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From today's NY Times:

(BTW check out especially the last paragraph -- "emphasis mine," as they say)


Average U.S. Car Is Tipping Scales at 4,000 Pounds
By DANNY HAKIM

DETROIT, May 4 - Detroit was recently ranked as the nation's most obese city by Men's Fitness magazine. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the Motor City's chief product is also losing the battle of the bulge.

The average new car or light-duty truck sold in the 2003 model year tipped the scales at 4,021 pounds, breaking the two-ton barrier for the first time since the mid-1970's, according to a report released by the Environmental Protection Agency last week.
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The fattening of the nation's automobiles is a principal reason that average fuel economy has stopped improving and the nation's consumption of crude oil has been swelling: all else being equal, moving more weight takes more energy. Add in the additional pollutants and greenhouse gases released by burning more fuel, and it is not surprising that the upsizing trend is condemned by environmental groups.

But ranged against them in an increasingly bitter debate are industry lobbyists and conservative groups who argue that girth is good, for crashworthiness and because people want more space and power, though Honda is a notable dissenter in the industry.

At the center of the debate is the Bush administration's proposed rewriting of national fuel economy regulations. Though work on the plan is still in its early stages, one important aspect of it could lead automakers to make their vehicles even heavier on average. Environmentalists are distressed by the plan, but it has not been embraced by the auto industry, either.

In recent months, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been flooded with nearly 50,000 letters and detailed comments about the plan. Many have come from organizations with an interest in the outcome - automakers, lobbyists, environmental and consumer groups - but the majority have been from individuals, some of them angered by increasingly tanklike vehicles and others by the claims of industry lobbying groups that S.U.V.'s will somehow be regulated out of existence.

And there are other motivations. "One of the things that triggers asthma is air pollution, and vehicular emissions are a significant source," said Dr. Ronald Saff, an asthma specialist in Tallahassee, Fla., concerned about rising asthma rates. Dr. Saff, 45, wrote a letter asking the agency "to make S.U.V.'s safer for families and the environment.".....

The E.P.A.'s weight statistics show that the average weight of a 2003 car or light-duty truck, like a pickup, sport utility, van or minivan, was heavier than in any model year since 1976, when the average peaked at 4,079 pounds. Just five years later, after the oil shocks of the 1970's, the average had fallen by more than 20 percent, to 3,202 pounds.....Average fuel economy peaked at 22.1 miles to the gallon in the late 1980's, according to the agency, but has eroded since then to 20.7 miles for the 2003 model year......
New noncommercial vehicles are actually even heavier than the statistics show, because the largest vehicles sold to consumers, including Hummers and Ford Excursions, are not classed as light-duty, so they are not covered by fuel economy rules or counted in average weight calculations. They are also exempt from many safety standards and crash-test requirements.

Government studies say these giant vehicles are increasing the overall number of deaths in accidents, mainly because of the threat they pose to people in cars they hit in collisions. The administration's plan does suggest that manufacturers be pressed to slim down the heaviest of the heavyweights, like the Hummer......

Traffic deaths in the United States rose to 43,220 last year, the most since 1990. Before the S.U.V. boom, the country had the world's lowest highway death rate, taking miles driven into account, but it now ranks behind at least eight other developed nations.....

......Honda, which makes some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles, said its own research found that dimensions, design and materials often made more difference than weight. Honda cited government statistics showing that midsize cars have lower death rates than sport utilities, and that smaller S.U.V.'s do better than midsize S.U.V.'s.




Well, a couple of things. That Honda thing at the end is right in line with what my instinct has always been -- that I'm safer in a more-nimble vehicle. The stats have always seemed to show sort of the opposite, but I didn't care, because I was very confident that at least for me it's correct that I'm safer in a more-nimble vehicle. And now I guess the stats show it too.

And.....a little off the subj, but: The car makers use the size of SUV's to classify them as "trucks," to get around some restrictions like MPG standards. Well, you can't have it both ways, right? So, some modest proposals:

If SUV's are trucks, then shouldn't they be subject to the same restrictions as trucks? Like, being prohibited from roads that don't allow "commercial traffic"? Or, if the "commercial traffic" thing won't fly, at least the things that apply to "trucks," like, lower speed limits in certain areas, and being prohibited from the left lane?

C'mon, let's get behind it!


And not just to keep the SUV's off those parkways and out of the left lanes, but to help get people to stop buying them.
 

