Wishful – or Vengeful – Thinking

Better hurry, if you want a new SUV or truck you can still afford.

Or anything new you can still afford.

Twelve states – led by California – are suing the federal government to reinstate what President Trump rescinded about two weeks ago: A near-tripling of federal “gas guzzler” fines imposed by his predecessor – to be applied to all new vehicles that don’t meet federal mandatory MPG minimums.

Which are set to almost double.

Under the terms of a pair of federal fatwas hurled during the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, all new cars will be required to average nearly 50 MPG (up from about 36 MPG currently) by 2026 – or be socked with fines to the tune of $14 (up from just $5) for every 0.1 MPG they fall short. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $10.00 (as of 11:50 EDT - Details)

“Gas guzzler” fines have been around since the ‘70s – when the federal government first got into the business of decreeing MPG mandatory minimums – also known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

But until recently, the mandatory MPG minimums – and the fines – always increased gradually.

The original mandated MPG average was 18 MPG. It went into effect in the late 1970s. The current mandatory minimum of 36.5 MPG is about twice that – but it took more than 30 years to get to that.

Which gave the car industry time to develop new designs and technologies to cope with it.

Coping with a near-doubling of the current MPG mandatory minimum – in just six years’ time – represents either wishful thinking or vengeful thinking.

Wishful, because almost no new cars average anywhere near 50 MPG – except for compact-sized hybrid-electric cars like the Toyota Prius. The technology needed to make non-hybrid cars – let alone full-size trucks and SUVs – average (city and highway) 50 MPG simply doesn’t exist.

And it can’t be wished – or fatwa’d – into existence.

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