• Dec 20th 2007 at 1:27PM
  • 89

Click the ZR1 for a high-res photo gallery
As the 2009 Corvette ZR1 was unveiled on the very same day that President Bush signed into law a new energy bill, the obvious question is where do we go from here? The most prominent part of the bill was the first increase in corporate average fuel economy requirements in over two decades. By 2020, most manufacturers will have to achieve a sales weighted average fuel economy of 35 mpg for their fleets. Note that was "most" and not "all" manufacturers, a subject we'll return to in a moment.

At the press preview of the new LS9 engine, GM Powertrain VP Tom Stephens was asked about gas guzzler taxes and how the energy bill would affect the future of cars like the ZR1. Stephens acknowledged that the ZR1 would have a gas guzzler tax, although the final mileage numbers weren't done yet. As for the future, it's too early to tell. In the past, the death of performance cars has been predicted repeatedly and here we are at a new high water mark. Corvette VLE Tom Wallace said at the car's debut that the ZR1 would last at least through the C6 model cycle. No decisions have been made about the C7 and beyond. Keep reading after the jump.

Aside from the Corvette, the question actually gets more complicated for other manufacturers. The fuel economy rules actually exempt or grant waivers to manufacturers that produce fewer than 10,000 vehicles annually worldwide. So Ferrari, Lamborghini and Lotus are safe. The trouble comes for the likes of Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, which produce far more vehicles. The latter two at least can balance some of their AMG and M models against smaller more efficient cars. Porsche has no such option, which may be part of why it is taking control of Volkswagen.

In order to get the low volume exemption, the manufacturer has to be a separate corporate entity, which rules out spinning off Corvette as a separate brand from Chevrolet. It all gets lumped together under GM. On the other hand, being part of a large company like GM actually gives the Corvette an advantage compared at least to the German companies. Because the fleet economy numbers are based on a sales weighted average, and the Corvette volumes are relatively small in comparison to overall GM sales, the sports car actually doesn't sway the numbers that much.

It's entirely possible that in the coming years we might see AMG and M spun off from their parents and classed as low volume builders. With technologies like dual clutch transmissions, direct injection, biofuels and some sort of hybrid setup, it's also distinctly possible that enough progress will come that future generations of ZR1, Viper and Carrera will play happily on the back roads with Tesla Roadsters. The absolute truth is that it's anybody's guess what the future holds. But if the past is anything to go by, it won't be what you expect today.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      The way CAFE works now, manufacturers not meeting the standard are assessed a fine amounting to a few hundred to a few thousand bucks per vehicle. The Euro luxury brands - Porsche, Mercedes, etc - pay this every year.

      I don't know if this is how the new rules will work. But if it is, a few thousand dollars in mileage penalty on a $100,000 + supercar doesn't matter.

      As far as people posting about their current small cars that get 30 or 35mpg, keep in mind that the 35mpg requirement applies to the combined result of the 2008 EPA test. The smallest and most efficient conventional cars sold today - the Civics, Yaris, Accents, Aveos, etc - have trouble cracking 30 on that test.

        • 7 Years Ago
        That's exactly my point. It doesn't matter whether you get 10 mpg or 50 actually driving it in the real world, the requirement that manufacturers are required to meet is combined score on the EPA treadmill test.

        And for a conventional gas powered car, achieving that means clowncar along the lines of a Geo Metro with a weight budget of under 2200 pounds.

        • 7 Years Ago
        My partners Suzuki Swift (1.5L) gets almost exactly 30MPG with combined city and highway driving. It has an in-dash fuel economy display, and I have checked this against the fuel pump/kms traveled to ensure its accuracy.

        I drive with a reasonably heavy foot in city traffic, so getting 35mpg is perfectly achievable with more conservative driving, especially considering the advances in direct-injection etc that is starting to make its way into passenger cars.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Love the Bad Boy Vette version!
      • 1 Year Ago
      I didn't understand anything in this article because I don't know anything about cars. When I talk about cars, I talk about how cool they look. If you wanted to talk to me about the specs of a certain car, you might want to just find someone else. http://www.harshmanmcbeelaw.com/Business-Law/
      • 7 Years Ago
      What I beleive that you will see is more limited production, to achieve balance. If you can only sell x-number of (insert monster gas eater here) against your entire fleet, then that's all the manufacturer will produce. The Corvette, Mustang, Challenger, Camaro high performance models will become more limited models.

