• Feb 18th 2010 at 8:09AM
  • 65
In the summer of 2008, we saw Americans respond pretty quickly to gas that cost $4 a gallon (or more). Now that we've had time to adjust to average prices a little bit north of $2.50 in most parts of the country for the last half year or so, what will it take to get people to say, "Hey, gas costs a lot again and we should think seriously about fuel efficient cars and driving behavior"? According to consumer data that Edmunds.com looked at, even the cost going up to around $3.50 isn't going to be enough. The takeaway point is that even at that price, interest in small cars, crossovers and pickups is "relatively low." Similarly, interest in hybrids and small cars in general is falling. With gas as cheap as it is, finding buyers for all of the more fuel efficient vehicles that the government is pushing to get made could be difficult. The problem, as so many people will tell you, is that gas is just too cheap in the U.S. As AutoPacific analyst James Hossack told Green Car Advisor:
There's nothing wrong with the government's policy. It's a good idea to consume less fuel. I certainly don't want to be giving more money [for oil] to people who don't like us. The problem with convincing people to embrace the idea is that we keep the price of gasoline so low.
More details available here.

[Source: Green Car Advisor | Image: sovett - C.C. License 2.0]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Something else must be mentionned here: It doesn't matter how much gas we buy from other countries or how cheap it is. Seriously.

      First of all, even if we spent half the country's GDP on fuel it wouldn't matter since we're buying it in American or Canadian dollars. What are people in Saudi Arabia gonna do with American or Canadian $$$ except spend it back here? That's why it's called TRADE. Money spent doesn't dissapear in a big hole, it has to be returned to the home country eventually. Study economics and you'll see. Oh sure, they may take the money we give them and trade it for Japanese Yen or Chinese Yuan, but that just moves the money up a step and whoever traded their yen or yuan for it still has to get rid of it somewhere. In fact, no matter how you slice it, a country's money ALWAYS has to be spent in the country where it's from in the end. Works the same for them as for us.

      Second, cheap gas means that we'll just burn through it faster until it's all gone. The carbon problem solves itself. Just keep tightening the carbon output of cars. What do we care if they burn a lot of fuel? In fact, cars today burn so much fuel BECAUSE they pollute so little, not in spite of it. Ask anyone who's ever taken the anti-pollution stuff off their car, the fuel economy goes up significantly.

      Thirdly, a small car doesn't consume less gas than a large one. There comes a time when the simple physics of the energy vs weight, means that you're improving fuel economy by increments and it's pointless to make the car smaller. Just look at how a Toyota Yaris isn't any more fuel efficient than a Toyota Corolla; or how a Honda Ridgeline is just as much a gas hog as a Ford F-150 despite one being car based and the other being a big wasteful truck.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I disagree completely with the warped ideas expressed in this article and confirmed in various ways by most posters.

      Americans are basically smart and choose the vehicle that best satisfies all, every one of, THEIR needs as far as possible. It just may be that one of their needs is less important to them, than your need for gasoline fuel economy, over all else.

      In every oil price rise, post 1973, the characteristics are that it was a temporary, non-long enduring, Price Spike. And self correcting. It induces a recession, much like a large tax increase, but imposed on everybody worldwide. It induces a recession and then the reduced demand of 2-4%, creates a oil market glut and a subsequent Oil Price collapse. Prices return to approximately the situation, ante bellum.

      If a single SUV can transport the family, and tow the boat to the lake, and haul the occasional purchased DIY materials, or the wife's new loveseat, then that is what people will purchase, who have the wherewithal and freedom to purchase anything.

      I have nothing but contempt for the overweening condescension expressed here, that people are intrinsically stupid and must be guided, and forced, with police power, to behave in your preferred Utopian version of actions.

      Nor are Americans unique. When other countries citizens grow wealthier, they up size their cars from micro city cars and bicycles, as quickly as they can. Unless of course the hobnailed boot of government prevents that as in Europe. Which despite it politically installed enormous gas taxes, whose governments are more greedy and worse than any Oil Sheik, prevent it. It is not surprising that little to no technical advances happen there; and the citizens drive around in tinier cars than they prefer. Meanwhile spewing massive amounts of diesel soot and pollution, in order to have a slightly larger vehicle with barely acceptable amounts of fuel economy. Even as they must kill themselves on the toxic effluents forced on them by their Big Brother governments. Governments, full of self-conceited, condescending clods like those expressing their opinions here.

