Love it or hate it, the Obama administration’s 54.5 mpg rule will force change in the auto industry’s future as Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is pointing out.
Muscle cars like the Hemi-powered Dodge Challenger, he says, will become “as rare as white flies,” though those predictions have been around since government mpg mandates first took effect in 1978 and, as many will point out, the V8 continues to be found under the hood of quite a few cars.
Then again, gas prices are only climbing higher as are new vehicle prices, meaning owning a V8-equipped car for performance purposes will become increasingly exorbitant. What’s more, engine size is becoming less important with each passing year as automakers turn to forced induction and direct injection for more power from smaller equipment. Finally, hybrid drivetrains are finding their way into performance cars that will ultimately lead to a shift in the common perception that hybrid cars have to be bland.
But fuel savings can come from many more sources than downsized engines. For example, Lotus was recently commissioned to re-engineer a Toyota Venza to have far fewer parts, making the car much lighter and therefore fuel efficient. The British sports car maker managed to drop 37 percent of the curb weight, improving the car’s mileage 23 percent.
That probably won’t apply quite as well to V8 performance cars that rely on body stiffening parts and loads of extra go-fast pasts, but BMW is working on a alternatives to lighten its cars. It aims to decrease the cost of producing carbon fiber pieces by speeding up the process needed to make each part.
One way or another, the industry will be forced to make significant strides in the coming years. That is, unless voters favor Romney this November, in which case the rule could be repealed.