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I got 39 MPG in 1986. What's the deal with the new cars???

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JMDEM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:29 AM
Original message
I got 39 MPG in 1986. What's the deal with the new cars???
I don't understand why the new cars "brag" about 30, 28, even 26 mpg. For years and years I drove a 1986 Honda Civic that got 39 mpg (highway). It had plenty of power -- 1500 cc engine that could easily do over 100, even though I never took it that high. It had plenty of room for 5 people, and as much interior cargo space as a Nissan Pathfinder I briefly owned later on.


I'm 100% sure about that 39 mpg figure, because I used to routinely drive 240 miles, mostly on freeways, to visit my Mom, and I would try and try to up that figure to 40 mpg -- using synthetic oil, better spark plugs, etc etc etc... never could quite get 40 mpg, but routinely got 39 mpg.

So why are the newer cars, even hybrids, bragging about much worse fuel economy?
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ramapo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:32 AM
Response to Original message
1. Marketing?
I agree with you. I had a Ford Maverick that got decent mileage, better than most cars of today. The MPG statistics of today should be an embarrassment but Americans don't embarrass easily.
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MindPilot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:37 AM
Original message
I'm just surprised that car never showed up in the presidential campaign
I had a 1966 Dodge van that was in the high 20s and it was nothing more than a box on wheels. (Oh lordy I wish vans would become cool again!)

I also had 1980 Nissan 240 that would go 80 mph without breathing hard and get 32 mpg doing it.
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MindPilot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:32 AM
Response to Original message
2. An ad in an old newspaper I found -- "Chevy Sprint: 53 MPG!"
I think the paper was from '85.
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:46 AM
Response to Reply #2
16. I had one - bought it in 1986. The 4-door hatchback.
BEST car I've ever owned. I loved that car. Gave it to my son in 1997 when he left for college (he almost immediately screwed it up and then left it running while he 'ran into a store' and it was stolen). It averaged between 50 and 60 in town and comfortably seated four. I got 70 mpg on the highway. Extraordinary car. Only three cylinders and no, it didn't go fast up steep grades . . . but so what? Our need for speed (even if most of us never us it) is one of the reasons cars like that aren't made anymore.

They added another cylinder to the Sprint a few years after I bought mine. Then it was just your average small car.
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Romulox Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #16
22. Sounds like a rebadged Geo Metro--a car that was mocked almost as much as the Yugo
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enlightenment Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:33 PM
Response to Reply #22
24. Actually, it was the Chevy Sprint first - in 1992
Chevy split off the Geo line and renamed the Sprint and a couple of other cars in the line (all made by Suzuki originally). That's also when they upped the cylinders.

I've never needed to go 0-60 in 6 seconds, so the lack of acceleration wasn't an issue. The car had two fairly major (not huge) problems the first year I owned it - but not another problem in the years following. It was a little trooper and I adored it. Granted, you had a choice between running the AC and running the car *grin* - but it was essentially a motor cycle with four wheels, after all. I lived in Colorado so the lack of AC wasn't a big deal.

People on the highways would occasionally make faces at me as they tore past my little car . . . but I would just wave as they headed for the exits and the gas stations. I once drove from Denver to Pueblo, across to Pagosa Springs, into the mountains, back out to Durango, across to Grand Junction and back to Denver - and made a series of little side trips including Mesa Verde (over the course of ten days, mind, with a friend who had never seen Colorado). I filled my tank in Denver before we left and twice more before we returned. I still had half a tank when I pulled up to my house at the end of the trip.

I miss that car . . .
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Xithras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:45 PM
Response to Reply #2
25. They couldn't sell it in the US today.
The Sprint/Metro was actually a rebadged Suzuki and had a 3 cyl engine. Even for its time it got terrible crash safety ratings (compared to other cars in its class) and side impacts were fatal far more in that car than in other comparable cars.

Aside from that, the 50+ MPG version achieved that mileage by taking a spartan view towards auto design. The tires were narrow to lower rolling resistance, but that decreased traction and increased the wear on the rubber. A/C wasn't an option until the very end (when GM went to a bigger motor and reduced the mileage to about 30MPG). Only manual transmissions were available on the high mileage models. Oh, and they polluted like a sonovabitch.

In many ways, the problem with the Sprint is the same problem that exists when people describe a desire to bring higher mileage modern European cars to the US. We could do that, but we'd have to roll back our crash safety requirements, lower our pollution standards, and give up some of the "standard" features we expect today like automatic transmissions and A/C. Most people aren't willing to do that, and when you update a 50MPG car to meet US requirements, it will only get 30MPG or so afterward.
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old mark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 02:14 PM
Response to Reply #25
38. Used Geo Trackers are nearly impossible to find for sale here.
Edited on Fri Dec-05-08 02:14 PM by old mark
Many people use them for work transportation. I haven't seen a Metro in several years.

mark
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derby378 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:32 AM
Response to Original message
3. Ssshhhhh!
You'll make the hybrid Escalade feel bad... :hi:
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livetohike Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:33 AM
Response to Original message
4. The dysfunctional corporations, congress and President
have led the Americans to believe this is good fuel economy compared to a Hummer. I'm so sick of it all. No one has applied pressure on the big three to do any better.

I had a 1990 Geo Prizm that regularly got 42 mpg on the highway and about 36 mpg in city traffic. The original engine had 206,000 miles on it when I gave it to a friend last year and it was still achieving those numbers.

The Prizm really was a Toyota Corolla - there is no reason that can't be achieved here.
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ramapo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 01:25 PM
Response to Reply #4
34. Dysfunctional consumers
People bought this crap for decades
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livetohike Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 01:41 PM
Response to Reply #34
35. True. It took our recent gasoline prices to scare consumers
into thinking something has to be done. Obama needs to strike asap when he takes office and explain to people why it's important we legislate better gas mileage standards and alternative fuels, etc. He will do it.
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ramapo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 02:03 PM
Response to Reply #35
37. People have already forgotten
Fortunately, Obama hasn't and is well aware of the cycle of complacency and panic.
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Dogmudgeon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:34 AM
Response to Original message
5. No market pressure
The only incentive for a long time has been "CAFE" (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) standards.

But at this point, we need an entirely new way of doing things. Better CAFE standards, but also electric vehicles, small vehicles, and mass transit. Dominance of the 20th century automobile has become unsustainable.

--p!
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:35 AM
Response to Original message
6. Cars got bigger. And acceleration got higher.
the 1980s fuel efficient cars were smaller. Ever seen a 1980 corolla next to a 2000 corolla?
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Fumesucker Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:37 AM
Response to Original message
7. Cars have gotten heavier and bigger.
Plus, real world highway mileage on these cars can be somewhat higher than the EPA #.

Engines are actually getting a bit more efficient but vehicle weight and size overwhelms any gain from engine efficiency.
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we can do it Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:50 AM
Response to Reply #7
17. Just Like the Amurkins
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tridim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:37 AM
Response to Original message
8. Modern emissions and safety features steal MPG.
It's a worthwhile trade-off IMO, though I still get ~40mpg in my 99 Civic. I'd probably get 45mpg without airbags, crumple-zones and the 50 pounds of emissions equipment under the hood.
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NNN0LHI Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:38 AM
Response to Original message
9. Your car was rated at 28 MPG (combined city/highway)
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JMDEM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:30 AM
Response to Reply #9
19. Hmmmm...
Maybe the synthetic oil and special spark plugs really did help out a lot.
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:39 AM
Response to Original message
10. I have a very fun car that gets over 40. It was built in 1959.
It looks just like this guy's car.



948 cc engine. 42.5 hp (per spec). Top speed of about 85 mph. World's highest FQ (fun quotient).
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HereSince1628 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:40 AM
Response to Original message
11. My 71 Ford Maverick 4 dr got 33 mpg on the highway
It had a 6-cylinder engine that was probably designed around 1955. If you think about it, we've not come very far in mpg, but we have come a bit further in safety and emissions.



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HillbillyBob Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:42 AM
Response to Original message
12. I have been saying for 30 years why can't the big three make better
more efficient cars. We had a 73 VW 412 couple it would seat 5 had as much trunk or more tan most cars today, rode really nice, cornered like a Porsche(it was underneath) and got 35mpg loaded with 2 adults 3 kids and luggage on a trip to visit my aunt 1000 miles away.
I also had a 74 Porsche 914 that got 40 42 if you drove under 80mph.
It is the gearing, both cars were 1.9 liter engines, so they did not have the umph of V-8s but were plenty enough to out run/perfom a V-8 on the long run.
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Phred42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:42 AM
Response to Original message
13. My VW 67 Bug......
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MarkInCA Donating Member (403 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:53 PM
Response to Reply #13
28. Sigh, I totaled a 69 bug in Sept
That was a fun car. Due to a few tuning options, I could never get better than 27mpg avg 70%highway, 30% city with the almost stock 1500.
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Phred42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 01:04 PM
Response to Reply #28
31. bummer dude!
:grouphug:
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melm00se Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:42 AM
Response to Original message
14. the EPA milegae
numbers have changed rather dramatically over the last couple of years.

the methodology to determine that has changed and the new numbers are much closer to reality than the older numbers ever were.
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 10:43 AM
Response to Original message
15. Cars became living rooms on wheels, in terms of power consumption.
That's just one part of it, but back in the old days cars like your civic had maybe a two speaker stereo and a cigarette lighter for electrical accessories. Now cars have so much fancy electrical equipment and stereos more powerful than we used to use in our homes. A larger percentage of your fuel is just going to generate electricity to run your rolling rec room.

