Sunday, October 19, 2008

About cars with high gas mileage

Mother and Daughter with a Loaded Insight

When my Danish daughter and I did our great road trip to the Grand Canyon, we got 63 mpg in America's best car for mileage, a 2000 stick-shift Honda Insight, which was loaded to the gills with 2 women and all their stuff. I was really impressed by how well we did, but when she asked me how much that was in liters/km, which is the way they rate cars in Europe, she wasn't the least bit impressed.

An article in yesterday's LATimes U.S. carmakers' renewal means vast retooling reminded me of the incident. Here are some quotes from the article:

New British Ford Fiestas
Next month in Britain, Ford Motor Co. will begin selling a diesel hatchback that gets 64 miles per gallon. Across the channel, Parisians can buy a new gas-powered compact made by General Motors Corp. that gets a nifty 47 mpg.
Or this comparison of what Europeans expect:
For years, Ford and GM have been building high-end compact cars for Europe, routinely winning awards for such models as Ford's Mondeo and GM's Vauxhall Corsa. The cars emphasized high-end detailing and offered options reserved on these shores for premium brands. They cost more, but consumers happily paid because in Europe, Ford and GM are premium brands.
...and Americans:
At home, meanwhile, Detroit kept outfitting fuel-efficient cars with crank windows and cheap upholstery. In Germany, a Focus starts at 15,250 euros, or about $20,500. In Germantown, Pa., the less-refined U.S. Focus starts at $14,995. That $5,000 gap, experts say, is the difference between profit and loss on a smaller car....."I wish I could bring the European Focus to the U.S.," Jim Farley, Ford's head of sales and marketing, said in January. "But it'll never work in this market."
I thought it would be interesting to see what cars area available in England, so I checked out, where the headline is "Here is our widest ever range of lower CO2 vehicles." Here is the page where they tell about Emissions and Economy.

Just for curiosity's sake I decided to see what they have to offer at where the featured cars include one smallish one, and mostly big, luxury cars, and the menu goes from big to little and back to big. Just to be fair, I looked at their Our values: Environment section, which didn't say much about the cars themselves.

So why are American carmakers just figuring this out now? In the book I am reading now, Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal, there is a very telling quote by Professor Andrew Frank, of UC Davis, on page 118:

"I remember that when Toyota first introduced the Prius in 1997, American carmakers were ecstatic. They said that if Toyota really pushed their hybrid program, they'd go out of business!"

A couple of European cars you won't be seeing in this country.

A few years before I left Denmark, I was in the market for a small car to get me further than my usual walk, bike and bus routine. I chose a Suzuki Alto, which was made in India. I noticed that Suzuki has a new Splash car out on the British market, which must replace the Alto.

Another really popular car in Europe is the Ford Ka, which isn't much bigger than the Alto, but a lot more stylish and fun - and still being sold. It never came to this country!

No comments: