Don’t Blame the Automobile Manufacturers

Once gain I ventured into the Letters to the Editor section of the Star Tribune and returned with blog fodder gold. This letter was penned by an individual wrongly blaming automobile manufacturers for the lack of available small trucks on the market:

After 190,000 miles of service, my 1998 Toyota Tacoma has come to the end of its life. A rusted frame has brought its use to an end. Concerned about liability, the Toyota Corp. has given me a rather generous sum to buy back my 13-year-old truck.

The bad news : Toyota no longer makes a small truck. If it did, I’m certain it would get well more than 30 miles per gallon.

My Tacoma averaged 27 mpg — not highway miles, mind you: 27-mpg average. I’m certain that 13 years of technology could easily push us into the 30-mpg range.

The small truck is gone; the question is: Why?

Why are we being dictated to by car companies? Why do we move backward rather than forward, and how much longer will such regression continue?

We are about to conclude one oil war; half of our trade deficit is petroleum, and winter no longer comes in November in Minnesota.

National strength comes from minimizing our liabilities, not ignoring them. All but a few suffer when the tail wags the dog, and it needs to end. Petroleum addiction and inaction challenges our future. Change should be parked in your garage.


Emphasis mine. Notice that Mark is blaming the automobile manufacturers for what is actually a fault of government policy. How so? It has to do with the method fuel efficiency is calculated by government busy bodies:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) are regulations in the United States, first enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1975,[1] and intended to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks (trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) sold in the US in the wake of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. Historically, it is the sales-weighted harmonic mean fuel economy, expressed in miles per US gallon (mpg), of a manufacturer’s fleet of current model year passenger cars or light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 pounds (3,856 kg) or less, manufactured for sale in the US. If the average fuel economy of a manufacturer’s annual fleet of vehicle production falls below the defined standard, the manufacturer must pay a penalty, currently $5.50 USD per 0.1 mpg under the standard, multiplied by the manufacturer’s total production for the U.S. domestic market.

In other words a car manufacturer is punished if the average fuel efficiency of their fleet is below a specified threshold. This threshold, measured in miles per gallon, is a moving target that has only ever increased (meaning the average miles per gallon of a company’s fleet must be higher).

Physics only allows for so much fuel efficiency to be squeezed out of a gasoline engine. Combine this, government regulations, and the fact that physics is a harsh bitch who also dictates that more fuel is required to produce more power and you have a formula that is just setting up small trucks for failure.

People who buy cars generally desire what they feel is acceptable acceleration and speed while people who buy trucks generally desire what they feel is acceptable towing capacity. Small trucks like the Ford Ranger are kind of an in between; they offer acceptable towing capacity without being gargantuan and therefore difficult to maneuver on small city streets. Unfortunately they’re not the most fuel efficient vehicles as people often will want to be able to pull their boat around with their small truck.

When the government increases the required average miles per gallon tough choices must be made. Increasing fuel efficiency requires decreasing power, which will irritate customers buying new vehicles (who generally assume their new vehicle will be equally or more power than their last). On the other hand if you eliminate one of the models that has a lower average miles per gallon your total corporate miles per gallon goes up. Thus in order to keep a majority of their customers happy and comply with the demands of government the automobile manufactures find they must make a handful of them unhappy.

You can’t rightfully blame automobile manufacturers for the lack of small trucks on the market, that blame is purely on the shoulders of government regulators.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Blame the Automobile Manufacturers”

  1. ._. My only hope now is buying used Frontiers and Rangers when I gain an actual income.

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