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Thread: 2009 Ford F-150

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2009 Ford F-150

    The F-150 Lariat arrived for my weeklong test drive on the very day it was announced that new vehicles will have to achieve 35.5 MPG (on average) by 2016, as well as have their "emissions" (which includes carbon dioxide, an inert gas never before considered an "emission" because it plays no role whatever in causing air pollution or smog) cut by 30 percent.

    Say goodbye to vehicles the F-150 Lariat. They are on notice, officially. Within a few years, they will become as unusual a sight on American roads as a '75 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance - an earlier victim of government fuel economy mandates and a Depression-like economy.

    WHAT IT IS

    The Ford F-truck is a full-size pick-up and America's (for the moment) best-selling new vehicle. It comes in more than two dozen forms, in an almost unbelievable array of possible cab/bed/body configurations - ranging from your basic two-door, regular cab work truck to loaded urban cowboy models like the SuperCrew Lariat I drove around.

    Prices start at $21,365 and run to $44,355.

    WHAT'S NEW

    Ford has added F250/F350 Super Duty styling cues to all F-150 trucks and introduced a more powerful version of the standard 4.6 liter V-8 engine as a step-up option to address previous complaints about the F-truck's so-so acceleration. SuperCrew models are longer and have even roomier interiors than before.

    WHAT'S GOOD

    Ubeatable towing capability; standard V-8; new six-speed automatic (except with the base 4.6 V-8). One of the nicest big truck interiors going. As easy to drive as your aunt's Camry.

    WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

    All big trucks are Doomed. Unless Ford (and everyone else who makes them) figures out a way to get a 5,000 lb. V-8 truck to deliver 30-plus MPGs, it's Game Over. Owning this vehicle six or so years from now will be like owning a '75 Fleetwood was circa 1981.

    Not as easy to park as your aunt's Camry.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    The standard engine is a 4.6 liter, 248 hp V-8. It is paired with a four-speed automatic. Though on the weak side - for a V-8 - it is bigger, stronger (and more importantly torquier) than the V-6s that come standard in competitors like the Dodge Ram 1500 and Chevy Silverado 1500.

    The step-up option is a higher-performance of the 4.6 V-8 (with better-flowing, three-valve heads) rated at 292 hp. This engine is teamed up with a new six-speed automatic that enhances both actual performance and the feel of performance, via tighter gear spacing.

    Fuel economy is boosted, too. The 292 hp version of the 4.6 V-8 is rated at the same 14 city/19 highway as the 292 hp version, despite being more than 50 hp stronger.

    Top of the line in an F-150 is a 5.4 liter V-8, which produces 320 hp and 390 lbs.-ft. of torque. This engine is also teamed with a six-speed automatic. Fuel efficiency with this engine is only slightly lower than that of the two 4.6 liter V-8s, about 14 city and 15 highway depending on whether it's a 2WD or 4WD, extended bed, etc.

    Maximum towing capacity is 11,300 lbs. and you can put up to 3,030 lbs. of whatever in the bed. Both ratings are best in class.

    Ford offers an integrated trailer brake controller (and trailer sway control system) with the '09 F-truck, too.

    Reportedly, diesel engines (and a high-mileage "Eco-boost" gas V-8) are on deck for 2010. They might keep the truck going for awhile.... .

    RIDE & HANDLING/DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    History will note that just before the ax fell, pick-ups had reached near-perfection in every respect except pleasing DC bureaucrats. The F-150 is as civilized to drive as any luxury car, yet offers He Man capability for those who need a vehicle that works as well as it looks.

    Save the Planet types - who are usually also city types - moan about the impact of big trucks on the environment and about how they use too much gas. Well, in years past, trucks were so rude and uncomfortable that many people had to have two vehicles instead of just one - the truck for hauling stuff; a car for hauling people. Combined, what do you suppose their "footprint" was vs. one modern truck with the latest anti-pollution equipment and actually not half-bad mileage, given what it can do?

    The other thing that some don't get is that some folks actually do need a truck. A front-drive unibody car with a trailer hitch on the back just doesn't cut it if you live in the country (millions do) or are a contractor/small business owner (millions are) or have to deal with severe roads/weather.

    Anyhow.

    Ford's V-8s are all overhead cam (vs. pushrod) designs and of generally smaller displacement than the V-8s in GM and Dodge's 1500-series trucks - as well as the V-8s in full-size pick-ups from Toyota and Nissan, too.

    The weaker lower-end performance of these smallish OHC V-8s compared with the larger displacement, pushrod V-8s of the competition was the F-truck's major weak point.

