Friday, August 22, 2008

Cars that get better than 40 mpg - actually 45 miles to the gallon

The world of auto sales and auto manufacturing has really gotten a lot more interesting in the last year. I find myself routinely scanning the news for word about Chevrolet's revival of the Camaro, slated to come out in the first quarter of 2009 (strangely, as a 2010 model). However, aside from the fact that the new camaro is stunning and may possess monstrous horsepower (422 horses), I do this because...I sometimes wonder if GM will make the decision to cancel the car, in light of rising fuel costs and shifting buyer attitudes toward specific types of cars (i.e. big trucks and SUVs out, cars and crossover SUVs in).

Actually, I don't really think the new Camaro will be canceled. Despite the fact that gas in the U.S. will probably never dip below three dollars again, and despite the fact that those most interested in a high-horsepower pony car bearing the heralded name Camaro (twenty-somethings) are not really in a position to purchase the vehicle in mass quantities (I'm guessing it will push 30k or more on the lots), there are still enough horsepower junkies in their thirties, forties (now we're talking people old enough to remember the time when camaros and firebirds ruled a mullet-crested America), and fifties to account for more than respectable annual sales.

But what about the new cafe standards passed by Congress, that mandate overall fuel economy standards for an auto manufacturer's fleet of models? The answer to that problem is to build more fuel efficient cars and build them of sufficient quality and lure (they have to look decent and at least seem safe) to sell.

Enter the Chevrolet Cruze. General Motors is investing half a billion dollars into this project which will include the development of two new engines, a one liter four banger and a 1.4 liter four banger. The car will be launched in Asia and Europe in 2009 and will come to the U.S. in 2010. Amazingly, the car is expected to get a whopping 45 miles per gallon.

That's right. 45 mpg.

I'm not even sure if a Toyoto Prius gets that kind of fuel economy. Which reminds me of the problem I've always had with the Prius. For a car that retails for 23k, and uses hybrid technology, you would think that it would get better than 50 miles to the gallon. The old Geo Metro, sold by chevrolet and made by Suzuki, actually got as much as 50 mpg. No hybrid tech there (however, the car was fairly light and I wouldn't have wanted to be in any kind of collison while behind the wheel).

The cruze will sell well, assuming that it achieves its goal of 45 mpg, and doesn't look hideous, and doesn't roll off the assembly line with the fit and finish of a Yugo. And further assuming that GM doesn't make the mistake of trying to charge a Prius price for a fuel efficient vehicle.

By the way, in reading up on the Cruze, I discovered that the Chevrolet Cobalt actually gets 37 mpg with a manual transmission. Not too shabby at all.

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