• Jan 17, 2012
Experts have already predicted that toughened fuel efficiency standards will lead to cleaner air and help wean the United States from its reliance on foreign oil. Turns out, they could benefit consumer's wallets too.

That's the conclusion of the Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America, which briefed reporters on Jan. 12 in preparation for a series of three public hearings that begin today, January 17, in Detroit on the new 54.5 mile-per-gallon standard currently under government scrutiny. That is the fuel economy average the Obama Administration wants automakers to achieve by 2025. There are two more hearings this month, one in San Francisco and one in Philadelphia.

The two consumer organizations said the new standard will save the average driver approximately $3,000 over a decade of ownership. Both groups said they would endorse an agreement between the Obama administration and automakers to implement the new standard by 2025. But there is a lot of chatter in the auto industry about whether this is a standard that American car buyers are really interested in.

On one hand, 80 percent of consumers say they are interested in owning a hybrid or electric vehicle, according to a recent study by Consumer Reports. On the other, recent sales figures show they are buying an increasing amount of SUV and crossover vehicles as they get used to gas prices hovering around $3.50 per gallon for regular.

What gives?

In the context of what happens when automakers start producing vehicles that meet toughened fuel efficiency standards, that's a multi-million dollar question. Some skittish industry insiders fear a gap will develop between what's being sold and what customers want.

That's not necessarily the case, says Dr. Mark Cooper, the director of research for the Consumer Federation of America. He said the 54.5 mpg standard won't favor smaller vehicles.

"These standards have no bias against size," he said Thursday. "If you want to buy a big vehicle, it will be there. It will have to be more fuel efficient, and that is exactly the point. People will still love their SUVs, and they'll love them a lot more when they get 40 miles per gallon."


