• Apr 4th 2011 at 11:55AM
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2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

It's estimated that automakers will dish out more than $50 billion to meet CAFE standards that go into effect in 2016, but if consumers don't buy enough fuel-efficient vehicles, then automakers may fail to meet the required 35.5 miles-per-gallon average.

According to Ward's Auto, the average fuel economy rating of new vehicles sold in 2010 was 22.2 mpg. That's actually down from the 22.3 mpg average in 2009. In addition, hybrid cars shrunk from 2.9 percent of new vehicle sales in 2009 to 2.4 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, sales of trucks, SUVs, crossovers and minivans rose from 48 percent to 51 percent from 2009 to 2010.

With gasoline now averaging $3.56 a gallon nationally, you'd think that car buyers would transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles but, as Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers explains, "for consumers to really change their buying habits, they must believe higher gas prices are a long-term change, and by long-term, they mean five years or more." But automakers don't have that kind of time and if they don't meet looming CAFE standards, then stiff fines may be handed out.



Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / AOL

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's going to take years to get the general public to stop wanting gas hogs after the auto industry has spent decades and billions in advertising convincing everybody they need them. Hell, they are still doing it. The new Mustang gets 31! MPG (highway, 16 MPG city, 23 combined).
      Detroit still doesn't get it. Muscle cars are their legacy, and if they aren't careful, they will be the death of them. Stop making efficient cars seem like 2nd class cars.
      Lexus has a new luxury hybrid car that gets 40MPG.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ford and GM DO make efficient cars that are top class; have you not seen the new Fiesta & Focus? The Chevy Cruze is quite nice as well, not to mention the Volt. And Lincoln has a luxury sedan (the MKZ hybrid) that gets 41 city / 36 highway.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, I suspect it has more to do with how SUVs get a free ride while cars have MPG restrictions set on them, allowing SUVs to have the power Americans want, while returning the fuel efficiency of your standard 1970's land yacht.

        Which brings me to how before there were big American SUVs, there were big American *cars* with equally dismal performance and fuel efficiency.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And you're complaining about a 305 hp V6 doing 31 highway..... The freaking Toyota Corolla does what, 35, and that's a 4 banger penalty box.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So, the real question will be:

      Will companies pay more for incentives to move fuel-efficient cars, or will they find it cheaper to just pay the penalty?
        • 4 Years Ago
        The government will be more than happy to assess fines to the car company. They have to make up for the drop in gas tax revenue.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A lot of smaller makes (esp. high performance) just pay the fines. It's actually not that costly esp. for expensive high margin cars. In general most also buy credits from other manufacturers.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If they were worried you would think they would be marketing their more efficient cars. I still just see SUV, truck and performance car ads on television.

      Not one ad to make a Fiesta, Cruze, or FIAT seem to be a desirable choice. Not one Escape Hybrid ad. Mostly they push the big cars that are sitting on their lots.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes wincross, what you say is so true. We are suppose to feel sorry for them? Every chance they get they lobby for the guidelines for fuel to be taken out of the EPA's hands and put into NHTSA, every step of the way they fight fuel efficiency.

        They could build EV's to off set their gas guzzling vehicles. Instead they add 15 speed transmissions that give 1.5 percent fuel efficiency that gets eaten up when fuel prices rise 6 cents over night and they expect everyone to cheer about their huge innovations, the sorry part is most do applaud their infinitesimal innovation as a reason to continue in there wasteful ways. Americans attitude will always be, "gas prices will come back down, just grin and bear it". Well I am not on board anymore, oil corps and auto corps enjoy getting fat off the public that believes your commercials, you will leach off me no longer. Damn it's good to have a EV.
      Level4
      • 4 Years Ago
      so consumers ultimately hold the last hand? you don't say....
      • 4 Years Ago
      The gas guzzler bubble continues to inflate.


      We are going to get hit with a disaster 5 years down the road. It is gonna be sad.

      But I guess we deserve it for being so short-sighted. People to continue to think that $4+/gallon gasoline. is 'just a phase'. Well, they may be right . . . it is a phase we pass through as we head to $6/gallon gasoline.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I just paid $4.39 a gallon to fill up here in California. Luckily I only do that about once about every 5 to 6 weeks, but it still hurts. I suspect that if prices stay at this level (or rise) people will transition to the higher fuel efficiency cars quite quickly. Also, the fact that this is the second price "spike" in two years will have people thinking a little more closely about it as well. Once might seem like an aberration. Twice starts to seem like trend.

      Of course, my neighbor with his three excursions will just keep paying out the ass because sophisticated mental reasoning appears to be beyond most Americans... so I might be wrong.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, he picked a pretty funky neighborhood to live in if he has that kind of money :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Perhaps he can afford to pay for the gas, so he doen't worry about the price.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Car companies don't market their hybrid versions as the better, smarter deluxe model, they market it as their "green" offering which people accurately associate with "more expensive" and vaguely associate with smugness, liberal elites, uncomfortable political issues, etc.

      Until car companies change their marketing (or lots more people care about the relevant issues), the hybrid model will have to — I cringe saying this — pay for itself.