        • 8 Months Ago
        Thanks for your usual kind words and entertainment Stan

        "I have nothing but contempt for the overweening condescension expressed here, that people are intrinsically stupid and must be guided, and forced, with police power, to behave in your preferred Utopian version of actions."

        Well, collectively they are stupid because they use taxpayers' money (in the form of government funded invasions of other countries) to support that lack of thought which typical Americans do not place on the consequences of buying gasoline -- out of sight out of mind. But, they don't see this price in the price oat the pump and don't give it another thought except when it comes to providing support to their troops under the guise of attacking Muslims to protect their country.

        " [Europe] Meanwhile spewing massive amounts of diesel soot and pollution, in order to have a slightly larger vehicle with barely acceptable amounts of fuel economy."

        Actually, emissions on diesels are pretty good now. All of a sudden you're a champion for the cause of air reducing pollution?

        "If a single SUV can transport the family, and tow the boat to the lake, and haul the occasional purchased DIY materials, or the wife's new loveseat, then that is what people will purchase, who have the wherewithal and freedom to purchase anything."

        Yes, and EV's will be able to do it better.


        "Be aware that alcohol fuel avoids their agenda while also defeating the sheiks and dictators."

        Except that when Arabia no longer gets our oil money and they become poor the number of terrorists will increase exponentially because they will all be starving. Terrorists by and large come from disillusioned poor families who don't get a cut of the oil money dole.

        You can thank previous administrations for that who willingly established the relationship with Arabia in the first place. Now we won't e able to get out of it without massive political chaos over there. They are addicted to our oil money in the worst possible way.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I invite you to come over to Europe and witness first had that it is not, in fact, a dystopian wasteland where people live out their bleak lives under the oppression of orwellian governments. I'll even show you around.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I share your disagreement with the austerity-pushing Malthusians.

        Be aware that alcohol fuel avoids their agenda while also defeating the sheiks and dictators. You can vroom off into the sunset in your giant fuel-guzzling vehicle, conscience clear.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It would be usefull to do a survey of a whole bunch of drivers who drive the large inefficient cars and ask them questions like:
      If gas prices were higher would you consider buying a more fuel efficient car than the car you are driving now?
      If no, why not?

      If yes, at what price per gallon would you consider changing your car and how long would the price need to remain high before you would consider a change?
      • 5 Years Ago
      ATTENTION PRESS: NOT EVERYONE CAN AFFORD THE PRICE OF FUEL AS IS, EVEN IF THE OWN A SMALL FUEL EFFICIENT CAR. (I'm getting sick of saying this over and over again, beating a dead horse, but nobody seems to be getting the point).
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Brandon, What you're forgetting is that you already pay a fortune for that gas today and you don't even take that into consideration. As lne937s mentions above, you pay a fortune for that gas through income, property and sales taxes that go to fund everything from the military to infrastructure to tax breaks and incentives to oil companies to go find more....so that you can have that "cheap" gas.

        You scream bloody murder when someone says that a tax should be added to gasoline, but why aren't you screaming about what they take out of your income tax and property tax to pay for it?

        We spent $3Trillion on the Iraq war, we have a long ways to go in Afghanistan and we have to support literally hundreds of bases in the middle east to protect pipelines and the flow of oil in the region. We spend over half a Trillion dollars every year on our military even without the actual wars. We send hundreds of Billions out of our economy that hurts American jobs.

        You're right to be mad about extra taxes on gas and you should complain. We all should and should be making our voices heard in Washington. But we should complain about ALL OF IT! Not just the stuff you have shoved in your face at the pump.

        You probably pay over $10 a gallon right now and you don't even know it!!! It's hidden from you but they damn sure make you pay those income taxes don't they?

        Believe me, you don't even have cheap gas now, it's just not in your face every time you pull up to the pump.
        • 8 Months Ago
        How about this? Let's us add $2 of tax per gallon of gasoline, and put the money in an escrow account. At the end of the year, distribute the money equally to the American citizens. Heck, let's mandate the Federal government to pre-pay at the beginning of the year by estimating on the total amount at the of the year.

        • 8 Months Ago
        @daveD Are you kidding me? Who says I don't scream bloody murder about those things! You want me to talk about taxes? I would talk for a week non-stop...

