Monday, June 30, 2008

Supercar Miles per Gallon

Single digits, anyone?

(Warning: Not to be taken seriously. Please!)

Friday, June 27, 2008 Hybrids Aren't the Best Value Over Time published THIS article earlier this week, thus confirming what I've been telling people for quite some time... much longer than I've been writing this blog.

Hybrids are over-priced underachievers. There's no two ways about it. They cost far too much and deliver far too little. Or, if we're talking L/100km, then not little enough!

At the current average price across the US, the best value hybrid (Honda Civic) doesn't even make the top 10 is "lowest cost to own". While it's true that hybrids become a better economical choice as gas prices rise, even at a price of $6/gallon the Civic hybrid still doesn't make the top 5. Everybody's darling, the Prius doesn't even make the top 30 at current prices, and only ranks 18th if gas were to cost $6/gallon.

I'm very surprised that all this hasn't been brought up sooner.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Racing Green!

Recently the American Le Mans Series announced it's rule set for their up-coming Green Challenge "series within a series". The aim of the Green Challenge is to promote & reward the use of alternative fuels in motorsports.

The ALMS has long been at the forefront of alternative fuel technology and all the cars in the series run fuels other than regular "gas", including clean (sulfur free) diesel, E10, and cellulosic E85.

The 2009 Green Challenge, which will officially kick off at the 2008 Petit LeMans this fall, will rank cars based on three criteria:

- amount of energy they use

- greenhouse gases (GHG) they emit

- amount of petroleum they displace

Basically, whichever teams goes the furthest, the fastest, and with the least environmental impact wins!

In the words of Scott Atherton, President & CEO of the ALMS:

"We have always claimed to be the most relevant racing series on the planet. Now, we hope to play a role in saving that planet by working with manufacturers on innovative alternative fuel solutions and new technologies. We believe this could be truly paradigm shifting by effectively putting the auto back into auto racing and taking the sport from a form that for some has been primarily entertainment-focused to one that is also relevant and issue-focused. We are working with the car companies on new technology that matters."

You can read the full story on the American Le Mans website.

A Sub 7-Second German Sports Coupé That Gets Over 40mpg...?

Does that even sound reasonable?

It does to Audi, and they can even do it with conventional fuel.

The latest powerplant offered by Audi for their A5 sports coupé is the all-new 2.0L TFSI. The turbocharged engine puts out a respectable 208hp (@ 4300 - 6000 rpm) while producing 258 lb-ft of torque (@ 1500 - 4200 rpm). Those numbers are enough to propel the A5 from 0-60mph in just 6.9 seconds, while the TFSI technology allows the coupé to get a combined cycle fuel mileage of 42.8 miles per Imperial gallon (6.6L/100km - 35.66 miles per US gallon).

And it does all that while looking drop dead gorgeous!

Unfortunately, there's no word on when it will be available in North America. In the mean time we'll only be able to get the 2.0L TFSI in the A4 sedan later this year.

For more information on what TFSI is and how it works you can look here, on the Audi UK website.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Car Buyers More Interested in Gadgets Than Fuel Efficiency

According to the results of a J.D. Power & Associates study released yesterday, hybrid technology vehicles rank pretty high among consumers interest. In fact, 72% of people asked said they were "definitely/probably" interested in hybrid technology. However, once they were told that this technology would add about $5000 to the price of their vehicle, the number if still interested buyers dropped to 58%.

What ranked higher than the fuel efficiency of a hybrid though? Blind-spot detection technology at 76%, and back-up assist at 74%.

Oh great, that's just what the world needs... technology to help incompetent drivers pay even less attention to what they're doing behind the wheel.

Here's what I think of that:

Unless they're installing KITT in my dash, I don't not want my car thinking for me.

But I digress.

