When NHTSA recently released draft regulations to implement the fuel economy requirements from December's Energy Bill a controversial element of the proposal were the footprint-based thresholds. Rather than setting a single requirement that all manufacturers fleets would have to meet, the proposal set mileage thresholds based on the vehicle's footprint (the wheelbase x track width). Each manufacturer would get a requirement based on a sales weighted average of the footprint values for the vehicles it sells. Companies that sell more vehicles with large footprints would have a lower requirement. At the time, I postulated that this might have the effect of encouraging carmakers to stretch the wheelbase and track of their new models in order to lower the required fuel economy.

Now we have a sighting of what is likely a mule for the next generation BMW 1-series. While this vehicle was obviously built before the recent rule announcement, and it does follow the long time trend of making successive generations of a car bigger, it certainly points to the possibilities of the new rules. Of course I'm using this particular photo to illustrate the possibilities of the rules. Instead of encouraging manufacturers to go smaller, the opposite is the case. The upside is that with fuel prices likely to continue rising, consumer demand for more efficient vehicles will likely outpace anything the feds try to do on this subject and the whole discussion will be moot.

[Source: Motor Authority]

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