California Autos Examiner

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fuel Efficiency: A Noble and Important Cause

Given our current mixture economic climate and low oil prices, consumers might be distracted from the looming threat of another oil price spike. Just as Americans were beginning to battle high fuel prices by dumping inefficient vehicles, prices plunged and the economy went to hell and a hand basket and we got sucked back in.

Just the other day, a coworker proudly showed me his brand new Ford Expedition. He had gotten a "great price" and was pleased as punch with his new purchase, "It's so much better than my Accord." For now, he'll enjoy all the benefits of such a large vehicle, but when oil comes around again he'll probably be singing a different tune.

Auto industry executives are fit to be tied about the current state of affairs. Oh, sure there is the economy to deal with, but just as frustrating for them is their inability to forecast what kind of vehicles to build. If they bet on higher oil prices and go smaller, they could be left at the altar while the buyer they had hoped to marry has run off with a high profit, large vehicle that some competitor has made. Of course, this scenario works in reverse as well. There is a huge difference in consumer preference when gas is at $2 a gallon verses $4 a gallon. The only 100 percent effective solution is to cover all of your bases and have flexible factories that can switch between various models relatively easily. Of course, if automakers knew that fuel prices were going to be relatively stable, they could fine tune their offerings, but right now that simply isn't possible.

At this year's show, I saw a lot of laudable efforts to bring to market more fuel efficient vehicles. I'm a big believer in ingenuity and salute all of those hard working engineers out there who are trying to bring to market vehicles at are not only appealing, but sip fuel as well. I firmly convinced that we are in a lull before the storm. The next time fossil fuel costs take flight, I doubt that they shall ever return. We should be thankful that we have been given a temporary break and use this time wisely to wean ourselves from our dark, oily master.

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