Why Wait? You Can Buy Cars that Make a Difference Right Now
Updated December 16, 2012
One of the biggest criticisms of the auto industry as a whole, and U.S. automakers in particular, is the lack of long-range strategic planning and thinking. While that gripe is an easy storyline when fuel prices spike or the economy forces factory closings, job layoffs, and general hardships for everyone involved, the big picture is really quite different.
In the real world, small and efficient cars generally don’t make car companies much money, if any. Luxury cars, light trucks, and SUVs on the other hand reward big margins and not only keep the board and stockholders happy, but the factories humming and workers employed.
Today, when profit is often portrayed as corporate greed rather than a means to keep industry moving forward and offering the ability to reinvest in future technologies, what’s needed most are high volume products that earn a profit for the manufacturer.
When fuel prices dropped from their $4.00-plus peak in the summer of 2008, some of the momentum and incentive shown by consumers demanding more fuel-efficient vehicles was lost. But the lesson of how painful driving a vehicle with lousy fuel economy can be was not entirely forgotten. Today, fuel economy is a primary purchase decision for most Americans not because fuel prices are too high, but because tough economic times make every dollar count.
Unfortunately, one aspect that has lost momentum is the concern about dependence on foreign oil. Consumer outcry for domestic fuel sources and the drive toward clean, renewable fuels that can be produced here at home have become somewhat quiet if not dormant, although one hiccup in supply will rekindle interest. The need for a national energy policy is stronger than ever. And by a national energy policy, that’s not advocating higher fuel taxes to artificially drive up the demand for high fuel efficiency vehicles. We need to invest in our own energy infrastructure that has domestic motor fuel as a core component.
As we enter the next decade, consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to buying a car with good fuel economy. Range extended electric vehicles and pure EVs are on the horizon. Hybrids are evolving and becoming more mainstream as battery technology advances. Clean diesel is becoming more of an option as well, and a solution Green Car feels is an important piece of the overall puzzle. Natural gas, with its clean combustion, abundant supplies, and home refueling potential, is a great option, too.
Current and near-term gasoline vehicles with high fuel economy are also critical to the future of transportation. Engine downsizing technology like Ford’s EcoBoost can save an extraordinary amount of fuel if widely implemented. Plus, there are some real gems in the current fleet that simply don’t test well in the revised EPA cycle yet respond very well to fuel-efficient driving techniques that net much better than EPA mileage estimates.
And then there are vehicles like the Chevy Equinox with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder ECOTEC engine and six-speed automatic. Fitted with standard low-rolling resistance tires, it scores 32 mpg on EPA’s highway cycle to be the highest mileage vehicle in the emerging crossover segment. This is the type of vehicle that bridges the gap to the next generation of ‘green cars.’
As always, there isn’t one clear direction, but many. Moving forward requires pursuing them all while making the most of what we have.
Categories: Gear Grinding