New American MPG Standards Could Crimp Driving Style

Fuel-thirsty trucks made up 55% of October's light-vehicle sales.

Published: 05-Dec-2007

The vehicles Americans drive got steadily bigger, faster and less fuel efficient for more than two decades, thanks to cheap oil and Washington's hands-off approach to regulation. If Congress passes the energy bill it is now considering, that trend would be jammed into reverse.

The deal brokered by top Democrats late Friday to boost average new vehicle fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 means that American cars will get smaller, and possibly more expensive. The proposed bill would compel Detroit's auto makers to push into production advanced fuel-saving technologies such as gas-electric hybrids, diesels and gasoline direct-injection systems that boost the efficiency of internal-combustion motors.

One way to look at it is that American cars will become, over time, more like the cars General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC sell in Europe, where high gas prices and tougher fuel economy rules have long forced auto makers to invest in smaller vehicles with more advanced fuel-saving technology.

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