Are we stupid or what?

So I was reading in a green newsletter on automotive stuff, and found some more evidence that we in the US are stupid (not that this evidence is hard to find).

Stupid #1: Gas prices are down, due to falling demand, mostly because of the recession. But recessions only last a couple of years, and the world population keeps growing. So gas will cost more again, it’s not an “if”, it’s a “when”.

And cars last a lot longer than recessions last. On average, a car lasts about 15 years before it’s scrapped. So you’d think that what is bought today would reflect some consideration that gas will be expensive again, like it was not that long ago….

Alas, no. John Sousanis at WardsAuto.com reports that high efficiency cars lost market share, dropping a massive 23.5% year on year. That’s the bad news. And it means that most buyers don’t look at the exposure to future cost when they buy, just what purchase fits with TODAYS budget! (what a shock they are in for when gas prices rise again). The good news is that even though market share dropped, total sales were up slightly. It’s just that other classes of cars rose much faster.

Stupid #2: In Europe, the automakers get credit for the fuel efficiency from start/stop systems. Here in the US, the EPA driving cycle tests don’t have the cars idling, so they get no credit in MPG ratings for having start/stop. PSA (Peugot and Citroen to us US people) has a goal to ship 1 million stop/start systems on some of the new cars  (just not in the US). For the models listed, they anticipate a 15% fuel efficiency increase in city driving, and a whopping 30% savings in traffic jams! Anyway, this is driven by the impending EU level 6 emissions regulations, that require even more reductions in CO2 per mile. (That’s just another way of saying increased MPG.) For those that are wondering, the start/stop system uses the same amount of fuel as idling for 3 seconds. So every time it’s employed and the stop time is longer than 3 seconds, it saves fuel.

But they don’t sell any cars here in the US. At a recent WAJ event, Jim McDowell, Director of Marketing for MINIUSA, was asked about the start/stop system that MINI offers in the EU. “It’s not coming here. The EPA doesn’t give any credit for the system and then it’s just a cost adder.” This is sad on two fronts: First is that the EPA doesn’t just modify the driving cycle to give some credit for start/stop systems, and that MINI thinks that real world efficiency numbers from actual drivers won’t get any traction, since buyers will just compare the CAFE numbers on the window sticker. Based on how the US buyers make thier purchase decisions, I fear that he’s correct too.

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