    The new, 292-hp version of the 4.6 liter V-8 helps erase that problem - while there's no denying the superiority of the F-150's standard V-8 when compared with, for instance, the pitiful 3.7 liter, 210 hp V-6 that comes standard in the Ram 1500 - a truck that costs almost exactly as much as the base F-150 ($21,550 for the Dodge vs. $21,365 for the Ford).

    The Ram's optional 4.7 liter (310 hp) and 5.7 liter V-8s do outpower the Ford's step-up V-8s, but the big Ram is a real disappointment if you need to pull something heavy. Even with the mighty 5.7 liter Hemi, the Ram's max tow rating is only 9,100 pounds - more than two thousand lbs. less than the F-truck can handle.

    The Chevy Silverado 1500 also still comes standard with a gimpy little V-6 as its standard engine - and it's even weaker than the Ram's, with just 195 hp available. The Chevy's step-up 4.8 liter V-8 musters 295 hp and from there you can go to a 315 hp 5.3 liter V-8, or a 6.0 V-8 with 367 hp and, at the very top, a 6.2 V-8 with 403 hp - making the Chevy the most powerful 1500 truck. However, the Chevy still can't touch the Ford's tow rating, even with the guns of the 403 hp V-8. Its max capacity is 10,700 lbs. - close, but no cigar.

    Given the competition's stronger engines, the F-truck must have the stronger frame/chassis - and that's a good thing to have in a half-ton truck, if you plan to use the thing for real work.

    Driving the F-truck is an easy and pleasant experience, despite its best-in-class pulling ability. Like an ocean liner, once it's free of the clutter of port, it glides along luxuriantly, eating up the miles (and tackling the corners) with a grace that belies its massive size.

    That massive size is, indeed, the only detraction. The outside world has downscaled (and will downscale even more as the new regime of 35.5 MPG forces into retirement new cars larger than a current Camry). Maneuvering a full-size truck into a parking spot - or out of one - can be a challenge.

    Other drivers may not be amused by your backing up and pulling forward as you try to inch the behemoth into place.

    Let them eat cake.

    STYLING & UTILITY

    American-brand trucks dominate the market in part because of tradition (Japanese full-size trucks like the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra are relative newcomers without an established following) and also because American brand trucks come in far more cab/bed and bodystyle configurations - literally a truck for almost any need or want.

    The F-150, for example, is available in seven trim levels (work truck XL, step-up XLT, sporty STX, off-road FX4, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum), three cab styles (regular, extended cab and crew) with four available box styles, running from 5.5 feet to full-length 8-feet.

    There are 35 possible configurations.

    All '09 F-trucks get the hunky styling cues of the Super Duty 2500/3500 - including the more rugged-looking front end with three-bar grille, raised hood line and the SD's trademark "arched" door sills and high-walled bed. It's macho - but not WWF macho like the Toyota Tundra.

    But it's the F-truck's interior that shines brightest. The basic layout is sensible and attractive and easy to use - and can be equipped with some pretty incredible technology, including in-dash Internet access and radio frequency tracking for tools and equipment.

    Just about any luxury or convenience item you might want is available, too - from a rear seat DVD entertainment system to heated and cooled seats to a multimedia system with voice command (Sync) Western saddle leather upholstery (King Ranch) and 20-inch chrome wheels with Satin Gloss Lacrosse Ash wood trim accents (Platinum).

    The main cluster houses gauges for oil pressure, coolant temperature, fuel - and (very useful) transmission temperature. The trailer brake control is to the right of the steering wheel. There's a USB port under the available Sony surround sound stereo for your iPod - and if you get GPS, the display feature's a bird's-eye view of the terrain, updated as you go. It's much more intuitive than the flat map-style, which is more typical. With bird's eye, you can "look down the road" and see your turn-off, as well as potential things you might want to turn off for, such as gas stations or restaurants. The system can even tell you what the speed limit is on the road you're on.

    Even the base "work truck" is equipped with air conditioning and 17-inch rims - plus the 4.6 V-8 and an automatic transmission.

    SuperCrew models, meanwhile, offer limo-like room for backseat occupants thanks to a six-inch stretch - as well as the ability to securely (out of the weather and as well as inside a lockable interior) carry large, valuable stuff that you wouldn't want to leave in the bed.. The back seats fold up to make way for even more stuff - 57.6 cubic feet. Thanks to an almost completely flat floor, the distance from there to the roof is 47.9 inches - enough to swallow a big flat screen TV.

    The only downside is you can't get the eight foot bed with the SuperCrew cab. (Same deal with other 1500 trucks.)

