With all the renewed pressure on fuel economy, will auto makers still be able to offer consumers high performance? The answer is a resounding “Yes.”

All it takes is more technology and an even stronger focus on cutting costs and weight, concludes a panel of experts at the SAE International World Congress in Detroit.

Thirty years ago, the idea of improving fuel economy and lowering emissions while simultaneously boosting performance would have been deemed impossible. Considering fuel economy has plateaued in the U.S. since 1985, skeptics might think it still is.

However, with one example after another, representatives from BMW AG, General Motors Corp., Mazda Motor Corp. and Aisin World Corp. of America demonstrate they already are achieving this goal with the use of advanced combustion technology, hybrid-electric vehicles, new transmissions and other powertrain improvements.

The only one to throw cold water on the optimistic mood of the panel is David Friedman, research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, who suggests it is time engineers begin focusing purely on improving fuel economy instead of trying to do both.