- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

It appears that the only ones who really care about fuel economy in the United States are the Sierra Club and the auto-company critics. Buyers seem to be more interested in complaining about gas prices than changing their buying habits.
Rick Wagoner, chief executive officer of General Motors Corp., told the New York Times recently that he believes the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards have failed and should be scrapped. Mr. Wagoner says Americans won't buy highly efficient vehicles unless fuel prices approach those of Europe, between $3 and $4 a gallon.
I've been saying that for years and ask you to note that the gas prices of the 1970s were not what scared us into a thriftier compact-car mode it was gas availability.
What Mr. Wagoner is saying is that Detroit can't build fuel-efficient cars that anyone would want to buy. CAFE standards require car fleets to average 27.5 miles per gallon while truck fleets need deliver only 20.7 mpg.
Increased truck sales during the past few years have brought the fuel economy of the entire fleet down to 24.5 mpg. That's 1.7 mpg less than the entire fleet was getting in 1987.
Remember this when Dodge and then later GM offers us trucks with hybrid power and electric assistance that allows smaller engines. Toyota raised the bar with the announcement that it would build the first hybrid-powered minivan for the Asian market.
If fuel prices remain high, look for the 42-mpg vehicle here. Toyota has sold more than 60,000 of its Prius hybrid cars in Japan, and it expects that figure to climb to 300,000 in the next four years.

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