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Could the proposed standards lead to automakers vacating smaller platforms?

The proposed CAFE standards that have been looming all year will force some major changes on the automotive market. The government says that the much more stringent fuel economy standard will save consumers at the pump and reduce the national need for foreign oil. The auto industry has said that the cost of meeting the standard would increase the cost of new vehicles and could result in lost jobs.
According to a new study published by the University of Michigan, the CAFE standards will make cars larger, not smaller. The study indicates that there is a loophole in the economy standards that the automakers could exploit.
"For just about all the scenarios, the car got bigger,” said Steven Skerlos, an associate professor at U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering. “What you can model in a computer is different from reality, but based on this research we expect it to happen."
The loophole is that the formula used for determining miles per gallons required under the new standard uses the vehicles footprint (multiplying the wheelbase by track width). This was done to give larger vehicles less stringent economy standards to follow. In a nutshell, the formula favors larger vehicles and those vehicles may be less costly since they wouldn't have to use as much technology for fuel gains. 
Therefore, automakers may design new vehicles to be larger in an effort to target the lower economy standards. The study also claims that not only would the automakers considering redesigning a vehicle to go for the lower economy limits undermine the CAFE standard goals, but it would also create more pollution
"This study illustrates that there may be a substantial financial incentive to produce larger vehicles, and that it can undermine the goals of the policy," said Kate Whitefoot, who conducted the research as a U-M design science doctoral student and is now a senior program officer at the National Academy of Engineering.

Source: AutoNews

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RE: Cafe standards
By Isidore on 12/15/2011 3:37:11 PM , Rating: 2
While the US does have a much lower population density which alters the numbers, in terms of size and transport distances, Europe is of equivalent size to the US. The single market has routes from Ireland to Hungary and from the north of Norway to southern Italy/ Greece. Of course a lot of bulk stuff goes by rail or ship including all the big rivers. Aviation fuel is not taxed on the same basis but that may change. Americans seem to have this phobia of higher fuel prices as if the world would end if they had to pay more. Canada, which is many ways a more extreme version of the US in having an even lower population density, has much higher prices and it hasn't ground to a halt. I am not saying that fuel prices should double overnight. But the idea that they should stay artificially low is storing up trouble for the future. Many people in Europe commute by car for the times you quote but about half the cars in Europe are diesel- cars, not trucks like the Toyota you mention. Why can't the US manufacturers respond quickly? Chrysler have an excellent source of good small diesels from Fiat, Ford from their European plants, and GM well who knows what they will do. I don't like high fuel costs but American vehicle design has become such a dinosaur, out on an evolutionary limb and bound to fail. This mind set needs to change. As for the transport of goods, the US is the only major market with such a low proportion of its trade going by sea in the form of feeder ships up the coasts. the cost of sea transport is much much lower than trucking.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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