After being pummeled so long for ignoring fuel economy in favor of performance, some automakers deserve kudos for developing cars that coax more than 40 mpg on the highway from gasoline engines--not gasoline-electric hybrids but regular, internal-combustion gasoline engines.
The timing couldn't be better. With gasoline prices rising, the result of political uncertainty in the Middle East, some Americans are eager to buy higher-mileage vehicles but cannot afford the higher cost added by complex hybrid systems.
Several of the 40-mpg cars will be relatively low-volume versions of popular models that cannot boast nearly the same fuel efficiency. They also tend to be compacts or subcompacts, not traditional American family sedans.
But they are more than just science projects. They are proof that the can-do attitude of auto engineers is alive and well.
Engineers at GM, Ford, and Hyundai say they didn't start out to hit the 40-mpg bogey. But when they saw how close they could come to that magic number, they worked hard, stretching technology to hit the target. That's what engineers do.
As a result, the engineers accomplished what lobbyists spent decades telling Washington was impossible--namely, building hyper-fuel-efficient vehicles that don't cost an arm and a leg and that people want to buy.
Critics may grumble that automakers ought to build more. But in a market economy, supply needs to match demand.
Others will complain that even though the 40-mpg models may not be representative of the entire product range, automakers almost certainly will tout the numbers in their advertising. But why shouldn't they? They made it.
(Source: Automotive News)