I have to wonder where they got the $5000 "average" from though. When I first read the report it seemed awfully cheap compared to the hybrid premiums I've seen, but I figured those were the price differences in American dollars for the American sold cars. So, I did a quick check across a few of the cheaper hybrids in Canadian dollars and came up with the following:

-Honda Civic Sedan:
Conventional: $19,490.00 (w/AC+automatic)
Hybrid: $26,350.00
Difference: $6860.00

-Toyota Camry:
Conventional: $23,400.00 (w/AC+automatic)
Hybrid: $30,660.00
Difference: $7260.00

-Toyota Prius vs Toyota Corolla: (since the Prius doesn't have a conventionally propelled equivalent I'm comparing it against the Corolla, which is Toyota's closest offering)
Corolla LE: $19,900.00 (w/AC+automatic)
Prius: $29,500.00
Difference: $9600.00

Toyota Highlander:
Conventional: $36,900.00
Hybrid: $41,075.00
Difference: $4175.00

Chevrolet Malibu:
Conventional: $22,995.00
Hybrid: $26,995.00
Difference: $4000.00

Chevrolet Tahoe LT:
Conventional: $47,155.00
Hybrid: $66,125.00
Difference: $18,970.00

That's an average premium of nearly $8500.00. While the MSRP for cars in Canada is always higher than in the US, their estimated $5000.00 for the added cost of a hybrid still seems a little low.

One interesting detail I noted while compiling those numbers was that while a Civic Hybrid costs nearly $7000 more than a similarly equipped conventional Civic, the fuel savings are in the range of 30%. If a Civic owner drives 25000 kms per year (~15000 miles) that's nearly $1000 in savings each year at current fuel prices. The Chevy Malibu, on the other hand, only costs $4000 more for the hybrid, but the fuel efficiency is less than 8% better. That's only about $250 per year saved. Honda's hybrid premium pays for itself in 7 years, while Chevrolet's takes about 16 years. (I really hope those buyers are choosing a hybrid to "make a statement", and not to save money...)

Sadly, of all the different features and options mentioned in the survey, clean diesel ranked last. Why? I'm not sure. I mean, who wouldn't want 50+mpg from a conventional (read: simple & uncomplicated) drivetrain?

As Mike Marshall, J.D. Power & Associates director of automotive emerging technologies, said:

One explanation for this may derive from a lack of education with the technology. Many consumers cannot differentiate between clean diesel and traditional diesel fuel—which in the past had a negative connotation with unpleasant vehicle emissions. As consumers become more educated in the benefits of clean diesel through increased product offers launching later this year, interest in the technology may increase.

I suppose the European companies that are starting to make this technology available in North America have along road of re-education ahead of them. The masses are still stuck on the old stereotype of diesels being noisy, smelly, and generally a nuisance. It's a stigma that may take a while to be rid of.

You can read the full report HERE.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Size & Weight Matter

It sometimes surprises me how rarely people realize this, but fuel economy isn't only about the size of the engine or the number of cylinders.

Big, huge SUVs are heavy. Small, sub-compact cars are light. The bigger and heavier an object is, the more energy (read: fuel) is needed to move it around. Cars and trucks have steadily gotten bigger and heavier over the last 20+ years, and subsequently the engines have become more and more powerful to deal with this. In spite of the fact that technology has advanced, the simple fact is that a more powerful engine needs more fuel to produce that power.

Yet, the North American obsession with SIZE has blinded so many people to this fact until very recently. The trends of the past decade have dug the deep hole we're all in now, and it took $4/gallon gas to smack Americans upside the head before they finally saw the problem. Everyone wanted to buy the biggest SUV they could afford, and now suddenly they're paying the consequences.

And this was all about "want"... nothing more.

Need... what's that?

The idea of responsible car buying was so utterly far from most consumer's minds for years, and now our roads are cluttered with 6000 pounds behemoths greedily gobbling up gas at a rate of 10-15 miles per gallon.

And then the bottom fell out!

The Big 3 can't give their trucks away and it seems like every week another truck plant belonging GM or Ford is shut down and shortly thereafter plans are announced to convert said plant to producing a particular small car platform.

Excessive fuel consumption is just the plight of the large SUV either.

The "crossover" SUV is smaller and lighter than a conventional SUV. Which in itself, is a good thing. However, these crossovers are really nothing more than a conventional car chassis jacked up for a few extra inches of ground-clearance and perhaps an optional all-wheel-drive system to give them a pretense of off-road capability. In short, they are nothing more than extra heavy cars.