        You know what they say about assumptions. Next time, don't tell me I have no clue.
        • 8 Months Ago
        No insult intended. I just think that we get mad about the wrong thing sometimes and focus on the symptoms rather than the problem.

        I'll gladly pay $6 a gallon for gas because I can control how much I use....and I want to stop paying for it out of my income tax! My income tax goes to fund everybody who wants to drive an SUV and uses 3-4 times as much gas as I do! When I pay for my portion of income tax that supports military bases in the mid-east, they don't ask me how much I drove and what MPG my car gets...they just take my money and spend it.

        If they made it a real usage tax then I'd pay less if prices hit $6 vs the $3 today with all the "hidden" gas taxes we already pay. And I can choose to trade my current car for a 98 Corolla or Civic if I really want to save the money I spend at that point. For those who can afford and want to keep driving an SUV or pickup...good for them...as long as THEY pay for it, not me.

        For a company that makes it's living on long haul trucking, etc. they should get a tax break because I don't want to hurt them and raise the price on the goods that we all need. But I also want to see them make some progress in going towards something other than oil because the money they spend on oil goes out of our economy.

        The way it is today, I pay a HELL of a lot more than $6 a gallon today because of the portion of my income tax that goes there and I want THAT stopped.
        • 8 Months Ago
        If the price of gas at its current low level is creating a strain on your personal budget, then maybe you should reconsider even owning a car. You appear to want someone to change reality to fit your situation, rather than change your situation to fit reality.

        Move closer to where you work, and start walking, biking or using public transportation. Millions of people around the world - rich and poor - make their daily commute without using a personal automobile.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Nothing will change until you remove the wasteful attitude of Americans from the equation. Positive change will only occur when people willingly want to do what's good for them and their environment...not simply because it makes financial sense.

      With the general selfishness and self-centeredness people seem to exhibit, that's not likely to change anytime soon.
        • 8 Months Ago
        "Positive change will only occur when people willingly want to do what's good for them and their environment..."

        Give up personal autos entirely, move to a walkable neighborhood, and buy a bike. EVs are a stop-gap solution that don't address the wasteful use of land and energy.

        That's about as radical as I get, please continue to buy whatever you want, from whoever you want. I'm not going to FORCE you to live in my utopia, even though it would be in your best interest.
        • 8 Months Ago

        Make all the excuses you want, but you're the one who is willingly "foiling" (you mean fouling) my air and water and soil because you think you need to own a car.

        You're a pretty big hypocrite to say other people should be willing to change, but no, not you.
        • 8 Months Ago
        We're not living in Europe for me to have that lifestyle option ...sorry.

        In anycase, I suppose you don't care then when your neighbors are dumping foil waste into THEIR backyard and polluting like crazy while next to you...after all...they have a right to pollute and foil up the air and water we all breath and drink right?

        If you want to pollute excessively, then get your OWN water and OWN air...the idea of sharing responsibly is a rather important one and not to be diminished constantly with nonsense like forcing people to do it. Hence the comment about people have to WANT to do it otherwise they're in deep sht.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm a SAHM to a 2yr old boy. I drive a Honda Fit. I know many other moms with 1 kid who drive monstruosities and claim they can barely fit all their stuff in them. Honestly, the Fit is just about perfect. It even handles my son's gargantuan carseat-- rear-facing!! We're thinking of having a 2nd kid and upgrading cars, but the only time we'd really need the extra space (cargo/seat-wise) is when people come to visit. For day-to-day stuff, the Fit is perfect for us and would even easily accommodate another child.

      And BTW my 6'1" hubby agrees with me.

      The other day at the gas station I had a thought-- what if we jacked up the price of gas, and used that money to pay for more attendants to pump your gas for you? You'd force people to make better choices on their gas consumption AND create jobs! (I'm only half-joking there...)
        • 8 Months Ago
        @EVSuperhero...you're not getting your hands smelly from gas anyway because you already have a cool EV!
        • 8 Months Ago
        Gas station attendants still pump ours in Oregon. It is just as cheap as our neighbors in Washington state who pump their own gas. All you states that have to pump you own gas were duped into thinking it would be cheaper but it is not. No smelly hands for me when I go to the pumps.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I contend it's the styling. All the fuel efficient cars are ugly. The nicer looking cars have larger motors in them. It's how the auto makers make them. THey make them ugly so we buy the nicer looking cars with the bigger engines.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Ugly" fuel efficient cars? Like the Lotus Elise? (30 mpg).