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Its because of SUVs and cars like the BMW 7-series.
 

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Interesting that they lumped SUVs, minivans, vans and pickups in with that article, since the title reads "car". Shouldn't it have read "Average US passenger vehicle..."?
 

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2004_Acura_TSX said:
Its because of SUVs and cars like the BMW 7-series.
Definitely true about the SUVs... especially with the big ones like the H2, Expedition, Excursion, Escalade and Navigator around.

It's funny... with gas prices going up you'd think that people would want to drive smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, but instead SUVs are everywhere and cars reminiscent of the 70s are being introduced (e.g. Chrysler 300).
 

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larchmont said:
......Honda, which makes some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles, said its own research found that dimensions, design and materials often made more difference than weight. Honda cited government statistics showing that midsize cars have lower death rates than sport utilities, and that smaller S.U.V.'s do better than midsize S.U.V.'s.....
About smaller vs. bigger SUV's (don't know what to make of the phrase "midsize SUV's")..... :donno:
The first time I needed to rent an SUV to haul stuff (first of 2 times), I got a Toyota RAV4, which was almost delightful. Consumer Guide describes the handling (at least at low-speed) as "very competent, even entertaining," and that's true. And even at any speed, it's quite good. It weighs less than 3000 lb, and the MPG isn't bad -- low 20's. I don't think very many people would bitch about SUV's like that. (The CR-V, by the way, is much bigger.) Of course you can't haul that much, which was why I got a bigger one the next time.

About what SJ said, I think (or hope) that the trend began reversing, even before the spike in gas prices, because of changing attitudes.
 

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larchmont said:
About smaller vs. bigger SUV's (don't know what to make of the phrase "midsize SUV's")..... :donno:
Yeah, there are many cars that are starting to straddle different "classes"... like the Pacifica... is that a minivan or an SUV? Forrester... SUV or hatchback/station wagon?

I think that the categories that vehicles fall into depend on a combination of marketing, reviews (e.g. magazines) and consumer perception.

In general, small/compact SUVs refer to the RAV4s and Element (plus the old CR-Vs)... midsize SUVs refer to Highlanders and Pilots (and new CR-Vs)... large SUVs refer to the Sequoias and Escalades.

Of course, there are exceptions... how in the world can the CR-V and the 4Runner both be considered midsized (by Edmunds)?
 

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big SUVs these days are equivalent to the big station wagons of the early '70s. I don't know why these SUVs remain so popular, even with these sky high gas prices.:dunno:
 

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2004_Acura_TSX said:
big SUVs these days are equivalent to the big station wagons of the early '70s. I don't know why these SUVs remain so popular, even with these sky high gas prices.:dunno:
The Hummer H1 weighs in at 7558 pounds and the Excursion 7190 pounds which is about the weight of TWO station wagons (one large, one small) from the 1970s!

NYMEX unleaded gas closed at $1.314 for June delivery today ..... still waaaay below the cost of the bottle of water in my cupholder, so the answer is: SUVs remain so popular because the price of gasoline is nowhere near the spot that would motivate most people to conserve.

SUVs are wildly popular all over the world, and some of the biggest gas guzzlers are European, where gas is $4-$5/gallon. My "best guess" is that it would take a retail price of $7-$8/gal. to significantly influence US buying patterns.

 

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sjlee said:
Of course, there are exceptions... how in the world can the CR-V and the 4Runner both be considered midsized (by Edmunds)?
It's based on the EPA definition, which is based on interior volume.

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/info.shtml#sizeclasses

Compared to the exterior, the CR-V is quite large on the inside.

When you see high prices at the pump, remember the SUV (and 300C) drivers are getting nailed far worse than you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
bob shiftright said:
.....SUVs remain so popular because the price of gasoline is nowhere near the spot that would motivate most people to conserve.

SUVs are wildly popular all over the world, and some of the biggest gas guzzlers are European, where gas is $4-$5/gallon. My "best guess" is that it would take a retail price of $7-$8/gal. to significantly influence US buying patterns
I think Bob's basically right. I would be surprised if the actual "breaking point" is that high -- I'd guess that here in the U.S., even just $4 a gallon would be enough to have a very significant effect on the market for gas guzzlers. But there seems little doubt that current price levels are nowhere near high enough to keep very many people from getting whatever car they would like.
 

