Toyota’s Recall is Exactly What Detroit Needs

For years, it has been a common perception – or misperception as the case may be – that Japanese cars, particularly Toyota and Honda, were of better quality than their American counterparts, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.

Don’t get me wrong, American cars did plenty to substantiate those perceptions, especially considering they were behind the curve when it came to moving from massive trucks and SUVs to more fuel efficient sedans, compact cars, and hybrids.

However, with the news the Toyota has recalled 2.3 million vehicles – including some of its best selling models –due to a problem that could make the vehicle’s gas pedal stick, and its announcement that the company will halt sales of all affected models for the time being, is the tide finally starting to turn in Detroit’s favor?

Over the past several years, American car makers – Ford in particular – have received praise for drastic improvements in reliability and quality. In fact, the Ford Fusion was recently named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 2010, which is a pretty big deal.

I think when you couple Detroit’s momentum with Toyota’s huge setback, I think we’re on the verge of viewing American cars as being at least as good as, if not better than, their foreign counter parts.

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

Who Should Pay For Fuel Efficient Car Plants – Big 3 or the Federal Government?

It’s no secret that higher gas prices have hit America pretty hard.  While higher gas prices have placed quite a financial strain on the American public, at the end of the day, the “group” that might be effected the most might not be Americans in general, rather the Big 3 American car makers – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

After spending years building up the infrastructure to produce profitable trucks and SUVs, higher gas prices have really hurt sales at the Big 3 American car makers.  In an effort to stop the financial bleeding, many truck and SUV plants have been shut down, costing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales.

These current conditions have led the senior management of these car companies to ask the Federal Government for some financial help in the form of low interest loans to help convert truck and SUV plants into facilities which produce smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.

While this Federal intervention may seem like a good thing – after all, a healthy manufacturing sector has always been good for the American economy – according to a recent poll, Americans appear to be pretty torn over whether or not the Federal Government should help the Big 3.

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A 10% Drop in Gasoline Use Would do a lot of Good

On many occasions on this site I’ve stated that just slightly decreasing the amount of gasoline you use will add up over time and really make a difference, for both your finances and the environment. While it certainly is pretty cliche, it’s nothing but the truth. While the idea behind this post is fairly obvious, the actual benefits implementing the idea might not be.

For example, if Americans were to decrease gasoline consumption by just 10% – which can be done any number of ways: by being a better driver, keeping up on car maintenance, trading in a gas guzzler for a fuel sipper – we could save billions of dollars per year and keep massive amounts of greenhouse gases out of the environment.

Let me explain a little further:

On average, Americans consume about 386 million gallons of gasoline each day. Over the course of a year, that adds up to just under 141 billion gallons of gas. That’s a lot of gas, and is by far the highest number of any country in the world.

If people were able to reduce their fuel consumption by just 10% – which, again, is very easy to do – we would save 14.1 billion gallons of gas each year.

With the current national average price for a gallon of gas sitting at $3.78, this reduction in gasoline usage would equal a total dollar savings of over $53 billion. To put that in perspective, this total is about 1/3rd of the Government stimulus package that was supposed to help jump start the economy.

In addition to the massive amounts of money we would save, there would also be a significant reduction in the amount of damage we do to the environment.

Each gallon of gasoline that we burn releases roughly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is widely believed to be one of the main contributors to global warming and the “greenhouse effect.”

By reducing fuel consumption by just 10%, we would keep 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. While I have no idea whether or not this would make a significant dent in global warming, it certainly can’t hurt. (I’m sure someone will be kind enough to leave a comment telling everyone what effects a reduction of this magnitude would have on the environment. Hint, hint.)

So, back to the original premise, if Americans were able to reduce their gasoline usage by only 10%, we would save billions of dollars and help save the environment. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

Thanks to higher gas prices, Americans have already begun to drastically reduce the amount of miles they drive, and have started to trade in their gas guzzlers for more cars with better fuel economy. Hopefully, that means we’re well on our way to getting to this 10% reduction – if not more.

I Care More About MPG Than MPH

Today’s post is less about gas mileage tips or updates on soaring gas prices, and more of a call to action to show that you want car manufacturers to worry more about their vehicles’ gas mileage and less about their vehicles’ zero to 60 time. To that end, I would like to launch the “I Care More About MPG Than MPH” campaign.

Now, I know this isn’t as catchy or inspiring as something like Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” rallying cry, but at the same time, I hope that it’s something that you can and will take seriously.

For far too long we have had gas guzzling muscle cars, trucks and SUVs jammed down our throats by the major car manufacturers. For example, last night while watching TV, I saw nine commercials put out by car manufacturers – seven of which were for trucks or SUVs. While many of us bought in to the propaganda that we needed these gas guzzlers, the times have changed and we’re ready to demand vehicles with better fuel efficiency.

I hope that through the “I Care More About MPG Than MPH” campaign us gas sippers of the world can come together and show that there are MANY car buying consumers our there who want these car companies to step up and do their part to help reduce our gasoline consumption and our impact on the environment by giving us more environmentally friendly and gas thrifty options.

