used even if the car is registered in a state where there is no E85 sold.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Instead of government of the people, by the people and for the people, we have government versus the people.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Building cars people want to buy? Yeah, that’s what FCA is known for. Sure.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Not if you consider that he likely meant SUVs and pickups. It would’ve been better to use “automobiles people want to buy” instead. Their continued sales increases, all on the strength of Jeep and Ram, prove that. The continued decline of segments they have abandoned also prove that.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      The Challenger and Charger do quite well.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      That’s what I was going to say. Outside of JEEP and RAM, uh huh, FCA only builds what people want to buy….riiiiight….

      Seriously though, the photo of the Neon is perfect because once-upon-a-time this company knew how to design and market a small vehicle. Not saying it was great but it held it’s own. Why can’t FCA do that today? They can, they’re just too lazy and content making bucks on SUV’s and trucks while everything else just withers on the vine.

      YES, CUV’s are all the rage today so building a Civic clone probably isn’t the best idea but you don’t see Toyota pulling the plug on the Corolla because it’s sales have slowed. Learn something and keep a model and just continually refine it. Eventually the market demand will come back for cars.

      I harp on Chrysler all the time – or more correctly Daimler – for killing the Neon and “cloud cars” and the LH platform. They had vehicles back in the late 90’s that could compete with Toyota & Honda & Ford and GM. IT’S WHAT MADE THEM A TAKEOVER TARGET IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! They replaced that with the LX cars that are a niche market. WTF??? One of the most epic failures in all of car history.

      Sadly Ford and GM appear to be going in a similar direction these days. I have ZERO sympathy for any fines FCA needs to pay. Quite frankly I wish it would wake them up, but it won’t.

  • avatar
    TS020

    So does CAFE work on cars that customers buy or the average of all cars in an automaker’s lineup? If it’s the latter then there’s nothing stopping, say, Toyota from putting a 1.0TDi engine in a Camry with a $500K price tag and naming it the Camry CE (Compliance Edition).

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      “So does CAFE work on cars that customers buy or the average of all cars in an automaker’s lineup?”

      CAFE used to set a sales weighted fleet average. Automakers could design vehicles any way they wanted to. Ford could build as many V8 Crown Vics as it wanted to, as long as it sold enough Escorts to pull the sales weighted average up to the CAFE standard, which, iirc, peaked out at 27.5mpg.

      The change that was enacted in 2006 entirely changed the methodology. Now each vehicle is assigned a target MPG based on it’s footprint, the product of the wheelbase and track. Automakers are no longer motivated to build smaller vehicles because they don’t need high mpg vehicles to offset the low mpg models. Because of this new methodology, you can lower the mpg a car is required to deliver simply by lengthening the wheelbase. Traditionally, transverse powertrains had the diff to the rear of the engine and transaxle. Flipping the powertrain around to put the diff in front of the engine and transaxle would lengthen the wheelbase by 6″ or more, resulting in a considerable reduction in the mpg the car would be required to deliver. I’m surprised no-one has done that already.

      Consider an SUV and sedan of the same overall length, neglecting for a moment that an SUV can qualify as a “truck”. Because the sedan has to provide space behind the rear suspension for a trunk, it must have significant rear overhang. The SUV, by not needing to provide a trunk, can carry the rear wheels at the very back end of the body, producing a wheelbase 2 feet or more longer than the sedan for the same length body, resulting in a dramatic drop in the target MPG for the SUV vs the sedan. So by putting a station wagon/hatchback body on a car and calling it an SUV, it has a relatively easy time with the CAFE standard. Passenger cars are increasingly cramped with low, fastback rooflines, and trunk lids the size of a mail slot in an effort to reduce wind resistance to meet their MPG target, while SUVs with their boxy, roomy, bodies, with the aerodynamics of a brick, are fine with CAFE. No wonder people are flocking to roomier SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        trackratmk1

        @steve this is spot on. SUVs have been the perfect storm to replace sedans with. Not only do people enjoy the extra space and large cargo openings, they also like sitting up higher, and longer wheelbases do good things for ride quality and NVH. More perceived value means manufacturers can charge a lot more for them, add AWD (in some cases a barely functional system like the CRV), and have an easier time meeting the regs as you stated.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    This inane post and subsequent discussion are proof that these fines work…..

    Any new automobile startups reading this…don’t have a business model that specializes in inefficient cars….or better yet figure out a way to reduce the emissions of the HEMI and save FCA 77 million a year…

    Mild and consistent pressure is the best way to encourage appropriate behavior…

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Which is why people continue to abandon cars and go to light trucks.

      But, yes, it’s better to have a business plan to build unprofitable vehicles that nobody wants.

      OMG WAIT TESLA MADE A TINY PROFIT IN ONE QUARTER AFTER LOSING MONEY FOR YEARS so that changes everything! (No, it doesn’t.)

