Crunched parking lots, stuffed home garages, and drained American wallets are letting out a collective sigh of relief, as people nationwide turn in their rough-and-tumble gas guzzlers for sleek, efficient, budget-friendly cars.
In April, nearly one in four vehicles sold in the U.S. was a compact or subcompact car. 10 years ago, that number was one in eight. As millions of Americans continue to watch more than 5% of their income being siphoned off for gasoline alone, they are demanding more fuel-efficient vehicles that will bring some much needed relief at the pump.
In great news for consumers, our options for choosing smart, wallet-friendly cars are growing fast.
American automakers, trailing for decades behind makers like Honda and Toyota in the fuel-efficient sector, are now speeding ahead with some industry winners. Ford’s Fiesta has been the best-selling subcompact car in the U.S. this year. And G.M.’s Chevy Cruze led the compact car field in April, trailing only behind the Honda Civic. As the New York Times explains, thanks to small cars, these once ailing automakers are now “preserving jobs and positioning themselves to prosper.”
And the good news doesn’t stop there. Now, when you head out to shop for your next set of wheels, you’ll find that it’s easier than ever to see the real cost of those cars on the lot.
The Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency just revealed new labels for cars, which will show you (1) how much you’ll save in fuel costs over five years, compared to the industry average, and (2) how your car ranks against others in terms of miles per gallon, global warming pollution, and smog emissions.
(What the new labels will look like, courtesy of www.fueleconomy.gov)
Although the labels aren’t perfect, they are a huge step in the right direction. Consumers can now make smarter, better choices for their families, bank accounts, and the environment.
Even as the auto industry steers toward more efficient cars and trucks, the Obama administration can help get us get there faster. Take it from the New York Times editorial board: “Labels can help consumers make better choices. But Detroit and other big manufacturers make big changes only when regulators force them to.”
That’s where the president comes in. Right now, Obama is crafting new fuel efficiency standards that could save us thousands of dollars over the life of our cars. He has the opportunity to bring the industry up to 62 miles per gallon by 2025. This standard that would make us less dependent on costly oil, reduce pollution, and spur technological development and new models throughout the auto industry.
Automakers claim that it would be too hard to meet this standard. Just like they claimed with the seatbelt, airbag, and catalytic converter. We’re not buying it. Time and time again, car companies have shown the incredible innovation they are capable of. As my colleague Peter Lehner points out, nearly every car on the road today contains a computer more powerful than the ones that sent astronauts to the moon.
And the numbers don’t lie. While car companies say that new standards would raise the price of cars, the actual savings for consumers would be in the thousands. In fact, federal studies show that the strongest standard of 62 mpg would save drivers $9,700 in gasoline costs over the life of a vehicle, compared to an added price of around $3,000 for a new car. Just like more efficient refrigerators, televisions, and light bulbs, these standards would put money back in our pockets.
Don’t believe me? Try this handy calculator to see how much you’d save every year if your car went 60 mpg.
President Obama now has a historic opportunity to stand strong for all Americans and set a standard of 60 mpg for 2025. This is about smarter cars, with technological innovations to bring about more gas-electric hybrids, electric vehicles, lighter cars, and better batteries. Our automakers can do it – but only with a strong standard challenging them to develop the industry’s best.
So before you grab your keys from the table and head out the door, take a minute to tell President Obama to Go 60 mpg.