Take, for example, the Mitsubishi Outlander crossover SUV. It's powered by a 2.4L 4-cylinder. The same 2.4L engine that also powered the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback a few years ago. At that time my mother was in the market for a new vehicle and insisted on getting a SUV. Her reasoning was "I can see better higher up. I feel safer in a truck. I need space for the dog." She finally decided to buy an Outlander 2WD.

Why an Outlander instead of a Lancer Sportback? I wondered that myself. For all intents and purposes, they are nearly the same vehicle with naught more than a few inches of ground clearance difference between them. Her Outlander is nothing more than a glorified 4-door hatchback.

As for her reasoning:

"I can see better higher up" - Granted the Outlander is higher. What exactly are you trying to see from that vantage point though? Sails on the horizon? She's driven standard height cars all her life prior to the Outlander and she saw fine up until that point.

"I feel safer in a truck" - the IIHS rates the Outlander "Good" (their highest rating) in frontal impact testing, yet "Poor" (their lowest rating) in side impacts. Owning a "truck" is not making her any safer in this case since the Lancer has the exact same ratings. Underneath the sheetmetal they're quite likely nearly the same vehicle.

"I need space for the dog" - the Lancer Sportback has 24.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the seats folded up and 61 cu.ft. with them folded down. The Outlander, the truck she felt she needed so as to get all that extra space, has 24.4 cu.ft. (seats up) or 60 cu.ft. (seats down).

So basically, like too many others, it came down to "wants" and not needs. The simple fact is that she wanted a truck and there would be no convincing her otherwise. She has no extra cargo space, and she's no more safer than if she'd have purchased the equivalent car.

In the final tally, what did her truck provide? Well, yes... a higher vantage point.

And some utterly atrocious handling to go with that higher vantage point.

By the numbers, one last thing... about 10% worse fuel economy. The same engine provides motivation to both the Lancer Sportback and the Outlander... yet the added height, weight, and aerodynamic drag of the larger crossover costs nearly 10% more at the pump.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hey Prius drivers.... feel good about THIS!

Like Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Billy Joel, Bill Maher, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba and many others, pretty much every hybrid driver I've met... Prius drivers (like those listed here) in particular, are all proud to drive one because they are concerned and have made a commitment to help protect our environment.

New York Times correspondent Micheline Maynard wrote: “The Prius has become, in a sense, the four-wheel equivalent of those popular rubber issue bracelets in yellow and other colors—it shows the world that its owner cares.” (New York Times, July 4, 2007).

Yes... Prius drivers "care".

But what exactly do they care about?

Fuel economy, of course! In fact, a whole 36 percent of Prius owners stated "higher fuel economy" as their main reason for driving one.

Wow... 36%!

That begs the question: why does everyone else drive one?

Well, 57% said they purchased a Prius because it “makes a statement about me”.

(Incidentally, this got me to wondering... why did the other 7% buy one? Certainly not for it's great looks or superior performance.)

I'd venture a guess and say that the people listed above weren't thinking about saving a few $ at the pump when they bought their Prius' since their weekly income is likely more than I make in a whole year. So I'll go out on a limb and put them into the "57%" category.

So what exactly is the "statement" that the Prius makes about it's owner?

That he or she is environmentally concerned and is taking steps to show he or she has made a commitment to protect and conserve our natural resources.

Of course. That makes perfect sense.

Or maybe the statement that 57% of Prius owners want their car making for them is "all the cool people have one, so I want one too!" (That herd of sheep mentality worked pretty good in high-school... and it seems to work among adults as well.)

Or maybe, the real statement the Prius is making for it's owner is "I support Toyota's labor practices and the conditions under which the Prius and other Toyota vehicles are made in Japan".

What labor practices and working conditions? The ones that almost everyone, celebrities included, know virtually nothing about.

These ones:
Low wage temps: a full one-third, or 10,000 Toyota assembly line workers, are low wage temp and subcontract workers who earn less than 60 percent of what full time workers do. Temps have few rights and are hired under contracts as short as four months.

Overworked to death: Mr Kenichi Uchino died of overwork at Toyota’s Prius plant when he was just 30. He was routinely working 14-hour shifts and putting in anywhere from 107 to 155 hours of overtime a month—at least 61 ½ hours of which were unpaid. Toyota said the hours were “voluntary” and therefore not paid. Mr. Uchino left behind his young wife, a one-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. The Japanese people even have a word for being overworked to death: “karoshi.” An estimated 200 to 300 workers a year suffer serious illness, depression and death due to overwork.

