The November 5 issue of the New Yorker magazine has an article on fuel efficiency and the fabled car of the future. As is so often the case, comparisons are made without providing proper context. In this case, the current fleet average for new cars, 20 mpg, is compared unfavorably to the almost century old Ford Model T. The T, of course, got more than 20 mpg in its time. Chrysler's VP of Communications Jason Vines has posted a rebuttal to this argument by fleshing out some of the details that make the comparison pointless. Car-makers could undoubtedly create cars vastly more efficient than the ones currently offered for sale or even compared to the Model T. However, it would not be possible do so while still meeting modern safety requirements and customer expectations. You can read Jason's comments after the jump.

[Source: Chrysler]

Gas Fumes and the Model T Myth

Another day, another strange claim about fuel economy that has my head spinning.

There's an article in the Nov. 5 edition of The New Yorker magazine that claims that "the average new car sold in the U.S. today gets twenty miles to the gallon, which is...-remarkably enough-less than Henry Ford's Model T got when it went on the market, ninety-nine years ago last month."

A number of members of Congress have also perpetuated this myth. We join with those in Congress who are in favor of higher fuel economy standards. But comparing the Model T with today's vehicles is like comparing the Wright Brothers glider with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. You don't hear people complaining that the Dreamliner doesn't get as good fuel economy as a glider.

There's a reason the Model T weighed 1,200 pounds, less than half the weight of most vehicles sold today. The Model T didn't have safety features like dual airbags, reinforced safety cage, anti-lock brakes and traction control. The Model T didn't have electric windows, interior lights, air conditioning, a radio and CD player. That Model T four-cylinder, 22-horsepower engine had a top speed of 45 miles per hour, and it spewed out far more noxious emissions than today's vehicles because it didn't have a catalytic converter. And the brakes on a Model T? Make sure you plan ahead. Assuming the laws of gravity apply in New York, all those extra features add a lot of weight to a vehicle.

We agree, the Model T was great for its time, but so was Boone's Farm wine, woolen underwear and spam.
It all comes down to choices.

I'm certain that Henry Ford would be amazed by the efficiency of today's internal combustion engines. Advancements in powertrain technology are why, as we've said many times before, were in favor of increasing the fuel economy regulations while preserving the distinction between cars and trucks.

Share This Photo X