    It's probably a good thing, as the result would too long for use on anything but the most rural (and straight!) Texas backcountry roads.

    A final nice touch is the capless fuel filler. You literally gas n' go. When you're done fueling up, the system shuts itself automatically. Easy peasy - and keeps vapor emissions down, too.

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    The F-truck is the gold standard among 1500-series trucks. While pretty much every current-year large truck is a good truck - and some have a few areas where they are arguably superior (for instance, the Hemi Ram and the V-8 Tundra and Chevy 1500 accelerate like muscle cars, even if they can't tow all that much) Ford has consistently done the best job all-around. There is a reason for the F-truck's enduring popularity as well as its impressive resale values - which ought to remain strong for years, since the government has signed the death warrant for future trucks of this kind.

    Size does matter when it comes to safety, too. An F-150 is one of the most injury-proofed places on four wheels to be - even if it didn't come standard with side-impact and curtain air bags, ABS and electronic stability control.

    Ramming speed!

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    This may be the last of the line - so if you have ever thought about getting a full-size truck, your window's still open.

    But not for long.
    Last edited by Eric; 05-22-2009 at 07:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    What do the letters in "CAFE" stand for? I think there's something in there that you don't quite comprehend.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    What do the letters in "CAFE" stand for? I think there's something in there that you don't quite comprehend.
    And what would that be?

    CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy.

    Vehicles that get in the teens are going to be untenable. Even vehicles solidly in the mid-high 20s (average) are going to disappear unless they can be re-engineered/downsized/de-powered to get them closer to compliance.

    Let's say you have five vehicles that average 40 MPG - plus one that gets 15. Your average is now 35.8 MPG. That's fine, except that only one car (non-hybrid/non-diesel) currently achieves 40 MPG (highway, not average). So, nix every single vehicle GM currently makes. Let alone 15 MPG trucks and SUVs.

    A more realistic equation would be five vehicles that average around 30 MPG - exceeding current CAFE (27.5 MPG) but falling way short of the 35.5 MPG standard just proposed. Now, those cars can probably be made to deliver another 5 MPGs or so without complete redesign. But no way will a 20 MPG (average city/highway) truck make it. Nor can the automakers suffer more than a small handful of such vehicles in their fleets under a 35.5 MPG standard. Every single MPG will have to be fought for tenaciously - and anything that isn't already close to a combined/average 30-something MPG is in real danger of extinction.

    Buh-by, V-8 trucks.

    And don't forget the additional pressure of the 30 percent reduction in C02, which can only come from burning less fuel, which means smaller engines - which means smaller vehicles.

    A 40 MPG CAFE with a 35.5 average spells The End for the kinds of large vehicles Americans have been peculiarly lucky to have access to.
    Last edited by Eric; 05-22-2009 at 06:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Let's say you have five vehicles that average 40 MPG - plus one that gets 15. Your average is now 35.8 MPG. spells The End for the kinds of large vehicles Americans have been
    Using the method of calculation by which CAFE figures are determined, you would have an average of 29.94 MPG!

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand View Post
    Using the method of calculation by which CAFE figures are determined, you would have an average of 29.94 MPG!
    I know of no one in the industry who sees a way for V-8 vehicles over 4,500 pounds to survive - other than in very small numbers, as "niche" vehicles - given the new CAFE rules.

    The effect will be to make the North American car market look very much like the Euro market, where large trucks/SUVs are almost unheard of and mid-large vehicles with V-8s are mostly for the rich only.

  6. #6
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Trucks are not included in the passenger car fleet are they?

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    CAFE has never hurt the truck and SUV segment before, if anything it created the SUV segment.

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Trucks are not included in the passenger car fleet are they?

    Yes, they are. Formerly, there were two separate CAFE categories, "passenger cars" and "light trucks" - each with different standards. One of the big changes is that now all but commercial/heavy duty vehicles fall under a single CAFE standard.

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    CAFE has never hurt the truck and SUV segment before, if anything it created the SUV segment.
    Right - because there was a "loophole" (see earlier post). Not anymore.

  10. #10
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Yes, they are. Formerly, there were two separate CAFE categories, "passenger cars" and "light trucks" - each with different standards. One of the big changes is that now all but commercial/heavy duty vehicles fall under a single CAFE standard.
    Where's the cutoff? Are F250/F350 still part of the car fleet, or the commercial fleet? What about cargo vans?

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    How much is the gas guzzler tax?

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    How much is the gas guzzler tax?
    There's a formula; will see if I can find it...

