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Thread: Here's a question...

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Here's a question...

    Let's say it were possible (legally) for an automaker to build a modern econo-box with just the bare minimum needed to get from "a" to "b" - so no air bags, no mandatory compliance with bumper impact standards - and therefore, a lightweight machine that could be powered by a very small, very efficient engine around 1 liter in size producing around 70 hp. No power equipment beyond power brakes and (maybe) power steering. AC optional.

    Such a car - with modern EFI and an overdrive trans - should be able to easily achieve 50-plus MPG, without expensive or complex hybrid technology. But would people buy such a car ?

    I doubt it...

    What do you think?



  2. #2
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Such a car - with modern EFI and an overdrive trans - should be able to easily achieve 50-plus MPG, without expensive or complex hybrid technology. But would people buy such a car ?

    I doubt it...


    I doubt it, too. Such things sell in Europe perhaps because fuel prices are high and 'small' is prized due to parking constraints.

    In the US the mindset is entirely different and most Americans are not inclined to drive in a way to realize max mileage.

    OTOH, a Honda Civic LX lists for around 17k with manual shift, has nearly all of the bells and whistles, and has an EPA rating of 30/38. This is not such a bad compromise.

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by jdm
    Such a car - with modern EFI and an overdrive trans - should be able to easily achieve 50-plus MPG, without expensive or complex hybrid technology. But would people buy such a car ?

    I doubt it...


    I doubt it, too. Such things sell in Europe perhaps because fuel prices are high and 'small' is prized due to parking constraints.

    In the US the mindset is entirely different and most Americans are not inclined to drive in a way to realize max mileage.

    OTOH, a Honda Civic LX lists for around 17k with manual shift, has nearly all of the bells and whistles, and has an EPA rating of 30/38. This is not such a bad compromise.
    I agree with all that - but I think it's clear that as loudly as we like to carp about gas prices, we're also not interested (generally) in really fuel-efficient vehicles. Or at least, fuel economy as the primary consideration. I'mnot making a value judgment - or even saying I disagree - but it's clear we value power/safety/creature comforts at least as much as we value MPGs... because we could easily (and inexpensively) be driving 50-plus MPG cars.

    They just wouldn't be especially fun to drive, especially safe or especially comfortable!

  4. #4
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Some very basic vehicles from the past were and are extremely fun to drive. Citroen 2CV, Fiat 500/600/850, Morris Mini, Renault 4 are a few that come to mind.

  5. #5
    mrblanche
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    Re: Here's a question...

    I had a 1978 Ford Fiesta and my brother had about a 1979 Dodge Colt. Both had little engines in the 70 hp range and stick shift. His didn't even have A/C, here in Texas! Both got in the mid- to upper-30's, not much better than my Cobalt. EFI would have helped that some, but not a lot.

    There is always a bottom of the market in new cars, and those cars have a history of moving up in the market, such as the Honda Civic.

    Could you sell them? Is the Smart selling?

  6. #6
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I had a 1978 Ford Fiesta and my brother had about a 1979 Dodge Colt. Both had little engines in the 70 hp range and stick shift. His didn't even have A/C, here in Texas! Both got in the mid- to upper-30's, not much better than my Cobalt. EFI would have helped that some, but not a lot.

    There is always a bottom of the market in new cars, and those cars have a history of moving up in the market, such as the Honda Civic.

    Could you sell them? Is the Smart selling?
    Just what is the attraction for the Smart beyond its 'cute?' It is not a commuter car for the NYC area unless one wants to add a/c and a/t which will damage the mpg, further when traffic is not moving fuel is still flowing.

    It would be excellent as what around here is called a 'station car,' something to get from home to the commuter train and back but ... any junker that will reliably start and pass inspection will serve purpose. The junker need no be efficient because it will probably not be using a gallon a day and, better yet, the junker can be had a lot cheaper than a Smart.

    The Cobalt is probably cheaper to buy than the Smart will be when equipped the same way and it will carry four people. While the Smart has a big edge over everyone when it comes to length, that does not translate into a big advantage in the US.

  7. #7
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I had a 1978 Ford Fiesta and my brother had about a 1979 Dodge Colt. Both had little engines in the 70 hp range and stick shift. His didn't even have A/C, here in Texas! Both got in the mid- to upper-30's, not much better than my Cobalt. EFI would have helped that some, but not a lot.