  • avatar
    Tstag

    This is a good reason for Alfa Romeo to be turned into an electric car maker. It’s why Land Rover are considering making Jaguar electric only.

    • 0 avatar
      NoID

      Maserati is already doing that if you believe the latest 5 year plan from FCA.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        FCA will soon be stuffing their 1.3/2.0/3.6 and 5.7 hybrid systems into everything with an automatic.

        My current (Renegade-based) Compass 4×4/manual/2.4 N/A is already setup for it, engineeringwise— the engine casette and electronics just weren’t ready. The facelift 2.5G Compass will certainly be Hybrid/electric 4×4 similar to Toyota’s setup.

        I hate the electric rear axle/PTU spin-up in the car. It feels like a jet engine, but I assume it is required in case I drop the clutch/a couple gears— so the rear axle splines don’t strip?

        That Compass is basically half electric already. As modern as a non-turbo stickshift wagon can be.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    One easy way to get mileage up is to arrest the mindless upmanship in size and power. Don’t get me wrong – I love power probably more than most. Hence 460 HP sitting in the garage. But there is a difference between my playtoy and my daily driver. Is it really necessary for each model redesign to add more inches, girth, power, and weight? Just look at the cartoonish proportions of today’s pickups. They are a product of the mindless “more is always better” mentality that is pervasive in America. I’ve asked plenty of people over the years about mileage vs power. Most far and away said they would gladly trade a second or so of 0-60 time for a few more MPGs. Is it really necessary for a Camry to be in the six second range to sixty?

    You might argue well, that’s what people buy. Well, if that is all that is available (thanks to the all-important advertising bragging rights) what else is there for them to do? A Civic is not the same as an Accord so that is not a real option. But a high mileage version that does not come with sticker shock would likely sell well. Wait until fuel prices rise – all these truck focused manufacturers are going to crumble.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Is it really necessary for a Camry to be in the six second range to sixty?”

      Yes. Not everyone has the luxury of having a C7 Corvette supplementing their Jetta (or whatever) as a “playtoy” and for those that do, not everyone wants a 2-seat sports car as their “playtoy”.

      Plus, the Camry V6 is still rated at 26MPG overall so it is hardly a big-block Chevelle. It’s also not like every Carmy is set up that way. The *cheaper* hybrid and 4-cylinder versions are still there for people like your friends that desire less power in exchange for more fuel efficiency.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      “One easy way to get mileage up is to arrest the mindless upmanship in size and power. ”

      I pointed out in a longer post upthread: when the CAFE methodology was changed a dozen years ago, it was skewed to put a higher compliance burden on smaller vehicles. The regulation clearly stated this bias, justifying it by claiming smaller vehicles were “less safe”, so the reg was biased to discourage production of smaller vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Roader

      “They are a product of the mindless “more is always better” mentality that is pervasive in America.”

      Are there countries with the “less is always better” mentality is dominant? And is “less is always better” automatically more “mindful”?

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Sometimes more is better. Like in paychecks and snowstorms. But the continual upsizing for nothing other than bragging rights is mindless.

        ajla: let me rephrase. I see no problem in making a Camry a six second car with an optional engine. But the bread and butter cars? The vast majority of those six cylinder cars never see over 3500 rpm. For those drivers, small displacement with higher mileage would be more than adequate. They never use the gas pedal like you or I would…

        • 0 avatar
          Roader

          Why do you get to assign motives to others? I’d wager that 99% of people who yearn for or get a larger vehicle have lots of reasons for doing so other than “bragging rights.”

          Children come to mind. Cargo capacity. Safety. Comfort. Those considerations are hardly “mindless.”

  • avatar
    thornmark

    just looked this up

    a new 6 cylinder “full sized” Chrysler 300 is a few inches shorter than a “compact” 1974 Dart 4 door but weighs about 30% more at over 4000 lbs

    the Dart w/ the small six and auto got 18 mpg while the 300 gets 23 but the 300 does 0-60 in less than half the time at 6.5 sec

    the 300’s trunk is too short and could use the extra 3 inches for aesthetic reasons

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Lorenzo: The humongous increase in atmospheric CO2, as a result of fossil-fuel burning of carbon that was NOT in the natural constant carbon cycle – is what has caused the rise of temperatures. Way more CO2 is not “OK” or “natural” any more than gobbling 40% more salt than you ought to is “OK” or “”harmless”.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    MoparRocker74: That pay-for-what’s-wanted approach can work for other things – walls, price increases due to tariffs/trade wars, etc.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Typical US stupidity. Force manufacturers to meet fuel economy standards while doing NOTHING to influence consumer demand for fuel efficient cars. Want cars to do 35mpg? Tax the bejeezus out of fuel for private use. Tax big engines too, for that matter.

    Kind of like wanting to building a wall to keep brown illegal immigrants out while doing nothing to the companies that hire them, which is why they are here in the first place.


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