        As for "cheap" gas: over NINETY BILLION DOLLARS spent fighting - over oil - in Irag.

        Gas is "cheap" if it's someone else's son, fighting and dying overseas!

        Simple solution: raise fuel prices for EVERYONE, except commercial truckers.

        And as for "uncomfortable" efficient cars: I recently rode in a Lexus hybrid: comfortable, efficient, well-built.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's the only car I can think of either. It's a shame.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It seams universal that cars are an extension of their personality. After all, they are marketed that way. In the US, the macho image is portrayed to incited men to buy large powerful masculine looking cars. Small, dainty, efficient cars are perceived to be for girls. I know for a fact many young women will not date a man if his car falls in that category leaving the man to seriously consider the the car for reason other than efficiency and practicality. I'm sure there are many women that would but it's a game of cat and mouse. He with the best toys wins.
        Although the Honda Civic at 25 mpg is not bad, let's not forget that cars 10 years ago were already getting those numbers. Doesn't seam like a huge improvement is on the horizon especially for the Civic which has notoriously been a fuel efficient car. It almost seams like they are going backwards.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No love for the Mini Cooper? 28city, 36hwy. The Clubman version is right there as well.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Sure, the Mini is a great small car and at $18,000 base is a good price, but if you want all the normal stuff on it, now you're into $25,000. Not affordable compared to $16,000.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Iraq war costs 3 trillion -- not 90 billion.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think there is a good point to be made from somewhere in Richards original comment. There are many reasons people buy a car. One of which is styling which has an effect on how you feel about your car when you look at it, or imagine what other people think of your car when they look at it. This is a good place to start when you want to sell a car, fuel efficient or not.

        There are other factors like economy of purchase price, and running cost, and environmental impact. To some people (not the majority), these are the most attractive and motivating reasons to buy a car. Some people believe they should have the right to make these issues the most important factors for everyone, like it or not.

        Forcing the agenda by artificially rising the price of fuel is attacking the symptom and not source of the problem. The majority of people buy their cars on an emotional reaction, usually on how a car looks. Make fuel efficient cars tick most of the desirability boxes for the most people and now you've solved a big problem.

        I currently live in UK where price fixing is commonplace for all the usual sins. Fuel, Alcohol, Tobacco... $8 dollar per gallon gas pisses me off, but doesn't keep me or anyone else from needing to get where we're going in a car that is nice to drive and look at. I think most people are the same.

        Now if you want to find a politically correct way of raising tax collections via the back door, effecting the poorest the hardest, then raising a gas tax is a wonderful idea, but the wrong idea.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Honda civic starts at just under 16k. Thats a nice looking car. It gets 25/36 which is pretty good. Its not the best but its better than average...
        • 5 Years Ago

        "Your logic is flawed. If all fuel efficient cars are ugly, then by extension, all ugly cars are fuel efficient."

        That is not how logic works.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Tell that to the Fisker Karma.

        All the cheaper cars aren't ugly they're purposefully designed different to appeal to the college crowd. The same people that bought the xB and Fit are the same ones with zero money to spend on gas.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Nice move of the goal posts, Richard.

        The styling of the Mini Cooper comes standard with the $18,000 version - which is certainly affordable by most people.

        • 5 Years Ago
        First of all the Lotus base price is $47,500. Not exactly affordable despite being a two seater. The Lexus may be comfortable but at $35,000 it's not exactly affordable either. Again, the Scion Xb is ugly along with the Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit. They scream ugly. Those are more fuel efficient, but even Toyota is having trouble selling them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not everybody on a budget went to college. Many can't afford new cars as witnessed by the huge used car market. It's all marketing. The auto makers know what their doing. It costs the same to design an attractive car as it does to design an econobox.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Your logic is flawed. If all fuel efficient cars are ugly, then by extension, all ugly cars are fuel efficient.

        Except any Jeep, Land Rover, pickup truck, minivan, full-sized van or SUV that is. Even Porsche couldn't make an SUV that looked good. In fact, considering the wide range of ugly vehicles that get bought year after year after year (and then re-sold, once they're even uglier), I would say that "ugly" doesn't really factor into the average car buyer's decision making.

