Why New Fuel Rules Tick Off Some People
CNBC Auto and Airline Industry Reporter
Over the last two days, as I've blogged about new fuel efficiency rules President Obama laid out at the White House, I've been struck by the opposition to these changes.
Some have e-mailed me the new rules will make SUVs too expensive for the average person. Others have told me the President should be pushing diesel fueled vehicles instead of increasing mileage requirements. My favorite was from one blogger who told me wealthy reporters like me don't mind the new rules because we'll be the only ones who can afford a sports or performance car. Yeah, If you buy that, I've got a stack of $100 bills you can light on fire with me and the other richie rich folks.
Are these concerns legitimate?
The idea people won't be able to afford cars that meet new fuel standards doesn't fly with me. The White House estimates the average cost to make vehicles meet the guidelines will be $1,300. But critics are acting like cars and trucks are going up by $1,300 tomorrow. That's not true. The costs will rise gradually over the next 5-7 years. So the cost of vehicles will, in theory, climb by $200 a year. Worth noting, but certainly not prohibitive.
What about the idea President Obamashould be pushing diesel powered vehicles because they are more efficient? I certainly understand where people are coming from with their fondness for diesel. Unfortunately for them, diesel has struggled to catch on in the U.S. the way it has in Europe. That doesn't mean we should abandon diesel, but I also think the President should not single out and push diesel. That's the job of the free market.
Finally, do the new rules mean the end of sports and performance cars? Not at all. Auto makers will still make limited runs of sports and performance cars. And yes, some will still have 8 cylinder engines. Again, they won't be sold in huge numbers, but they won't go away. The auto makers know the new fuel standards call for a fleet wide average of 35.5 miles per gallon. That means there will be room for lower mileage performance cars along with the hybrids that will get 45 or 50 mpg. And the new rules apply only to new car and truck sales. They don't stop tuners from modifying existing models. So if you want to put a gas guzzling 8 cylinder engine in VW bug, so be it.
The new rules will certainly mean changes to our cars and trucks, but those changes are not a sign cars as we know them are going away forever.
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