Sweatshops and human trafficking: Toyota’s parts supply chain is riddled with sweatshop abuse, including the human trafficking of tens of thousands of foreign guest workers—mostly from China and Vietnam—to Japan, where they are stripped of their passports and forced to work grueling hours seven days a week, often earning less than half the legal minimum wage. Sixteen-hour shifts, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight are common.

Linked to Burmese Dictators: Toyota—through the Toyota Tsusho Corporation which is part of the Toyota Group—is involved in several joint business ventures with the ruthless military dictators of Burma, which put revenues into the pockets of the dictators who use it to repress Burma’s 50 million people.

Toyota criticized by the ILO: The UN/International Labor Organization points to Toyota’s suppression of freedom of association at its plant in the Philippines as “an illustration of how a multinational company, apparently with little regard for corporate responsibility, has done everything in its power to prevent recognition and certification of the Toyota Motor Company Workers Association.” (ILO Working Group, December 2003.)

You can read all the details on the National Labor Committee website HERE.

Misinforming the masses!

Misinformation, and hypocrisy... all from the world's favorite hybrid!

Jeroen Verhoeven, a car efficiency campaigner for "Friends of the Earth Europe" has coined a new phrase: "greenwash" advertising.

It all started when Toyota ran an ad in a Belgian magazine for the Prius in which they included the phrase "zero emissions low". There were two small problems with that ad. First, the ad in question did not include any CO2 emission or fuel consumption data, as is required under Belgian law. Second, Toyota's claim is an outright lie!

While there's no denying the fact that the Prius is economical, there's absolutely no way justify saying it has "zero emissions" since it runs on gas. It's got a tailpipe, after all... so obviously something is emitted. So why is Toyota lying like that?

In Jeroen Verhoeven's own words:

"Car manufacturers are using 'greenwash' advertising to confuse consumers whilst at the same time blocking EU proposals for a target of 120g CO2/km by 2012. If Toyota is serious about reaching 'zero emissions' anytime soon then why are they blocking a 2012 target?"

You can read the whole article HERE.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Diesel station wagon? Cool? You bet!

Honestly now, is this not a great looking car?

Admittedly, not everyone loves a wagon, and some people just don't like zee Germans, but still... this Jetta is one sweet looking ride.

For all the people who used to use the "I can't buy a compact car, I have to buy an SUV to fit my _______ stuff" excuse when shopping for a new vehicle, Volkswagen presents the Jetta Sportwagen.

Why are I talking about it here though? Because not only does this wagon looks great, but early estimates put the fuel consumption somewhere around 40-45 miles per (US) gallon. That's roughly 48-54 miles per (Imp) gallon. Or 5.88-5.22 liters/100km.

Yes, it's a diesel. But you can forget the old stereotypes about diesels being noisy, smelly, and spewing sooty black smoke. The latest generation of turbo-diesels from Europe are as clean and as quiet as an equivalent gasoline engine, with similar tailpipe emissions.

Performance wise, the 2.0L puts out 140 hp and a very impressive 258 lb-ft of torque. You'll be able to load this wagon to the gills and it'll still go without much effort at all. Mate that power-plant to the 6-speed gearbox (manual or DSG automatic) and the usual German "feel" and you've got a potentially fun car beneath you.

To read more, as well as see a few more pictures, click HERE.

"Our most realistic way to go green is to reduce size"

So says Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of FIAT.

In Europe the groundwork for the acceptance of this idea is already there. Europe is full of small cars. The "big" cars over there are almost exclusively high-end vehicles, as opposed to North America where any middle class worker can go out and buy a five or six thousand pound SUV. Up until recently it was the in thing to do. Nowadays, the average middle class car buyer couldn't afford the gas needed just to get that SUV home.

But I digress.

In an interview with l'Hebdo Mr Marchionne spoke about the future of cars. I've done my best to provide a reasonably accurate translation.

Let us speak about the car of the future. What are the technologies that will triumph?