.
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HillbillyBob Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:07 AM
Response to Reply #15
18. No its the fat car syndrome. The alternator pulls no more than a 3-4 horspower
that has not changed really, new were alternators produce more power for their weight than they used to. Its all the air ride compressor, the ac compressor, the anti pollution stuff takes about 5 hp, 4 or all wheel drive takes a few more hp.
Unless you have a 400 watt amplifier and 200 pounds or more speakers your stereo does not add that much pull to the electrical system, modern speakers are lighter and more energy efficient. I have a dodge pickup with high 140 amp alternator on the dynometer it only pulls about 4% more than the standard 90 amp alt.
It has a good stereo but no behemoth. Where we can really improve mileage is more gears in transmission. aerodynamics are better, tires are better, if the underside of the cars were more aerodynamic that would help too. My Porsche from 74 had an almost smooth underside, ever look under your car at all the exposed stuff that creates wind drag?
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:45 AM
Response to Reply #18
23. An alternator pulls enough horsepower to accomodate the electrical load on it.
I'm surprised that a 140a alternator requires any more hp than a 90a alternator - given the same 50a electrical load.

Yes, heavy cars require more hp. Yes, non-electrical accessories (ac compressor, ps pump) require more hp. But electrical loads do affect mpg. 3-4 hp is 20% of the power required to move a small car down the road.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:39 AM
Response to Original message
20. '82 Chevette diesel was rated at 41 city / 55 hwy
Hell, the Model T got 25mpg.
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Xithras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:52 PM
Response to Reply #20
27. The Chevette....wasn't that the car with the plywood floorboard?
Yes it was! The 55 highway was easy for it to achieve anyway, since the damned thing took 10 minutes to hit 60 and was uncomfortable at any speed over 45. I remember borrowing a friends Chevette in high school and complaining about the lack of power. His response? "Who cares, the speed limit is 55 anyway."

That probably wouldn't go over so well today.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 01:19 PM
Response to Reply #27
32. I'd love to have a 55hp Chevette, and my other car is a 300+hp Chevelle.
Plywood? I dunno. One of the bitches people had about them was the floorboards rusted out. Can't have it both ways.
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caraher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:41 AM
Original message
Emissions and accessories
I asked my brother in law, an engineer who works on hybrid vehicles for GM, why I used to get >40 MPG in a 1979 Toyota Corolla, and he said it could not be sold today because it wouldn't meet current emissions regulations. I remember back in the '80s they used to talk about different stats and prices for cars "with California emissions" and I think maybe in effect the whole country now has those standards. And one thing that implied was poorer fuel efficiency.

The other change is that cars have more and more electrical accessories. Air condition is the biggest one, of course, but everything that uses electricity will ultimately draw the energy from the fuel tank.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:50 PM
Response to Original message
26. Cars that meet the California standards typically get better mileage.
That's how they manage to reduce their emissions. By using less fuel.

I would expect anyone who works for GM to hear a lot of company talk about how its the fault of environmentalists and regulations. That's GM's mindset but I wouldn't put much faith in it.
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Romulox Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:41 AM
Response to Original message
21. Guys, the laws of physics haven't changed since 1989...
Your 1989 vehicle may have lacked some or all of the below:

dual airbags
side impact air curtains
anti-lock brakes
traction control
"premium" sound w/ CD changer
GPS system
High impact bumpers
etc. etc.

More stuff = more weight. More weight = worse fuel economy, all things being equal.
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flvegan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:53 PM
Response to Original message
29. Your Civic had 76 horsepower and weighed around 2k pounds.
Comparable 2008 Civic, 140 horsepower and weighs 2800 pounds. MPG estimates for the Civic are 25/36, so in theory, if driven "mostly on freeways" would probably turn around 33 mpg I would say. 6 mpg to have ABS, front and side airbags, power windows, an actual stereo and air conditioning? Not to mention all while have twice the horsepower and weighing 800 pounds more. Sounds like Honda's done a fine job.
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AlanAdam Donating Member (82 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:54 PM
Response to Original message
30. Check out my car ...
91 Honda Civic gets 50 MPG highway, 40 MPG city. I check the mileage with every fillup.
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krispos42 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 01:19 PM
Response to Original message
33. Bigger, heavier, safer, less polluting
Those stronger passenger compartments, more catalytic converters, airbags, and other improvements cost weight. Not to mention all the nice power features on modern cars.

I drove a 1990 Honda Civic for a few days. My aunt's in Illinios. Fun to drive; had a stick shift.


But it was a tiny car. "Plenty of room for 5"... for a short trip. Nothing in there was powered, either. She actually bought it new and it didn't have a radio! At her request!

At the time I was used to driving a 1987 Ford Thunderbird, which was nearly twice the car the Honda was. So the go-kart-ness of the Honda was a pleasant surprise.


