Posted By RichC on April 4, 2007
A segment on the FoxNews program The O’Reilly Factor caught my eye last night in discussing American automobiles. Mark Laneve, Vice President of Sales for General Motors, was interviewed and promoted the fuel efficiency of GM’s vehicles. He presented the case that GM has been gaining ground and has passed their rivals in building cars offering good fuel economy. The criteria was relatively simple: The host, Bill O’Reilly, said he was looking to purchase a new car and wanted one that was green and used less fuel. (I think he’s talking good economy as high 20 MPGs … unlike those of us driving TDIs or Hybrids wanting 50!)
Mark Laneve pointed to the U.S. government numbers that show many GM vehicles return bery good efficiency considering a vehicles size … and in many cases are better than their rivals. Personally I’ve been impressed with miles per gallon highway numbers from family and friends who drive GM vehicles. I’ll cite a couple examples: My father-in-law has a vintage small block V-8 in a Chevrolet Caprice Classic wagon with 200,000 miles, yet he still returns above 25 mpg on trips. If this car wasn’t a repeat performer, I would be a doubter. (I do think that is the exception considering the weight of a full frame wagon?) I also have a friend who has owned (and still does) multiple Chevy Impalas (6 cylinder engines); he regularly tops 30 mpg which is not bad for a six passenger sedan that offers comfort. That said, most GM models that I’ve glanced at on dealer lots have not been so thrifty when looking at the stickers … although I admit I’ve looks at either SUV or a vehicle with a bit more performance and luxury.
I agree that GM does offer models with mileage in the high 20’s or maybe 30ish, they do not offer comparable vehicles in the U.S. that challenge the likes of Toyota or Honda Hybrid vehicles or even their small family vehicles. And … when Mr. Laneve mentions that GM vehicles in the US were on par with the Europeans, I sensed he was definitely misleading people. Yes, General Motors builds some fuel efficient models, but the bulk of the vehicles they are selling are NOT nearly as efficient as what most Europeans are buying or driving.
Consider this: Over 50% of the vehicles being sold in Europe are now clean turbocharged diesel engines. Diesel engines are more powerful and fuel-efficient than similar-sized gasoline engines — about 30-35% more fuel efficient. (see FuelEconomy.gov) Mr. Laneve’s comparison was not accurate. My personal lifetime combined fuel economy on my 2003 Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel is 46 MPG … a vehicle very similar to what you might find many in Europe driving.