Several are in competition. we talk a lot about hybrids, but I feel they should only be reserved for the high-end vehicles. The hybrid engines are very expensive and they take a lot of space. It's thus impossible to put them in small, cheap cars. In short, it is not really a solution with a future.

And engines functioning with hygrogen, thanks to a fuel cell? Nicolas Hayek, the owner of Swatch Group is developing some. He believes that it is the solution of the future. And you?

If one places the future by 2020, then perhaps. If the engines with hydrogen become a commercially viable and especially impeccable technology in the field of safety, I am convinced that it will be a revolution in the automobile sector. Everyone will adopt it quickly. And FIAT more quickly still than the others. We are flexible enough to do it. However, the technological challenges are considerable. I think that the probability of the development and mass production of the electric motors is undoubtedly higher than that of the engines with hydrogen.

And in the shorter term, on which technologies should the manufacturers bet on?

Current engines. We need to go towards smaller vehicles, with reduced cubic capacities. It is the only credible means to reduce the CO emissions quickly. FIAT is therefore committed to having the most efficient cars of the world in terms of CO emissions by 2012. Our engagement on this point is total.

Smaller cars and engines… do you really believe that you will convince the customers?

Mentalities change. One notices it with the success of our new FIAT 500. Today, social status is no longer defined by having an enormous car, but a smaller and more ecological car. Look at the campaigns launched against the large 4X4s. In any case, when one passes one of these monsters on the highway with only one person inside, one can only think: this is wasting energy, this is useless pollution, this is stupid. In any case, the majority of the current vehicles have too much power for what one does. It is thus rational to reduce this power.

That also means that current perceptions need to be drastically changed, doesn't it?

That's our challenge. We must make the small cars sexier, more attracting, more exciting. This is what is already occurring.

A man after my own heart!

The automotive landscape of the world is changing at an unprecedented pace. The countless closures (and imminent retooling) of truck and SUV plants across North America is testament to this fact.

I say "bring it on!"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Diesel Power Dominates LeMans

Audi has done it again!

Despite the diesel-powered Peugeot 908 being substantially faster than the diesel powered R10 TDI, Audi's "slow and steady"strategy payed off, giving them yet another LeMans win, bringing their total to 8 (in 10 starts). It's also the 3rd victory for the TDI R10 in three starts since it was introduced in 2006.

I have to say that it's great to see two fantastically beautiful cars battling each other for top honors at the world's premiere endurance race, both powered by engines developed by manufacturers who aren't afraid to try different technologies and push those technologies to their extremes.

The low, unobtrusive rumble of the diesel engines barreling down the straights of Circuit de la Sarthe was also amazing! I just wish I could have been there to witness it.

While we can't get Peugeots in North America (yet), we can buy Audis. Unfortunately, they don't sell their TDI powered cars here... again, yet! I'm fairly certain they'll be here one day though and given how they love showing off diesel-power, I'd bet we'll be seeing TDI Audis on this continent much sooner than later. And it won't be just their run-of-the-mill sedans either. Audi will soon be selling a 2.0L TDI TT coupe and convertible in Europe and by the numbers I've seen so far, it won't be any slouch. One hundred & seventy horsepower, while respectable, is nothing to write home about... but 258 lb-ft of torque is enough to pique my interest. That power-plant is enough to get you from 0 to 62 mph is just 7.5 seconds. Again, hardly a number to make your heart race... but still, very impressive when you factor in the final bit of information: it will do all that while still getting over 44 miles per gallon (combined Euro cycle).

And it's dead-sexy to boot!

So congratulations to Audi and Peugeot for putting on a phenomenal show at LeMans this year, as well as for putting diesel power in the spot-light and showing that it's not just for farmers tractors anymore!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Many Miles (or Kilometeres) Until That Hybrid Starts Paying Off?

As a follow up to the comparison article I wrote about the Toyota Camry last month, I present someone else's viewpoint. did some similar math with 15 different pairs of vehicles, ranging from the ultra-economic Prius, to the barely-worth-the-effort GMC Yukon.

Is going green worth your money? At best you'd have to drive 97,000 highway miles (over 156,000 kms) before your Civic Hybrid starts saving you some coin. Even driving in the city, where a hybrid supposedly shines, you'd have to drive that Civic over 86,000 miles (138,000 kms) before the hybrid premium was paid off.