But I know which one I would have preferred for an everyday car: the T-Bird. I was in no less than 4 accidents with that Ford, the worst of which was when a little Japanese sports car rear-ended me at about 15 miles per hours. It shook off every hit, and except for the pickup truck that I rear-ended lightly, the damage done to the other cars (an Audi, a Volkswagon, and that little sports car (Nissan Pulsar?)) was far, far worse than the damage done to the T-Bird. In one case I rear-ended a Jetta. The Jetta's rear bumper and fender were ruined; the T-Bird had two tiny spiderweb impact points in a piece of silver trim in the front bumper.

If I'd been driving the Honda it probably would have been totalled.


Now there's no denying that Japanese engines were more efficient than ours; look at the environment they came from. High-compression engines with overhead-cams and 4-valves-per-cylinder get more power per gallon of gas and more horsepower per cylinder, and having a broader powerband and higher engine rev limit allows more efficient gearing. So the Japanese had that going in their favor. And they had that as a result of the high-gas-prices environment of Japan.

That T-Bird I drove had a 120-hp 3.8L 6-cylinder engine: tough and reliable as hell (it had 255k miles on it when the head gasket finally blew), but modern engines makes much more horsepower with much less displacement.

My current car gets 173hp from a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, which is about par for modern engines. A modern big V-6 would now make about twice as much horsepower as that old V-6 but have similar mileage.


The fact is that when it comes to highway cruising, the engine matters much less than the aerodynamics of the car it is driving.

My new Subaru Impreza (a 2005 wagon) get about 26 MPG on the highway cruising at 80mph. The car it replaces, a 1989 Olds Regency, got about 23 MPG under the same condiditons. The Subie is probably a bit narrower and a bit taller than the Olds, and it has AWD, so there's a bit more mechanical drag than on the FWD Olds. But both cars are basically boring the same size hole in the air as they drive.

Now compare that to the 1990 Honda, which is considerably shorter and narrower than either of those cars, you're probably cutting the frontal area by 30%, which would reduce the power requirements by 30%, which would boost the highway mileage by about 43%... which is about 35 MPG, which is about what you were getting. And if you drive slower than me, that number should go up... perhaps to 39?

See how it works? :-)

That T-Bird I used to drive would get in the low 20's on the highway as well; it cruised at about 2200 RPM at highway speeds, right about at the power peak for the engine.



For city driving the requirements are different; a lot depends on the car's weight, very little on aerodynamics, and that is where the little cars shine. It takes a lot less power to move a Civic up to 40 mph than the Regency or the T-Bird!




What happened during the 80's and 90's and is going on today is that car companies met the CAFE standard (which I believe is now 25mpg), then began working to increase horsepower. Remember, a 1987 Ford Escort only had 86hp; the same-year Honda Civic only had about 60 or 65hp. Those numbers went up and up and up while maintaining the CAFE standard. A Ford Focus has now 130 or 140 hp while maintaining similar gas milage standards. A 2008 221-hp Ford Fusion has the same fuel economy as a 1990 Ford Taurus with only 140 horsepower!

Nobody wants a wussy car; it's no joy to have to constantly flog an underpowered car to merge with traffic or climb a small hill. I had to do that with a 1987 Suzuki Samurai... it wasn't very fun!

If we had kept increasing the CAFE standard, you would have seen cars such as the Ford Escort keeping about the same horsepower but with better and better fuel economy instead of keeping the same fuel economy but with better and better horsepower.


The reason people continued to by large cars and SUVs is that for a small sacrifice in fuel economy you get a big gain in material comfort, usefulness, and safely. Conversely, it takes a large sacrifice in comfort to get a small increase in fuel economy. And when gas was cheap and we weren't about the environment so much, people didn't want to make big sacrifices for a small gain in fuel economy. People said "Okay, I'll spend an extra $100 a year in fuel to drive this much more flexible Taurus or Lumina instead of this Escort or Cavalier because we have to drive 80 miles to family fuctions several times a year and it will be more comfortable for those long trips".

:shrug:

The only reason NOT to own a large, hulking SUV or pick-up truck is the gas consumption. Once we get to the point we have all-electric vehicles charged up by environmentally-friendly energy (solar, wind, nuclear fusion, etc.) then it won't matter if you drive a behemoth Suburban or F-150. If it costs you $300 a year total to power your Ford Explorer and $100 a year to power your Honda Fit, then people generally aren't going to buy the Fit.

Well, of course there are other factors, such as retail price and insurancse costs, but you get the idea.
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baldguy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 01:49 PM
Response to Original message
36. The 76 VW Rabbit got 38 mpg. The diesel version got 50 mpg.
Europe & Japan seem to have got the message that Detroit has ignored for 30 yrs.
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