      The Camry gets 26 mpg while the lame Camry Hybrid gets 33, which saves you $400 a year in fuel costs at $3.57 a gallon according to fueleconomy.gov.
      Ford Focus gets 28 mpg, Focus Hybrid gets 39, which saves you a better $540 a year.

      It seems to me that the premium for hybrid versions has to be less than roughly $2500, more as people believe gas prices will go up. (That's another reason the Prius is so significant, it has no other model.) Car companies have to stop selling their primitive ICE-only models, which reduces the cost premium through volume savings, positions them for an increasingly electric future, moves them upmarket, and lets them market against their backward competition. Unfortunately Toyota seems the only company capable of doing this, let alone willing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Another problem, the break even point is based on the thought that you should only own a car for 4 years. We all know cars last much longer than four years but four years as been drummed into our heads. It is far cheaper to own any car for 10 years than it is to buy a new one every 4 years yet no auto corp would tell you this. Fleet managers tell you this as they get so much in tax write offs for doing so. For the average American it just does not hold true.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Here in our state of WTF?,we rely on domestic oil and its subsidies for income.
      Consequently the only people buying vehicles are those in the exploration industry and those who get the money in and out of the government to the oil,gas and electric industries.
      Take a wild guess what kind of vehicles these people drive?
      My hunch is the manufacturers are waiting to see if they can't lobby their way out of the CAFE standards.
      The trouble is that the producers seem to be taking the money from you and me and then handing it back to the representatives in return for more.
      A broken system in a broken nation.
      emailbjw
      • 4 Years Ago
      Auto companies will just lobby to change the rules. Unless CAFE standards are set in gravestone granite they will just be changed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Add a bigger gas tax for consumers and put that money towards development of green sources of energy, public transportation, domestic renewable fuels, and everything else we need to get off of oil.

      OR stop warring with foreign nations in order to keep the cheap oil flowing.

      Either one will increase the cost of oil and shift the tax burden on the oil user and they can decide how efficient of a car they want based on that.

      We cannot constantly battle for cheap oil and simultaneously tell people to use less of it. In reality it does not work that way.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The best reply to September 2001 would have been to introduce a gas tax in the US the run up in gas prices would have been reduced with 2 or 3 Mb/day less demand from the US.

        Biofuel policy could have been directed towards making biomethane, which along with US shale gas could be powering a good chunk of vehicles.

        PNGV could have put diesel hybrids into production and a new generation of nuclear plants could be coming online to power a new high speed rail network

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partnership_for_a_New_Generation_of_Vehicles
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah no kidding, the things we could have done if we would only start investing in our country and domestic energy instead of foreign oil. It is mind boggling.

        The thing that frustrates me the most is that the Bush administration dumped so much money into hydrogen and generally ignored everything else. Meanwhile, GM was selling their new battery tech to Chevron and crushing EV1's. 8 years of no progress.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And it's not all Bush's fault so don't be offended, all ya Gee Dubya lovers :P

        Jon Stewart made an excellent point on this. On the show they showed presidents from the 70's all the way up to the 2000's making bold statements about us getting off of foreign oil and moving towards greener forms of energy. All of them to no effect of course. Nobody wants to be the bad guy and make the right moves, and big oil has too much government higher ups on the payroll.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What utter Bilge !

      The DOE has just published the statistics of "Achieved CAFE" for model year 2010 vehicles, and added it to its RITA data reports going back 30 years. US sales of Mdel year 2010 cars, "as sold", had an "Achieved CAFE" of 33.7 mpg by the only measurement system that counts, DOT's CAFE measurement system.

      The one that has remained unaltered since 1970, allowing anyone to compare cars of different eras, and the one that car makers must legally meet. The 2010 Model year US auto fleet weighted by production volumes. It is a mere 1.8 mpg from meeting that legally required CAFE measure, with the annual increase of .8 mpg, between Model year 2009 and 2010 and two model year increase from 2008 and 2010 of a full 1.8 mpg. With the addition of the new small cars,the Fiat 500, Sonic, Spark and Focus for Model year 2011, we can expect a big jump in Model Year 2011. Perhaps to and even beyond 35.5 mpg. See below

      http//www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/excel/table_04_23.xls

      It's not the Moron[ic]ey one that that Politically Correct bureaucrats in the EPA change at a moments whim. Like the momentary whim that EPA bureaucrats did for the Model year 2008 cars. Suddenly, unchanged Model year 2007 carryover cars, now achieved from 7-13% less mpg, with no rhyme or reason given, or methodology published for their Moron[ic]ey stickers.

      Have you ever wondered why the EPA dweebs never publish the CAFE number for the car on their chock 'full of nonsense Moron[ic]ey stickers ? They don't want you to know how much cars have improved. Mileage figures have almost quintupled from below 7 to over 33 since 1970. At the same time the CAFE measurement and not their Moron[ic]ey mpg calculation is pretty much in line with the mpg figures, computed by both the EU and Japan's ratings bureaus.

      The same EPA bureaucrats who decided to alter their own draft Moroney sticker giving the Volt only 93 mpg from their own computation of 231 mpg, when most actual VOLT owners are reporting mpg figures much wildly higher.
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