    There is always a bottom of the market in new cars, and those cars have a history of moving up in the market, such as the Honda Civic.

    Could you sell them? Is the Smart selling?
    They still make Ford Fiestas. And that's not even Ford's smallest car. In the US the Focus is Ford's entry-level, but elsewhere it's the third model up in the line, bigger than the Ka and the Fiesta.

    Outside of North America, smaller cars seem to sell well.

  8. #8
    mrblanche
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Yeah, we see the tiny Mercedes, etc., when we go to Mexico. Well, we occasionally see them in the border towns, too, but they're not common. I've seen a Fiesta in Laredo.

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    Re: Here's a question...

    I think it is a function of the distances that we have to travel and the types of roads that we drive on. IMO the best car for America would be a diesel powered vehicle about the size of a Chevy Malibu. With that, you would get low to mid 30's in town and about 40 on the highway. That way, you have efficiency and practicality.

    Back in the day, quite a few people bought the smallish civics and accords that were around in the early 80's, however, neither car got really popular until they grew in size during the middle to late 1980s.

    Mid-sized cars are still the best sellers (besides pickup trucks).

    I just might pick up a car like that, however, as long as it could handle the highway at 80 mph cruising speed. I know it could. I drove a Fiat Panda in europe 20 years ago from Paris to Brussels at 140-150 kph cruising speed (85-95 mph). It felt like 60 in my Toyota Starlet.


  10. #10
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    I think it is a function of the distances that we have to travel and the types of roads that we drive on.
    This is true. We do not have the population density of Europe or Japan, and the smallest cars really wouldn't suit Americans who do any travelling. Urban dwellers might create some demand though, if we can get them out of their SUVs. The SUV has become the de facto urban assault vehicle. Mostly, I believe, because the tallness allows one to see ahead in traffic, people like that.

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Some very basic vehicles from the past were and are extremely fun to drive. Citroen 2CV, Fiat 500/600/850, Morris Mini, Renault 4 are a few that come to mind.
    I agree - and wish such were still available new. But I doubt there would be enough buyers to make them viable, even if it were possible to offer such cars for sale, legally.

  12. #12
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    "Could you sell them??"

    Probably not... after all, we have some "cases in point" - such as the Chevy Aveo (and its predecessor, the Metro). Both delivered very high mileage; neither sold well.

    It puts the lie to the bitching about fuel economy - or rather, shows that while people value efficiency, they also value other things (such as size, power, amenities, safety equipment, etc.) at least as much!

    I think Swamp has an excellent point/suggestion about a diesel sedan the size of the current Chevy Malibu - and priced in that ballpark. A Benz E-Class diesel sedan canget 40-something mpg, so a slightly smaller, less heavy sedan could probably get closer to 45 mpg (if not more) and, if the car was designed as a bread-and-butter family-type car (as opposed to a high-end luxury car like the E-Class) the MSRP could be kept well under $30k.

    Such a car has real potential - because it's realistic. Great mileage - but without having to give up room, adequate power, size/safety and so on. And unike a hybrid, elaborate technology is not necessary... .

  13. #13
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    A basic car can sell if it captures the public's imagination and becomes a cult car.

  14. #14
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I think Swamp has an excellent point/suggestion about a diesel sedan the size of the current Chevy Malibu - and priced in that ballpark.
    So, something like a Malibu with a 3-litre 175 bhp turbo-diesel? Available in what amounts to the European version of the Malibu, the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra. The engineering's been done, all it needs is for the marketing men to see the need.

    As for your original proposition, basic cars just don't sell. The manufacturers have convinced the punters that they need such fripperies as A/C, alloy wheels, trip computers, etc., etc. There's no profit in base models - the trick is to load them with stuff with a perceived value way above its actual cost & charge accordingly.

    Interesting that you should quote 70bhp as being the power needed. Last year we hired a 1.2 litre 70bhp Fiat Punto for a weekend. Adequate performance, capable of cruising at 90mph; didn't check the fuel consumption, but I'm guessing high 40s (Imp. gallons).

    It always amuses me that Americans 'need' big engines to drive so slowly!

