It Might Be Time To Stock Up…

by Eric Peters Recently by Eric Peters: The Double Yellow Prison

On a good used car.

Because the new ones – the ones coming online now and on deck for next year (and the years after that) – are going to be budget-busters as well as ball-busters. We are approaching the event horizon of reasonableness when it comes to car design. Because of the unreasonableness of the demands spewing forth from Washington. These demands have existed for decades, but as in so many other areas, a kind of quickening is occurring. It’s no longer a little regulation here, a new law there. It is one epic demand after the next – the epicness being necessary to garner attention (for the lawmakers making the demands) in a political-social environment that’s come unmoored from moderation and – yes – reasonableness.

The 35.5 MPG fuel efficiency fatwa, for example. It was announced with great fanfare – and much cheering by masses who have much more understanding of the latest fantasy football rankings than of engineering realities – that all new vehicles shall average 35.5 MPG by model year 2016. This will be almost doubled again come 2020 – which isn’t all that far away, incidentally.

I’ve written already about the Chicxulub Effect (see here) this has had on V-8 and even V-6 engines. Though not as immediately observable as a large rocking dropping out of the sky, the results are similar. Mass extinction. Even Jaguar – Jaguar! – pulled the formerly standard-equipment V-8 out of the XF sedan, replacing it with a four-cylinder literally less than half its size (and power). If Jaguar can’t afford to build (or sell) V-8 luxury cars because they can’t meet the 35.5 MPG bar, imagine the effect this legislation will have on the bread-and-butter brands.

But wait. Why imagine when you can know?

As a car journalist, I get to test drive the latest/newest stuff before most people. And the latest/newest stuff I’ve had recently features some amazing – but alarming – technology. Technology clearly motivated by the pending 35.5 MPG fatwa’s coming-into-force.

For example, the 2013 Chevy Malibu I recently test drove (see here for that). It features auto-stop. That is, the engine cuts itself off whenever the car comes to a stop – in order to save a few drops of gas and (Chevy hopes) improve the car’s CAFE score. Several other new/2013 cars I’ve had recently also have this feature – and the word is, it’s going to be as commonplace within a year or three as keyless ignition already is.