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    Eric, good article but I have to disagree with you about the impact of the new CAFE regulations. Like you, I'm opposed to them. I figure if the customers really wanted smaller cars they'd be buying them without coercion. Furthermore, I'm very skeptical about carbon dioxide being a major driver of climate change.

    Where I disagree with you is on the degree that the new regulations will change the type of cars available. I don't think it will change the vehicle line-up as much as you fear and the greenies hope. As CAFE exists today, there are companies like Mercedes-Benz that don't come close to CAFE compliance. So what happens? Do federal marshals haul MB executives off to Guantanamo Bay and force them to repeatedly watch "An Inconvenient Truth"? Nope. They pay a fine. The fine is $50 per MPG that their corporate average falls short of the CAFE standard multiplied by the number of cars they sold. So if I were to buy a Mercedes-Benz that falls 10 MPG short of CAFE, MB has to build an extra $500 into the price of my new car. Unless the plan has changed in the last few days, the new fine will be $55 per MPG.

    Given that the average new car probably goes for $25-30 thousand, is someone really going to buy a 4 cylinder Fusion when they really wanted a V6 Taurus, just to save a few hundred dollars? Will somebody who had their heart set on a V6 Chevy Malibu instead buy a Chevy Spark to save themselves the CAFE penalty? In some cases, maybe. Fuel efficiency will be increased where it can be done cost effectively but I don't see the elimination of large vehicles or powerful engines.

    Which brings up another question. Is the new CAFE regulation really even intended to change they way we drive (in order to save the planet) or is it just a cover for increasing government revenue? If they really wanted to change the vehicles we choose, why not make the fine $200 for every MPG short of CAFE?

    Randy

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Hi Randy,

    Thanks for the kind words!

    On CAFE: Well, let's take a look at the effect the original CAFE standards (enacted in the early-mid '70s) had on the size/weight of vehicles. The effect was a massive - industry-wide "downsizing" of the typical passenger car, as well as the near extinction of V-8, RWD cars by the mid-late 1980s. And the CAFE standard at this point was just 27.5 MPGs (for cars).

    The automakers managed to make back some ground with EFI, computer controls and overdrive transmissions - which make it feasible to build a 300 hp car with a V-8 or big V-6 that can still get close to 30 MPG on the highway and an average that is not too far off the 27.5 MPG standard.

    Trucks and SUVs did ok because they were categorized differently, with a much lower CAFE threshold - 21.5 MPGs, if I recollect. This, in fact, is why SUVs and trucks experienced a sales boom beginning in the mid-late '80s and which continued until gas prices/the economy went crazy/into the toilet.

    Under the news rules, if I have it right, all passenger vehicles (including light trucks and SUVs) must deal with a 35.5 MPG average. Every industry analyst I know (me included) sees this as the death knell for mass-market large vehicles with V-8s, including SUVs and light trucks in particular - because not one in production right now can achieve even close to 35 MPGs (many are in the low 20s, average) and on a purely mathematical basis, this is going to assure their elimination from the product portfolio as each automaker struggles to make the cut.

    Moreover, with GM and Chrysler now at least partially owned by the government, do you really believe they'll be allowed to build "gas guzzlers" - regardless of the economics?

    I don't.....
    Last edited by Eric; 06-04-2009 at 07:16 AM.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post

    Moreover, with GM and Ford now at least partially owned by the government, do you really believe they'll be allowed to build "gas guzzlers" - regardless of the economics?

    I don't.....
    Ford got a bailout???

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    Eric,

    >>Moreover, with GM and Ford now at least partially owned by the government, do you really believe they'll be allowed to build "gas guzzlers" - regardless of the economics? <<

    That depends. Is the real motivation of the new CAFE standards to save the planet or is it to just raise revenue? Think of it like smoking. If the government's goal was really to get most people to quit smoking, they would have had a huge jump in cigarette taxes long ago. Instead, they increase it a little at a time, which discourages some smoking but mostly just brings in more money. A government addicted to spending might be quite thrilled with "gas guzzlers" being sold, as long as they are getting their cut. Of course, they would have to look like they disapprove, just like they berate the tobacco companies for profiting from selling their demon weed, while Uncle Sam actually rakes in a lot more profit than the tobacco companies do.

    I'm not in a position to refute the results of the original CAFE regulations because I have no idea how much the fines where at the time. I'm not denying that the cars of the 70's and early 80's sucked, I'm just saying that without knowing the CAFE formula from then, I don't know how much blame rests at CAFE's feet.