What about the Camry? Three hundred thousand highway miles! That's nearly half a million kilometers... City driving is much better in this case at least. You'd only need to cover 70,000 miles (112,000 kms) to break even.

GM products like the Tahoe/Yukon hybrids are an utter joke in this test. You'd need to cover 180,000 miles (290,000 kms) in the city to pay off the extra cost of "going green". The funniest part of that joke is that GM is actually supremely proud of these hybrids and plans to start marketing them hardcore.

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The writing is on the wall...

I don't know whether to admire the blind tenacity with which the American auto-makers cling to the past, or simply shake my head with bewilderment.

The time when it was cool to drive the biggest, baddest SUV or truck is officially history! The proof is in the numbers. In May, the Ford F-150 was not the most sold vehicle in the United States for the first time in 17 years! Yes, every year since 1991 Ford has sold more F-150s than any other automaker has sold any model. Last month it was outsold by not one, not two... but four other vehicles, all of which are paragons of longevity, economy, and quality. Honda's Civic and Accord, as well as Toyota's Corolla and Camry all sold more in May than Ford's F-150.

And I say it's about time!

Finally, people have woken up and started to make responsible choices. People are slowly realizing that the 12mpg dinosaur in their driveway isn't making them "cool" any more. The average, intelligent consumer no longer admires those SUVs and full-size pickups that everyone wanted to drive to the grocery store just a few years ago.

And it wasn't only Ford that slipped up. All the brands that rely heavily on truck and SUV sales for their numbers had a horrible May. Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors all lost significants sales in May... 28%, 19%, and 30% respectively.

The biggest individual brand name loser? Hummer at -61.7%. GMC was close behind with a loss of over 38%.

That's a whole lot less SUVs we'll all be seeing on the road as time goes on. And eventually, that also means a whole lot less demand for gas, which is what the fuel companies keep telling us is the reason behind all the increases we've been subject to. A decade and a half of irresponsible vehicle buying habits is why we're now all paying between $4.50 and $5.50 per gallon of gas.

And here's where their "blindly clinging to the past" attitude really makes me wonder just how bright these people are. In an article titled "Asian Brands Outsell Big 3 In May" in the Detroit News I read this:

Floundering truck sales caused Ford's market share to fall to 15.6 percent, from 16.5 percent a year ago. The company hopes to boost demand for its trucks by offering employee pricing to everyone on F-150, F-250 and F-350 models this month, ahead of the introduction the redesigned F-150 later this year.

"We've been 31 years running the leading vehicle in that segment," Farley said. "We see this as an important merchandising strategy."

Sales of Ford's best-selling small car, the Focus, rose 53.2 percent in May to 32,579 vehicles, while sales of F-series pickups plummeted 30.6 percent to 42,973. Farley said the Focus outsold the F-series in dealer showrooms, but commercial and fleet sales gave the pickup more total sales.

Commercial and fleet sales (which are what I consider to be the only legitimate reasons to buy an F-150... not simply because someone feels a pickup is cool) are the only thing keeping the F-150 from being outsold by Ford's own economy car. And yet they don't realize that perhaps it's time to move on and start treating the North American automotive more like the rest of the world's markets? Leave the trucks to the contractors, the builders, the people that work with them, and start focusing on making quality cars instead.

And he's not the only ignorant one. From the same article:

May's sales results reflect consumers' general shift away from trucks, but the fact that four cars outsold the F-Series is mainly a reflection of record high gas prices, said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at Power Information Network, a unit of J.D. Power and Associates in Troy.

"At the end of the year, the F-150 will still be the top-selling vehicle," he said. Libby added that high gas prices, which are likely near their peak for the year, encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, such as the Civic, while truck buyers are more likely to buy when gas prices fall and incentives increase.

Get with the program man! Gas prices aren't going to be cut in half overnight.

As one writer put it... "gentlemen, that sound you just heard was the canary hitting the floor of your coal mine".

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

And the answer to yesterday's question is:

"We don't know."

That's all I got back from Ford, condensed to three words or less.
"Dear Mr. ******,

Thank you for contacting the Ford of Canada Customer Relationship Centre. We received your message sent on 6/2/2008 regarding your inquiry on future models.