        In fact, I think you need to give some examples of what cars you find beautiful so that we have some basis of comparison, because honestly, I think that's a bullshit argument - the last stand upon which you have any case at all for not buying a car that gets better than 11 MPG that doesn't make you sound like a complete idiot.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, your thinking is flawed. Fuel efficient cars are usually ugly, but not necessarily are all ugly cars are fuel efficient. Some ugly cars are not very good on gas at all. Any questions?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The problem is that, up until now, with gas powered cars, performance is almost directly related to fuel consumption. With the first EV's to hit the roads this year, that relationship will be shattered. Then the whole situation will change since with an EV, performance has nothing to do with fuel economy, but rather, the size of the battery pack and motor.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There's lots of lip service paid to "personal responsibility" until it comes to people actually thinking about their own choices and the consequences of such, and heaven forbid having to make any changes or sacrifices in their lifestyle or vehicle choices. Until people are savvy and responsible enough to do the right thing on their own accord, which ain't gonna happen any time soon, we're stuck with needing to treat the general populace like children and punish them for bad choices and/or reward them for good ones.
        • 8 Months Ago
        There's the rub, who decides what is the right thing for you? Me, the government, your neighbor?
      • 5 Years Ago
      this article seems somewhat dishonest. afaik truck and suvs sales have dropped dramatically in favor of more sane cars.
      you could tax gas somewhat but Obama should start by growing a pair and educate his dumb people. the biggest enemy is ignorance and bad attitude.
      then he should make sure there are some neat fast light aerodynamic PHEVs for people to buy instead of the dumbass trucks and suvs and 'crossovers'.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Das Boese,

      I used to travel there very frequently . My own business in the US, was as an American distributor for Belgian high-tech products. Even then, you could see the EU cities air getting dirtier, and the overwhelming diesel stink pervading everything, before your nose acclimated in 20 minutes or so. Nothing gags me more than to be stuck behind an old, sooty, stinking, Bus belching black smoke and noxious fumes. It was my first reaction every time I climbed off the plane in Europe.

      America is on the verge of having achieved truly clean air over the entire continent; with but Houston barely and Los Angeles, not yet in compliance. Our only concern is the concern to admit considerably cleaner European diesels, than your governments allow there. Your automakers can and do make much cleaner cars for export here, than they poison you with there. And with the active cooperation of your so-called "green" governments, who really don't give a damn.

      Why? Because it will dirty our much cleaner air. CARB is proposing to raise the diesel cleanliness standards from T2 B5 to T2 B2 or better, to simply match the cleaner ICE cars, never mind the coming electrics. And the fuel economy of our autos have matched your exports, and will soon far surpass them as you dither about unnecessary CO2 emissions. I agree you are CO2 emitters, while North America is now a net carbon sink. We made the tough land use decisions, and didn't just talk about them interminably; admittedly not just for GHG concerns. We absorb all that we and nature produce, and some blowing in from Eurasia too. As if it mattered any more, since the exaggerated concerns have been revealed to essentially constitute a hoax.

      Do you know that fully 25% of the existing US auto fleet of ICE cars, according to CARB green zealots, and published on these pages, are meeting T2B2, or the cleanliness levels of fully electric zero-pollution automobiles today?

      Meanwhile, you debate the effective date for EU V, and EU VI regulations, that the USA surpassed in 1980, some thirty years ago. Were I you, I would be hopping mad at your phony greens and the paternalistic socialist governments that differ in their pollution policies from their old East Bloc comrades only in degree of contempt for their proles, like you.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Fuel prices are a tricky, fiddly thing. Raise them and you also raise shipping costs and public transportation costs. (What do you think buses run on?) You also raise the price of restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and everything else. Again, products need to be shipped to stores and employees need to get to work so they'll ask for raises; or quit and cost the stores more in retraining new people. The businesses affected won't simply just accept these costs, they'll pass em off on the consumer.

      There's also another fact: A car driven an average of 10,000 miles a year that gets 45mpg has no significant advantage in savings over a car that gets 45mpg. Yes, you'll save money on the 45mpg-er, but not as much as you'd think. Just look at Europe, gas prices are high there but you still see people driving fairly big gas hogs anyway. In fact, the main reason for small cars in Europe isn't the price of gas, but the fact that they just don't have room for bigger vehicles. A problem we don't have.
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