Automakers ready to meet new fuel efficiency requirements

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The 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show is now getting underway and it’s perfectly clear that the heart of the marketplace will remain vehicles that run on gas and diesel for years and years to come — despite my enthusiasm for alternative kinds of rides!

Of all the auto debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show, it seems the biggest fuss is being made about the new Ford Escape. Ford has adopted a world platform for the Escape to streamline production across international markets. Of course it goes without saying that the new one gets better fuel economy than the old one.

In fact, the sweet spot in the SUV market has been with this kind of smaller SUV. There’s also one from GM that has been a big seller and is a direct competitor to the new version of the Ford Escape.

As for foreign automakers, Mazda is introducing a compact SUV for the first time in the U.S. market. Honda, meanwhile, is coming out with a modified version of the CR-V.

Americans who may want something that’s smaller don’t want to sacrifice roominess, storage space and versatility. So that’s where this new generation of smaller SUVs comes in.

These vehicles will migrate to better and better fuel economy over the next cycle of years. In fact, Mazda is using proprietary engine technology that makes gas in cylinders fire at higher temperatures to boost horsepower and allow a smaller engine to give better fuel economy.

This is all happening at the same time that the feds have issued new rules on fuel economy that will require the average vehicle to get nearly 55 miles per gallon in testing, which is more like just about 40 mpgs in real world driving.

Let me tell you: We’re a long way from that! This year, the typical vehicle sold averaged 22 mpgs. So this whole push will require the automakers to continually squeeze more and more mpgs out of vehicles. Fortunately, they seem comfortable with hitting the targets set by the feds. We’ll see how it shapes up!



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