• Jul 27th 2009 at 10:29AM
  • 35
2009 Nissan Sentra FE+ 2.0 SR - Click above for a high-res gallery

In an effort to sweeten the incentive for those taking advantage of the government's Car Allowance Rebate System (a.k.a. "Cash-for-Clunkers"), Nissan has reportedly sent its engineers back to the lab in order to pinch every last mile out of each gallon of fuel. As it is written, the program offers a sweeter incentive when consumers purchase vehicles with greater efficiency (based on the difference in fuel economy between the purchased vehicle and the trade-in).

Putting the squeeze on the Sentra's four-cylinder powerplant yielded a 1 mpg improvement – not bad for some minor drivetrain tuning. If the EPA reviews and confirms the bump, the small gain may create the necessary 10-mpg difference Nissan's customers need for the top $4,500 credit.

The program is set to expire this November. That isn't enough time for Nissan, or any automaker for that matter, to make drastic changes. However, engineers are able to focus on quicker fixes such as using lightweight wheels, subtle engine tuning, and changing option packages to reduce weight. According to Nissan, the lure of trade-in bonuses to attract new customers has promoted the automaker to divert much of its engineering to the cause.

[Source: Automotive News, subs. req'd]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      If Nissan focused on MPG and making cars people wanted to buy, they wouldn't be in this situation.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You're more right than you know. The Sentra hasn't been a particularly interesting salvo in the small car for a while now. As far as efficiency goes, why weren't engineers putting that effort into the car the first go-round?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I know you're being sarcastic but it's actually true since the Sentra's competitors already get that extra mpg or so better mileage.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Did they just now decide to do this or has this been in the works for a few weeks/months? The $1 billion reservoir that was alotted for CARS will be dry within days.

      If the average credit for a "clunker" is $4,000, then it will take 250,000 car deals to eat through the cash.

      The sales pace this year is about 800,000 new cars per month. Saturday at my dealership (which is a Lexus/Mercedes/Jaguar dealership), nearly half our customers took advantage of the CARS rebate. The percentage of customers that take advantage of the program is much higher at Honda, Ford, Toyota, Chevy stores, etc. where $4,500 is a handsome down payment.

      Add in the fact that this bill did an excellent job of spiking the sales rate, and it looks to me like those Washingtons won't last more than a couple weeks.....but most people around here don't think the money will last longer than another day or two.

      Can the Nissan get their more fuel-efficient Sentra's into showrooms and on lots by this afternoon?
      • 6 Years Ago
      You know, I'm not a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, yet, but wtf?

      You (Nissan) guys have been able to up the fuel efficiency all this time, and just chose not to? I don't care that it is only one model and it is only a 1mpg boost, this kind of thing infuriates me.
        • 6 Years Ago
        GM did it a few years back on the Cobalt XFE (frankly, they started the trend) and it's still in the lowest emissions bin offered (PZEV), which seems pretty good to me. I think Dan's more on the right track, although no car in this class is very quiet even with sound deadening in place.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Its probably a software change that makes the car run like a dog.
        • 6 Years Ago
        All engineering is compromise.

        This isn't improving fuel economy for free, it's trading drivability and comfort.

        The reason Nissan didn't do this before isn't oil company conspiracy. It's because taking out sound deadening and using a transmission that won't downshift until you floor it to save 1.3 gallons a month is a pretty stupid compromise.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Often you have to make compromises on other emissions (NOx, etc...) or performance to get this kind of increase, since they generally are just playing with the engine's control software. Ford did this a few years back with the Focus, in between 2006 and 2007. They changed the engine control software (which I think basically means they fiddled with the timing and fuel levels) to eek out an additional 1 mpg highway. The problem is that it increased smog forming emissions and NOx. However, it wasn't enough to push it into a different emissions tier, so as far as the window sticker labels were concerned, all consumers noticed was that the mileage went up a tad.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Cash for clunkers should stipulate buying American if we the tax payers are footing the bill for both this program and for bailing out the American automakers Chrysler and GM.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Do not go near any CVT equipped car regardless the manufacturer's pedigree. All have serious reliability issues and disgruntled, much poorer customers. They have strange performance characteristics, are short-lived, unrepairable, often fail soon after the factory warranty expires, and cost $10,000 to replace. Ford, GM, BMW and others introduced then quickly discontinued them. Run away, run away, run away!
        • 6 Years Ago
        IIRC, Ford built some Escapes (and Fusions) with CVTs.
        • 6 Years Ago
        GM had them in some Saturns for about one model year, same for Ford Fusions and BMW Minis.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Also, didn't some models of the Ford 500/Taurus come with a CVT?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ford Escape Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid use CVTs.

        The only non-Hybrid Ford vehicles that used a CVT were the Freestyle, Five Hundred and Montego. In the Five Hundred/Montego, the CVT was used on the AWD models and a six speed was used on the FWD models. The Freestyle used a CVT across the whole board.

        Non-hybrid Fusions never got a CVT.
      • 6 Years Ago
      More underpowered, lean-running, slow, boring cars just to take advantage of awful government policy at the expense of legitimate tax payers. Such a crooked system that is in place.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I don't think lightweight wheels are a bad thing...
        • 6 Years Ago
        There are no vehicles for sale today that are truly underpowered. 80HP used to be standard for this class. Even with the increased weight of cars now, HP has gone up much more.

        Besides, two of the items mentioned as quick fixes are weight reductions, those are good for mpg and performance.

        And don't blame Nissan for this, the program is already in place, whether Nissan changes their car or not.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Nathan, Agreed! IMO I'd rather have car that has more power than my lawnmower, and have to put a few dollars more per year into it.

        Letstakeawalk, "slow boring car, and underpowered" are relative terms. To me if the car can't do 0-60 in under 7 seconds, it is slow and boring. I bet the Sentra isn't that fast, but maybe.

        Fuel efficiency with the performance is key. I'd rather have more power than needed, than not enough power. Just because you have the power doesn't mean you have to use it, (being hp=gas consumption). I can get just as good of gas mileage with a V6 as a 4cyl in the same car. Just can't floor it all the time!

        Also is Nissan the only one doing this? You're saying no other auto car company has sent engineers to pinch out MPGs for C4C?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I have a 2008 SER Spec-V (I know it is kinda fugly, lol) anyway it gets great MPG and has good power. 200hp and 32mpg on the highway. I avg 27 around town.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Its coming up on the start of college right now. I guarantee you that if you have a good running, driving car that is an automatic you can go sell it near any college campus in a week or two. Dealer says it is worth 4,000 real money? Fine go put it up on craigslist near a college and ask $5,996 or so for it. Give it a week or two and it will be sold for more then $4,500."

      Oh please - the dealer is never going to give this advice. They (understandably) want the deal done as soon as possible and will encourage the person to use the clunker money or just trade it. EVERY dealer I have ever been to tries there best to dissuade the buyer from selling private party. They know when the person leaves there is little chance they will be back.

      Why would the dealer want to buy a car for $3000 or $4000 when they can pay $0 and get $4500 from the government?

      The program is ok in limited cases but it will be used out of context - I guarantee it.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I am a dealer and I have given that advice.

        If we are a couple thousand apart on a trade I always tell people that you might be able to make that up on a private party sale. I tell them they just figure out if the extra money is worth the inconvenience of a private party sale and sometimes it is but sometimes it is not. If there is no loan on the trade and it is cheap enough then a private party is usually pretty simple.

        It only gets complicated when the car is worth near 10,000 dollars or more and when their is a loan. in that case the sale tax advantage of going through a trade in and all the hassle of getting the loan paid off usually make a trade in make more sense.
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