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    Re: Here's a question...



    As for your original proposition, basic cars just don't sell. The manufacturers have convinced the punters that they need such fripperies as A/C, alloy wheels, trip computers, etc., etc. There's no profit in base models - the trick is to load them with stuff with a perceived value way above its actual cost & charge accordingly.


    A/C is almost a sine qua non in much of the US but a lot of the rest is pure frippery including the audio. As far as I'm concerned the no longer available 'hang on' A/C is entirely adequate.

    Interesting that you should quote 70bhp as being the power needed. Last year we hired a 1.2 litre 70bhp Fiat Punto for a weekend. Adequate performance, capable of cruising at 90mph; didn't check the fuel consumption, but I'm guessing high 40s (Imp. gallons).

    When in southern Italy I rented a Punto for three weeks beginning in Palermo and ending in Rome with a lot of travel in between. I thought it an excellent car in every respect - I don't remember any A/C but the weather didn't require it.

    It always amuses me that Americans 'need' big engines to drive so slowly!

    We like acceleration! Actually, I was perfectly happy with a Pug 505 wagon with a 90 hp four - if one thinks ahead a bit great power is not needed. I suspect I would have felt differently using it in, say, the Colorado mountains.

  16. #16
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    I think Swamp has an excellent point/suggestion about a diesel sedan the size of the current Chevy Malibu - and priced in that ballpark.
    So, something like a Malibu with a 3-litre 175 bhp turbo-diesel? Available in what amounts to the European version of the Malibu, the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra. The engineering's been done, all it needs is for the marketing men to see the need.

    As for your original proposition, basic cars just don't sell. The manufacturers have convinced the punters that they need such fripperies as A/C, alloy wheels, trip computers, etc., etc. There's no profit in base models - the trick is to load them with stuff with a perceived value way above its actual cost & charge accordingly.

    Interesting that you should quote 70bhp as being the power needed. Last year we hired a 1.2 litre 70bhp Fiat Punto for a weekend. Adequate performance, capable of cruising at 90mph; didn't check the fuel consumption, but I'm guessing high 40s (Imp. gallons).

    It always amuses me that Americans 'need' big engines to drive so slowly!
    Before you dismiss air conditioning as a frippery, keep in mind that the northernmost point in the 48 Continental states is still farther south than the southernmost point on your island.

  17. #17
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand
    As for your original proposition, basic cars just don't sell. The manufacturers have convinced the punters that they need such fripperies as A/C, alloy wheels, trip computers, etc., etc. There's no profit in base models - the trick is to load them with stuff with a perceived value way above its actual cost & charge accordingly.
    While A/C may indeed be a frippery in England, how many days last week did you have in the 90s F. (above 32 C)? I live in the mid-Atlantic at about 38 degrees north latitude, and we had three such days. You indeed need A/C if you are to be able to use a car around this area--and this is not the hot part of the country.

  18. #18
    MikeHalloran
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by pgranzeau
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Brand
    ... manufacturers have convinced the punters that they need such fripperies as A/C, a...
    While A/C may indeed be a frippery in England, how many days last week did you have in the 90s F. (above 32 C)? I live in the mid-Atlantic at about 38 degrees north latitude, and we had three such days. You indeed need A/C if you are to be able to use a car around this area--and this is not the hot part of the country.
    Miami Beach, FL got some electric buses a while ago, accompanied by a lot of hoopla about zero emissions. Unlike other electric vehicles, they're not silent. You can hear the small propane- powered engine that runs the air conditioning. No one would ride without it.

    I have on occasion lived and driven without a/c in SoFla for extended periods of time. I wouldn't do it by choice. It gets damn hot, and the humidity makes evaporative cooling ineffective.


  19. #19
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Electric vehicles are not zero emissions, they're just displaced emissions.

    For working people who have to look maintain a professional appearance on the job, air conditioning is a must. It's no good to arrive at work in the morning with sweat stains already.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Here's a question...

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Some very basic vehicles from the past were and are extremely fun to drive. Citroen 2CV, Fiat 500/600/850, Morris Mini, Renault 4 are a few that come to mind.
    Have driven all four mentioned, and I have to agree. However they don't have the V8 mentality that America is used to, and that Australia aspires to
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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