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Why Can’t America Dominate?

Economy Cars
Posted October 15 2008 06:13 PM by Johnny Hunkins 
Filed under: Tech

Toyota Yaris: Ugly, but efficient. Why can't America build it?

With the twin forces of an economic downturn and the high cost of gas, shouldn’t we concentrate on producing the most fuel efficient and cost effective cars on the planet?


As much as I love raw horsepower, I also love gaming the cost/performance ratio of everyday cars. With the economy in the crapper, and fuel cost at an all-time high, I’ve been thinking a lot about cars that knock down really high mpg numbers, but that cost relatively little. Not exactly the same thing as building a thumping big-block, but a noble and interesting gearhead notion, nonetheless.

Manufacturing a lightweight, inexpensive, fuel efficient car is every bit the engineering challenge as bringing to market a 620-hp Corvette for $100k. It’s an engineering task that American industry is uniquely qualified to solve, yet we’ve done damn little. Other than Chevy’s imported Aveo, all the top contenders, like the Toyota Yaris (pictured) are all brought to us by off-shore companies.

If you accept the cost of a gallon of gas at $3.40 per gallon, and figure on driving 15,000 miles per year, and you own a car for 8 years, here’s how the top cars in the bang-for-the-buck department shake out (according to cars.com):


Vehicle      MPG (cty/hwy)   Sticker  Lifetime fuel   Car + Fuel
Smart Fortwo      33/41      $11,590   $12,273        $22,868
Toyota Yaris        29/36      $11,350   $12,838        $24,188
Hyundai Accent   27/32      $10,775   $14,049        $24,929
Kia Rio               27/32       $10,890   $14,049        $24,939
Chevrolet Aveo5 24/34      $10,235   $14,750        $24,985
Chevrolet Aveo   24/34      $12,170   $14,750        $26,920
Honda Fit            28/34      $13,950   $13,414        $27,364
Toyota Corolla    28/37      $14,405   $12,976        $27,381
Nissan Versa       26/31      $12,880   $14,553        $27,433
Scion xD             24/32      $14,550   $13,875         $28,425


If you only buy American like I do, this is depressing. When relatives come to me for car advice, I usually try to steer them domestic, but it’s getting a lot harder to defend the motherland these days. Since my driving priorities are heavily skewed towards performance and I don’t place the same emphasis on the cost per mile—I’m more of a smiles per mile guy—my own buying decisions aren’t affected. Nevertheless, I hate to see the home team lose under any circumstances!



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