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The H2s, Escalades, Expeditions, and Excursions all need to go on a diet. . . like some of their owners. :naughty:

I marvel at how Honda (and Toyota too) manage to build light-weight vehicles with good to exceptional crash test results. The result is gas efficient cars, not just nimble enough to avoid accidents, but also with good track record for safety when you need it.

Just goes to show, good engineering can go a long way.
 

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Believe most of the people who steer these behemoths drive one because they can afford one.

Raising gas prices will put -some- dent in their wallet but I suspect the price hike will eventually have more impact on the middle class folks driving medium sized automobiles.
 

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larchmont said:
I'd guess that here in the U.S., even just $4 a gallon would be enough to have a very significant effect on the market for gas guzzlers. But there seems little doubt that current price levels are nowhere near high enough to keep very many people from getting whatever car they would like.
Here's my thought. In, say, the UK (This is the country that makes Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, I'd point out.) most people probably figure fuel costs into their transportation purchase decisions. At, say, $5/gallon.

However in the US, income is significantly higher than in the UK, GDP is $25,500, vs. $36,300 in the USA.

So at $36,300/$25,500 x $5 = $7.12/gallon, people here will begin to notice.....

BTW, I'm NOT predicting $7.12 gasoline ... this year. :)
 

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Yeah, I agree. The price would need to be right up there before people will actually start changing the types of vehicles that they buy.

I was in Paris a few years ago, and I was surprised at how few SUVs were on the road. Most were compact cars (like the Mini), and there were motorcycles/scooters everywhere. Parking is also very bad over there. Between that and the really high gas prices they pay, I think that SUV sales are limited to the very wealthy.

By the way, I paid $2.219/gal for premium unleaded this morning. :(
 

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sjlee said:
Yeah, I agree. The price would need to be right up there before people will actually start changing the types of vehicles that they buy.

I was in Paris a few years ago, and I was surprised at how few SUVs were on the road. Most were compact cars (like the Mini), and there were motorcycles/scooters everywhere. Parking is also very bad over there. Between that and the really high gas prices they pay, I think that SUV sales are limited to the very wealthy.

By the way, I paid $2.219/gal for premium unleaded this morning. :(
Since Paris streets were planned by the Romans, or at least before anyone even conceived of automobiles, microcars like the "Smart" and the 2CV are a natural.

But out in the 'burbs and the country, I was more struck by how MANY American-made SUVs there were on the road, and that so many like Jeep Cherokees were turbodiesels....

BTW, the only one I saw blow a horn at a dawdling tourist in rural France was a Range Rover with French plates.

 

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What's wrong with this picture...

The majority of the people who buy SUVs and trucks as personal transports are "baby boomers." Now most boomers were responsible for the Japanese invasion of smaller cars in response to the first gas shortage during the 70's.

Since boomers "rebelled" and resented what the establishment" was doing to the earth they started "earth day" and recycling and you get the picture.

Now how is it that some 30 years later, not only have to forgotten what they rebelled about, but have acutally come full circle and created a bigger eco mess than their parents. They not only drive more fuel ineffeciient vehicles, but drive more often and waste more fuel.

So what changed and went wrong? Too many ganola bars? :tardsmash
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
hip said:
What's wrong with this picture...

The majority of the people who buy SUVs and trucks as personal transports are "baby boomers." Now most boomers were responsible for the Japanese invasion of smaller cars in response to the first gas shortage during the 70's.

Since boomers "rebelled" and resented what the establishment" was doing to the earth they started "earth day" and recycling and you get the picture.

Now how is it that some 30 years later, not only have to forgotten what they rebelled about, but have acutally come full circle and created a bigger eco mess than their parents. They not only drive more fuel inefficient vehicles, but drive more often and waste more fuel.

So what changed and went wrong? Too many ganola bars? :tardsmash
Baby boomers in '70's: no money, no kids, and no stuff = small cars

Baby boomers now: money, kids, stuff, and are very stupid = SUV's
 

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They're even in LOVE with SUVs in Germany!

CLICK for Auto Bild SUV test.







 

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larchmont said:
Baby boomers in '70's: no money, no kids, and no stuff = small cars

Baby boomers now: money, kids, stuff, and are very stupid = SUV's
Who was buying THESE gas-guzzlers back in the 1970s? Not grampa, I'm sure!

 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
bob shiftright said:
They're even in LOVE with SUVs in Germany!

CLICK for Auto Bild SUV test.







Yes, it's easy to lose sight of it, but when inflation is taken into account, gasoline's current cost isn't particularly high from a historical standpoint.
 
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