Ford of Canada makes every effort to maintain a high standard of quality control in our manufacturing process. We pride ourselves on becoming the world's leading consumer- company for automotive products and services."

Ok, they got the obligatory back-patting out of the way. Nothing unusual there.
"From time to time, vehicle models are added, deleted or modified. Decisions to make these changes take into account factors such as market trends, customer demands, engineering advances, and dealership input.

At the Customer Relationship Centre, we are not notified in advance of changes that our Engineering and Design Team may be making and the specific reasons that the changes may be made in the future. We have documented your comments for future reference."

All that to say "we don't know". I noticed they didn't give me an email to contact the people that make the decisions. I'm going to have to work on getting that on my own I guess. At least they're keeping my query on file. It's a good thing. If enough people ask "hey, why aren't we getting the really fuel efficient cars?" the people whose job it is to take note of the 'market trends, customer demands' criteria she referred to will have something to work with.
"If you have any other inquiries or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to address them.

Thank you for contacting Ford of Canada.

Ford of Canada
Customer Relationship Centre"

Well, it was worth a shot.

The thing is, Ford has already announced that they're bringing the Fiesta (the hatchback model even!) to North America. Read more about that HERE.

Unfortunately, there's no mention in the article as to whether or not they intend to make the Duratorq diesels an option. It might not be for everyone, but 4.4L/100km (65MPG) sounds awfully nice to me. Not to mention the fact that that Fiesta is one of the best looking hatchbacks out there right now... 2-doors or 4. (Gallery at

Monday, June 2, 2008

So, why AREN'T we getting the fuel efficient cars in North America?

We have to face the facts: North America is a gluttonous society. "Bigger is better" is a mindset that has been deeply entrenched, especially in the automotive world. Virtually every model sold in North America is bigger today that it was 10 years ago. And even back then, chances are they were bigger than they were a decade before that.

Bigger cars... bigger engines... more horsepower.... it all adds up. Now, I'll admit, I love horsepower. But I do not need a 340+hp sedan for my daily commute. Nobody does.

Even a car on the smallest end of the scale, the Mazda Miata/MX-5, has been on the "Super-Size Me!" diet since day 1. When it was first sold in North America it weighed just 2072 pounds (940kg). Today it weighs 2508 pounds (1138kg). That's over 20% heavier! Agreed, some aspects of the latest generation MX-5 are likely better than the first models that were sold... specifically, a 2008 is undoubtedly safer than the 1990 model. But what about the mileage numbers? Surely 18 years of technological improvements netted some improvements there?

1990 Mazda Miata - 1.6L: 24MPG (combined) on Regular Unleaded
2008 Mazda MX-5 - 2.0L: 24 MPG (combined) on Premium Unleaded

Eighteen years and we're still right where we started? Only now I have to pay for Premium? Something just isn't right with that.

It's a horrible cliché... but how would you feel if your computer today performed no better than it did in 1990, yet cost twice as much to buy?

It's time we start thinking responsibly. Is that likely to happen? Eventually, yes. Unfortunately, a revised mindset is nowhere near imminent. It'll get here one day though... but only if we push for it. Ask yourself: Why do I see more F-150 commercials from Ford than Focus ads? And why is the 2.0L Focus the most economical Ford available to me, when other countries can buy smaller, more fuel efficient Fords that get nearly twice the mileage?

I asked Ford:

What I'd like to know is when will Ford start selling the truly economical models in North America?

The newest Focus available here in Canada gets an average of 7.1L/100km. In Europe, not only do they offer models similar to that, but they also have diesel models available to buy which get 5.5L/100km or LESS... as low as 4.3L/100km.

With gas prices increasing substantially on a monthly basis, I'd like to know when these models will be available to me to buy.

Also, what about the other even smaller Fords that we can't yet buy here? The European Fiesta gets 6.2L/100km on regular fuel, and as little as 4.4L/100km on diesel. And what about the Ka?

As someone looking to purchase a second vehicle strictly for daily commuting, all three of these cars are viable, and tempting options, yet not one of them is available to me. When will Ford Canada finally make these available to Canadian buyers who are looking for economical options?

If/when I get an answer I'll keep you informed.