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  • 143 Comments
      bscmth
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why are the automakers holding back on making all these 40 mpg SUVs? Is the Dr. they quoted a dentist of something? American's would love a 40 mpg SUV true, but not at any price. As the article states... 80 percent of people are interested in hybrids. The key word here is "interested". It sure isn't showing up in the sales numbers. We don't even have 2 percent that are buying them.
        Fonin
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bscmth
        i am interested in a hybrid, i don't plan to buy one, but i am interested. and obviously we don't have 40mpg SUVs because we didn't want them, right? just like how americans don't want hatches or wagons either. /sarcasm
        axiomatik
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bscmth
        If there were more hybrid options, I would bet more people would buy them. Ten years after the introduction of the Prius, there are still only a handful of full-hybrid offerings. If you don't happen to like the current offerings, then you won't buy a hybrid.
      nea
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah, I have a feeling all the savings math we do today will be useless ten years from now when oil is above $250 and the price of electrics & hybrids have come down as they move to mass market and the tech matures. I predict $6 gas in 2020 will do a ton more for fuel efficiency than CAFE ever will.
        BG
        • 2 Years Ago
        @nea
        You are right; high prices are the only thing that will get customers to voluntarily switch to more efficient cars and trucks. Gasoline is still cheap in USA; therefore, buyers are willing to drive ponderous SUVs and trucks for non-commercial reasons.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't know anyone who doesn't want to get 54 mpg, that's not the question. The questions are how much are you willing to pay above what you paid for your car to get it? And what are you willing to give up in space and comfort to get that kind of mileage? I'm sure my neighbor would love to get 54 mpg from his F150 with a V8.
        suthrn2nr
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        great point, the average consumer is not happy to lose anything, especially the less immediate the gain. For example, if someone's tax is 5k, they are happier (psycologically) paying 6k through the year and getting refund of 1k, rather than keeping the 5k to earn interest and then paying 5k at year end. Here, they are happy to "get paid" 1k rather than "paying" 5k. As long as the benefit of clean air and less pollution is not immediately obvious, it will always be a tough sell.
        bscmth
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        Cmon now.. I think the government knows more than we do on this. They know what is best for their citizens and will protect them from all undue harm. They just need more people and money. ;)
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @bscmth
          by spending MILLIONS on idiotic meetings and analysts to come to this conclusion, all the while costing manufacturers BILLIONS that ultimately get passed onto consumers in Higher MSRP's....
      Shanti
      • 2 Years Ago
      *sigh* The shortsighted-ness on the part of so many posters on this blog is absolutely astounding. For the record, I'm not someone who particularly cares how green my car is, nor do I like the idea of driving something that feels like a Prius. But we need to get something straight: 1. 54.5 CAFE != 54.5 EPA 2. The Prius already way exceeds 54.5 CAFE. How expensive is it? It's not. But what about the fact that 54.5 has to be a manufacturer average? In 2025, the 2012 Prius range will be 13 years old, and the technology behind it even older. Don't be dull. 3. Most compacts and subcompacts are already well on their way to meeting 54.5 CAFE, and mid-size sedans aren't far behind. 4. We're not the only country looking to improve FE. Best case scenario if we don't pass this new standard? American automakers do it anyway to keep up with the Asian and European tech. Multiair anyone? Skyactive? Worst case scenario if we don't pass the new standard? American automakers fall behind, Europeans say "f*** them, they don't need diesels, they don't like small cars, they don't need a wagon, send them the new Porsche SUV!" and you all keep complaining about the same sh!t. 5. (And this is the funniest part) Automakers for the most part support this measure. But guess what? If in, say, 7-8 years, it looks like they're not going to make the cut...the law will be changed! *gasp!* It's happened before and could happen again. What? You think lobbyists are just gonna retire? In other words, this whole thing may as well be a publicity stunt. "Hey, look, we're green!" Carry on people...it's not worth the energy to worry about this.
        Julius
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Shanti
        Actually, the short-sightedness is with the American population as a whole. If the real goal is to reduce consumption, then the method most likely to do that is to increase that commodity's price (e.g. carbon tax). However, no politician will ever say that, because people should be free to have their cake and eat it too, so long as someone else does the hard work to pay for it. Mind you, I'm not saying more efficient cars are a BAD thing, but I am saying that mandating fuel economy is the wrong way to do it. Cheap transportation costs has other side effects, namely the suburbanization of America - a pattern that has made living in L.A. reliant on the automobile, while living in NYC - a larger city by population - can be done without. And suburbanization has other side-effects, namely reducing forestland and farmland (human population is not shrinking), and increasing the use of motor fuels to distribute goods to ever more widespread areas. And as a whole, the fact that NYC has a large urban population with good mass-transit means that it's one of the lowest per-capita carbon emission states in the US.
      tylermars.design
      • 2 Years Ago
      "These standards have no bias against size," he said Thursday. "If you want to buy a big vehicle, it will be there. It will have to be more fuel efficient, and that is exactly the point. People will still love their SUVs, and they'll love them a lot more when they get 40 miles per gallon." they'll also love the amount of $$$ it's going to cost them to get one.
      stclair5211
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow a bunch of liberal blowhards who only know how to spend other people's money and do nothing for a living love the idea. Go figure. Keep the government out of my life. Out of my healthcare, my food, off my tv, out of my light bulbs, toilets, out of the Internet and certainly off my car.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        nsxrules
        • 2 Years Ago
        This is the problem with liberals, they always assume they are smarter than everyone else. Such arrogance.....
          • 2 Years Ago
          @nsxrules
          [blocked]
          BG
          • 2 Years Ago
          @nsxrules
          ALERT, ALERT, faux news mouthpiece. Those big bad liberals are about to destroy America.
        Chris
        • 2 Years Ago
        StevenG, You claim to be smarter than 98% of people but you're just an idiot. You're not the only engineer here, and if you're Aerospace I doubt you make more than me. You claim to make "well into six figures" and as an engineer I call BS. Six figures ranges from 100,000 to 999,999. So don't throw that out like you're important, due to inflation, it's not hard to make six figures anymore. Also, based on how proud you are of your mortgage interest deduction you're clearly an idiot at personal finance, definitely not smarter than 98% of people. And even if you earn a decent living, doesn't mean you're smart or can't out earn your stupidity. I used to think along your lines, but then I learned a lot about the world, the US, people, I grew up, and switched positions.
      Luke
      • 2 Years Ago
      Oh, how I'd love to save $3k over TEN YEARS...if it didn't cost me an additional $5k in sticker price up front. Why do you think Hybrids aren't catching on...?
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Luke
        [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Luke
        [blocked]
      graphikzking
      • 2 Years Ago
      Tax fuel higher - I know political suicide. But now you will get WAY less teenage deaths because they won't be out joyriding around wasting 2 tanks of fuel in a weekend. People will do more "purpose driving" and less "just for the heck of it" driving. Less crowded roads will mean less wasted fuel in traffic and less road wear and tear. Which means that now our bridged and highways can be fixed with the more tax money and less wear and tear means it will last longer. I know it sucks having to pay more taxes but I'd rather they raise my tax on gas and put it towards that than raise my taxes and pay for someone to sit home and watch HBO all day on welfare. (yep, I know of people on welfare that somehow afford HBO).
        Denato Corcoroni
        • 2 Years Ago
        @graphikzking
        Raising gas taxes will make it more expensive for the welfare recipients to go back to work. Higher gas taxes will raise the costs of all items we buy; effectively raising the cost of items that the welfare recipients buy resulting in an increase in welfare benefits paid. Also, why would government stop at raising gas taxes or that the gas taxes would be used for the now under utilized roads and bridges? You certainly won't be making that choice. Finally, we will all be sitting around the house watching HBO and getting fatter (or making babies) if you were to get your way. Isn't better for people to get out and socialize and not live in your fantasy welfare world?
        r_r
        • 2 Years Ago
        @graphikzking
        I agree.
        Basil Exposition
        • 2 Years Ago
        @graphikzking
        This guy has the right idea.
      Brent
      • 2 Years Ago
      I suspect that "want" and "want to pay for" are two completely different things.
        BG
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Brent
        You might want to changer that to "claim to want" and "really pay for." That't the sad reality of car-buying in USA: emotion and status-seeking dominate.
      Change
      • 2 Years Ago
      Time to stop the madness. The US has vast deposits of natural gas and oil easily extracted yet the environmental elites want to force Americans to buy very expensive, flimsy, small cars. Elites want Americans to suffer the impoverishing effects of sky high oil prices just so small, flimsy cars are bought. Don't tell me shale oil and gas are toxic to the environment. Its no more so that mining nickel or lithium for electric cars. Why not tell the elites to go to h3ll in November 2012? Then repeal the fuel economy standards but leave in place particulate emission standards. Open vast areas of the USA to oil and gas exploration in the hope that vast new supplies cause gasoline prices to drop sharply and that alone will add 100's of billions to the pockets of struggling Americans. Then in 2014 keep telling the environmental hooligans to stay in h3ll.
        r_r
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Change
        The US right now produces more oil than it consumes.
          phoenix_AE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @r_r
          The US oil industry *refines* more oil and exports it elsewhere. The source of the crude is still either Canada or the Middle East. Because we have such enormous refining capacity, the oil cartels buy crude, refine it (thus adding value), and re-sell it. That's not "producing oil" so much as "adding value to someone else's export."
        axiomatik
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Change
        So you won't mind if fracking chemicals end up in your drinking water?
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