By Matt Timion
According to a new survey by JD Power and Associates, approximately one third of consumers in the United States consider fuel economy to be a key factor when purchasing a new car. With fuel economy, dependence on foreign oil, pollution, and global warming weighing heavy on the minds of so many people recently, it may be a surprise to learn that in 1992, General Motors actually produced a vehicle that achieved 100 miles per gallon (MPG).
In order to get a better idea of what General Motors has been doing for the last 25 years, it is important to first learn about another amazing vehicle: The GM TPC. The TPC (which stands for ‘Two Person Commuter’) was able to obtain 75 miles-per-gallon. It weighed approximately 1000 pounds and resembled a Geo Metro. GM abandoned the project vehicle, which contained a frugal 3-cylinder engine, when they needed to add another 200 pounds of reinforcement. This unfortunate turn of events can be blamed on GM’s need to comply with America’s then lax safety laws.
While the existence of such a vehicle may be shocking to some, what is even more shocking is the existence of other prototypes made by General Motors that met the same demise. These vehicles included the GM Lean Machine (80 MPG) in 1982, along with a number of other fuel efficient vehicles like the GM Aero-X, the GM Aero 2000, and the finally the GM Ultralite (which had achieved 100 miles-per-gallon). While Honda was leading the world with the Civic VX in 1992 (achieving 50 miles-per-gallon) the USA- owned General Motors was producing 100 MPG vehicles behind the scenes, all the while selling 20 MPG vehicles to the public.
100 miles per gallon is not only obtainable, but it already has been obtained.
One obvious question must be asked. Why are these high gas mileage vehicles not available for sale? Why do companies like General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Ford continue to sell 30 MPG vehicles when something so much better was made before? The answer to that question is, of course, a complex one. Market analyses, surveys, polls, government regulations, and other red tape held back efficiency.
The short answer to this question is simple: While the U.S. continues to sell its traditional vehicles, other vehicles are being bought and sold far from America, by the same companies.
Vehicles that can attain over 70 miles per gallon have been sold in Europe and Japan for many years. Recently, Volkswagen produced a vehicle called the ‘Lupo’ that is a perfect example. This vehicle, which achieves 78 miles per gallon, likely will never be sold in the USA. For the 2007 model year, Honda has introduced the Fit to the US Market (known in other parts of the world as the ‘Jazz’). In Japan, the Jazz comes standard with a smaller engine and a few fresh ideas to help boost fuel economy. In the USA, the Fit doesn’t have the smaller engine and isn’t even an option.
Americans have always loved big cars, or at least that’s what they tell us. They, of course, are the auto manufacturers. This has nothing to do with conspiracy theories and everything to do with economics. When General Motors sells a giant truck or SUV, they make a lot of money. When they sell a small two-person commuter, they make next-to-nothing. As a consequence of this realization, all that was needed have been broadcasts of a few finely focused commercials to the citizens of the richest country in the world. Manufacturers have persuaded the citizenry that they absolutely need these ‘Tanks on Wheels’. Profits skyrocket. To remind Americans that there are no options, merely look at the fact that the options heave never been presented.
General Motors had the chance to be the world leader in fuel economy, which it turned down to be the world leader in SUVs. GM is not alone, as every other auto manufacturer has produced similar vehicles over the last 25 years and denied the U.S. access to them.
Americans should not only ask how they can get better gas mileage, but most importantly ask why they have never been given that option in the first place. In a world where wars are waged over oil, more options should be offered to a concerned public. Perhaps blowing the dust off of 25 year old blue prints is a good place to start.
About the Author: Matt Timion owns and operates GasSavers.org. He belongs to a number of groups dedicated to efficiency, gas mileage, and alternative energy.
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