Boring 2009 Gas Guzzlers Should Stay in Showroom



Forget the auto industry bail-out.

Given the cars it's offering us consumers this year, we'd be doing ourselves and this failing industry a favor if we shuttered all the showrooms and got on our bikes.

The vehicles are boring, their prices are through the rough, and the “green” gas mileage they oromised falls far short of what you’d expect in a shrinking oil economy.

A two-hour tour of the Washington auto show last night was all it took to reveal how out-of-touch this industry is with reality.

Despite its claim that the show was “driven by the environment,” almost every vehicle I saw was clunky, expensive and a gas guzzler. After eyeballing a lot of stickers, I was shocked at almost all of them: price tags in the high $30-50K range for family sedans, and for that, mpg ranges scraping the bottom of the barrel (high teens/low twenties). I consider a fuel efficient car to get at least 30 mpg. Only a few models achieved such a modest goal, including the Toyota Prius (the car I drive), the Mercury Hybrid, the Smart Car, and the Mini-Cooper. (BTW, Mini-Cooper wins the contest on cool websites, hands down!). GM is still selling Hummers, for goodness’ sake.

Chevy volt The Chevy Volt, the all electric vehicle GM promises to make available by 2011, was named Green Car Vision Award Winner by Green Car Journal. The only surprise there is that the Volt is actually a pretty spiffy car and looks like it would be fun to drive as well as cheap (well, the fuel would be cheap; we don’t know what the car will cost yet).

If I were rich, I would have been excited by the Fisker. For a cool $85,000, you can get “the world’s first eco-chic car created in equally eco-friendly facilities.” This was the only car in the entire show concerned about its “karma” (their word, not mine). In fact, they have a model called the “Karma” that burns no fuel for the first 50 miles, then uses a lithium ion battery to operate like a normal hybrid vehicle. Fisker claims the Karma can average fuel economy of 100 mpg (2.4L/100km) per year – almost FIVE TIMES AS MUCH as most of the other vehicles in the show.

It took forever to find the “Green Car Pavilion” part of the show — because it was about as far away from the conventional autos on display as it could be and still be included in the mix. I’d link to it if only there were a link for it on the Show’s website. There’s not.

As Congress debates a billion dollar bail-out package to help prop up this failed industry, show organizers said that ”The mission of the Washington Auto Show is to operate as the “Public Policy Show,” unique on the global industry circuit because of its proximity to the U.S. Congress, international diplomatic corps and Federal agencies.”

Given the cars they displayed and their disdain for the economic and environmental realities we face, I can only imagine that their idea of “facilitating a dialogue between industry leaders and public policymakers” means they’re lobbying to do business as usual.

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