I also hope that through the “I Care more About MPG Than MPH” campaign, we become more aware of simple changes we can make in our driving habits that will help increase our current car’s gas mileage, while we wait for more fuel efficient vehicles to hit the market. Even if you’re stuck driving a gas guzzler right now, doesn’t mean you can’t do your part to try and make it as fuel efficient as possible. And even if you’re already driving a gas friendly car, would it really kill you to try and squeeze out some extra gas mileage?

So, what can you do to help further the cause? Funny you should ask, because here are some very basic ways you can help:

Join the “I Care More About MPG Than MPH” social networks. I have created groups via MySpace and Facebook to help facilitate the mingling of fellow campaigners. After you’ve joined up, be sure to invite all of your friends. The more the merrier.

I know it’s completely far fetched, but my goal is to get 1,000,000 people to join the two groups. The way I figure, if we can get a large enough group together, we might be able to show these big car manufacturers that it’s time they worried more about fuel efficiency than horsepower; more about their vehicle’s environmental impact than its towing capacity.

Is this an unrealistic goal? Probably. Crazier things have happened though!

Practice what you preach. Nobody likes a hypocrite, so if you’re going to be a card carrying member of the “I Care More About MPG Than MPH” campaign, you’ve got to back it up with your actions. Don’t drive if you don’t need to. Keep it close to the speed limit. Check your tire pressure. You know, basically abide by all the wonderful suggestions you’ve found on this site!

There’s a reason the saying “actions speak louder than words” has been around for so long. Joining this campaign is one thing, following through on it is even more powerful.

Come back and check out Daily Fuel Economy Tip for Updates. Obviously I’m a bit biased, but I think there are some pretty good tips on here to help you maximize your gas mileage. Just think about it, you could do something simple like checking your tire pressure and increase your vehicle’s gas mileage by 2%. While that might not seem like much, if everyone did it we’d save millions of gallons of gasoline each and every year. Since this site is action packed full of awesome suggestions like that, it’s probably wise to come back every once in a while when you need a refresher.

Also, as the “I Care More About MPG Than MPH” campaign picks up steam, I’ll be sure to post plenty of updates on this site, as well as in the MySpace and Facebook community sites.

Put your money where your mouth is and drive a fuel efficient vehicle. Look, I know that most of us don’t have the ability to simply trade in our current vehicle for a brand new hybrid. It would be nice, but it’s pretty unlikely. However, if you are in the market for a different vehicle, make sure you move fuel economy up to the top of the list of discriminating criteria.

While it would be nice to have millions of people join the “I Care More About MPG Than MPH” movement, it’s not going to amount to anything if we continue to buy the same old trucks, SUVs, mini-vans and gas guzzling sedans. In order to force car manufacturers to bring more fuel efficient cars to the market, we will likely need to persuade them not only with our numbers, but with our dollars as well.

Maybe I’m stepping way too far out of my league by trying to launch the “I Care More About MPG Than MPH” campaign. If I get 25 people to join up, I’ll probably consider it a success. But at the same time, I think that there are plenty of us out there who really do care about having more gas friendly options available to us and are willing to do something about it!

Fuel Efficient Vehicles Dominate Super Bowl Ads. Just Kidding.

If you’re trying to pitch a new product or put a re-brand your corporation (e.g. from a eco-disaster to one of a more environmental leader), there’s likely no better forum than in a Super Bowl ad. With hundreds of millions of people watching around the world, it’s near impossible to not get your point across.

Unfortunately, it looks like the world’s major car manufacturers missed that memo.

Out of the 64 commercials shown during the Super Bowl, nine were dedicated to cars, trucks and/or SUVs. Of those nine commercials, exactly one was dedicated to a fuel efficient, hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle. And, oddly enough, that one commercial was for General Motor’s Yukon hybrid. Click here to see the ad.

(In GM’s defense, during the pre-game there were several commercials for their Fuel Cell prototype vehicles. Unfortunately, pre-game commercials don’t count.)

Now, I suppose for $2.7 million a pop, these car manufacturers are probably going to try and push vehicles that are already available for public consumption and not focus so much on products that have yet to hit the streets.

That being said, for companies like Ford and Chrysler, each of whom is desperately (and ineffectively) trying to keep from losing market share, this Super Bowl would have been a great opportunity to show that they are at least working on more fuel efficient vehicles.

Considering gas mileage is now the number one factor in determining which car to purchase, Ford and Chrysler likely would have increased interest in their vehicles and foot traffic in their dealerships had they simply shown an add saying, “we know what you want and we’re working as quickly as we can to get it to you.”

Instead, Ford decided to shill it’s F-150 and Chrysler (who seems to be facing significant financial issues) decided to do nothing.

Until these companies get it right and really start pushing to give the people the fuel efficient vehicles they want, Ford and Chrysler are going to continue to lose people to Toyotas, Hondas and, apparently, the GMs of the world.

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