      The other option is for the auto manufacturers to begin real development of alternative power sources. This, I believe, is the desired outcome of this legislation. Who wouldn't love to see Tesla Motors picked up by a "real" manufacturer with real development resources?

      Also, I don't think that Ferrari will be affected, as they are a separate corporate entity from Fiat Auto, Spa. Fiat Spa is the majority shareholder of Fiat Auto and Ferrari. Control of Alfa and Maserati have been transferred back to Fiat Auto, Spa.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Safe to assume all cars will get better mileage. Will that mean lighter cars that use start/stop, cylinder deactivation, etc? I'm sure some combos of the aforementioned will get into a few cars. And newer better techs will pop up too. BMW's already found a way to increase mileage (as much as 20%) on the 08 european mini, 1 series and 5 series with just start/stop, electric power steering and regen braking.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I really enjoyed reading this! I've been looking for some insights on cars, and how to make them better, and this gave me some great insight on how to do just that. I really appreciate you sharing this! Jason | http://www.gomezmaylaw.com/?page_id=8
      • 1 Year Ago
      When you are searching for a lawyer, what is it that you should look for and what should you expect? There is a lot of businesses and sites out there that can help, but some are better than others. There is this great site called http://www.putnamlieb.com that can help you out and get the problem under control.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Hell, I'll just let my future kids worry about global warming." Attitude is worrisome. I'll admit I could be a hypocrite on this one.

      I think the bar has to be set. This is no longer a matter of free market or sport cars enthusiasts. This is about public safety and the future. The bar has to be set somewhere so the auto manufacturers can do their part in reducing all the emissions we are producing. The biggest problem with this is the safety issue. Small cars vs all the large SUVs out there will get creamed. Maybe stricter penalties for SUV drivers that speed and other traffic violations?
        • 7 Years Ago
        You guys do get the CAFE stuff has little to do with global warming and more to do with foreign dependence on oil? That energy bill covers far more than cars.
        • 7 Years Ago
        You are absolutely correct sadly. Not doing it for the greater good, just because we need to fight back those evil middle eastern countries for converting their money from the old greenback. Guess we're really trying to stick it to em. Meh...
      • 1 Year Ago
      It will be interesting to see how auto dealerships cope with the new rules. If they can manage to make a high end powerhouse of a car like the ZR1 that gets good mileage that would be awesome. I would save up for it and buy the thing as soon as I could. I have always wanted to own a high end car like that, but the mileage has been the main factor that stopped me in the past. Jason|http://www.allen-rector.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=43&Itemid=72
      Sean Valjean
      • 1 Year Ago
      I am really excited to see what will happen soon with these cars. I feel like what Porsche has done with the power and fuel economy of the new 918 spider is going to set the standard for future super cars as well as sports cars. I would just about go into bankruptcy in Everett, WA to be able to buy a car like that. http://www.gregorydavieslaw.com/everett-wa-bankruptcy.htm
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have an idea, Why don't they just apply the fine to the cost of the car? That way the earth killing 26-28 MPG earth killing American V8 could still be around. I would pay extra not to suffer driving a worthless Lotus or Yaris toy car.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Worthless lotus?
        thats a funny joke

        • 7 Years Ago
        Todays small cars are very much safer than the behemoths of yesteryear.

        The safety argument against small cars is not as valid today as it was 20 or even 10 years ago.

        Your safer crashing in a BMW mini than the last gen Ford F150.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Tesla will have no problem here, but I think it's plenty possible to still compete as a gas supercar. Technologies that shut off half the engine when you flip a switch could possibly be used. Might be able to get away with that, and when you want some power (or just whenever you drive) flip the rest of the engine back on.
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