The price of gasoline has marched past $3 a gallon., and are introducing three new small high-mileage cars, the 35-40 mpg (6.7-5.8 L/100 km) gang: the Fit, Yaris and Versa.
How's that for luck? Meanwhile,is introducing the new Chevy Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade; is getting a Lincoln Navigator ready for fall introduction; and has the Aspen coming, a luxury version of the big Dodge Durango. We're talking the 15-mpg (15.6 L/100 km) gang.
It’s not as if the Asian auto makers are clairvoyant. These new models are made for Japan and other markets. They run off some extra Fit and Yaris models and ship them to the U.S. without a lot of extra cost.
TheVersa is made in Mexico, and most will be sold there, but exports to the U.S. will help fill the line.
It was not wrong to renew the big American SUVs. They were getting old. Detroit sells lots of them, and they must be kept up-to-date. You could say it's just a matter of luck. But is it?
Detroit has had 33 years to figure out what it takes to create attractive, fuel-efficient products since the 1973 Mideast War and oil crisis.
What do they have? GM imports some Korean models, has some hybrid/electric vehicles in the pipeline and is expected to replace its Saturn Ion with a subcompact from its Adam Opel unit.has an aging Ford Focus and a few HEVs.
imports a diesel for the Jeep Liberty and is working with GM and on an HEV powertrain.
Chrysler also is showing off the small Dodge Hornet concept and is talking toabout jointly building a small car, but it made that splash in Europe, not here.
My friend Fred says there are few reasons to build small cars. He once owned a tiny Chevrolet Geo Metro (a rebadged), so he knows about “driving scared.”
Sorry Fred, but 33 years without an answer is too long.
At the Detroit auto show this year, what were the hot show cars? GM had the Camaro concept, and Chrysler had the Challenger concept.
There were no super fuel-stingy show cars from Detroit to test public opinion. No little car with an aluminum frame and body to chop the weight, no groundbreaking new 4-cyl. engine. I'm not talking hybrids or diesels. I'm asking, where were the concept cars that showed Detroit was working to deliver 40 mpg?
Another friend says it's too difficult to do that today because of government regulations, high wages, pensions, medical costs and global competition.
Enough already, no more excuses.
We've been at war in Iraq for three years. The terrorists are trying to blow up Saudi oil fields, and we're bumping heads with Iran.
Plus, we don't like Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, and he doesn't like us. China is an oil-eating dragon, and we still can't drill in parts of the Alaskan tundra. How many warnings does Detroit need?
Jerry Flint is a columnist for, and a former senior editor of, Forbes magazine.