    Here's another thought, though. Does anybody else think that a better way to encourage conservation would be to simply raise the gasoline tax? As I've mentioned before, I don't believe in Algore's global apocalypse. But if I did, I'd be recommending an increased fuel tax and throw CAFE out the window. Then you are encouraging everyone to conserve, not just new car buyers. The problem with gas tax is people realize the government is getting the money and they get angry at politicians. Unless, of course, they're so dimwitted that they blame Big Oil. With CAFE, the government can still influence people's behavior, collect some cash (through the fines), and people blame the auto makers for the increased prices. It's a Communist's dream come true!

    Randy

  17. #17
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    "That depends. Is the real motivation of the new CAFE standards to save the planet or is it to just raise revenue? Think of it like smoking. If the government's goal was really to get most people to quit smoking, they would have had a huge jump in cigarette taxes long ago. Instead, they increase it a little at a time, which discourages some smoking but mostly just brings in more money. A government addicted to spending might be quite thrilled with "gas guzzlers" being sold, as long as they are getting their cut. Of course, they would have to look like they disapprove, just like they berate the tobacco companies for profiting from selling their demon weed, while Uncle Sam actually rakes in a lot more profit than the tobacco companies do. "

    That's an interesting line of thought. However, I think they are very serious about this, regardless of the actual motive.

    "I'm not in a position to refute the results of the original CAFE regulations because I have no idea how much the fines where at the time. I'm not denying that the cars of the 70's and early 80's sucked, I'm just saying that without knowing the CAFE formula from then, I don't know how much blame rests at CAFE's feet."

    Rising gas prices/shortages had an effect, of course - but the CAFE regs are what transformed the US car fleet. In the space of about 10 years, the typical "full-size" car shrank from 18-plus feet and more than 4,500 pounds with a 6-7 liter V-8 engine to something about the size of a mid-'70s Chevy Nova (considered a "compact" when it was launched) with a six and front-wheel-drive.

    The CAFE "loophole" for so-called "light trucks" provided a way for the automakers to continue building large, heavy, V-8 powered mass-market vehicles - so long as they were not "passenger cars." This is the root of the SUV/pick-up boom.

    Now, the collapse of the US car industry and lots of (rightly or not) anti-SUV/truck agitation have resulted in a diktat that all future vehicles be 30-plus percent more fuel efficient, on average. Including SUVs and light-duty pick-ups.

    Leaving aside that and the federal government's newfound heavy-handed involvement, the additional fact is we're in a major economic pit and I can tell you that a "gas guzzler tax" of around $1,000 per vehicle (typical for something with city mileage in the teens) is going to be a major sales disincentive. Keep in mind how the Big Three have been at a competitive
    disadvantage (according to them) relative to equivalent imports because of the additional $1,500 or so they claim is added to the cost of each vehicle to cover health/pensions costs. Trust me, it does matter.

    "Here's another thought, though. Does anybody else think that a better way to encourage conservation would be to simply raise the gasoline tax?"

    Not me. It punishes people unequally. For example, I drive a modest little four-cylinder pick-up that gets pretty good gas mileage (high 20s). However, I also live in the deep country and have to drive appx. 60 miles to get into "town" and back. A gas tax would hit me much harder than the suburban Yuppie driving his V-8 Escalade 10 miles to work each day. I need my truck; he doesn't. Why should I be the object of punitive taxation?

    I'm opposed to both CAFE and gas taxes.

    The issue is not "conservation." It's dealing with the nest of cockroaches in Washington, ending the "free trade" policies that have destroyed this nation's economic might, staunching the illegal alien flood that is overpopulating the country with Turd World peasants, putting a choke hold on the corporatist shysters who are bleeding us white and returning control of the country to Americans who put Americans first.

  18. #18
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post

    [B]Rising gas prices/shortages had an effect, of course - but the CAFE regs are what transformed the US car fleet. In the space of about 10 years, the typical "full-size" car shrank from 18-plus feet and more than 4,500 pounds with a 6-7 liter V-8 engine to something about the size of a mid-'70s Chevy Nova (considered a "compact" when it was launched) with a six and front-wheel-drive.
    You say this as though it were a bad thing. That was the idea, wasn't it?

  19. #19
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    You say this as though it were a bad thing. That was the idea, wasn't it?
    Government should not be interposing itself between consumers/their preferences and the businesses (such as car companies) attempting to satisfy those preferences.

    CAFE fucked over the US auto industry by giving an immediate, unfair advantage to the Japanese imports. It really never recovered.

    Now the assholes are about to do it again - this time, to administer the coupe de grace.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Amazing that in 30 years Detroit has learned nothing.

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