There is a conflict brewing in the auto industry and it is not just with the designers and decision makers. The conflict is in the consumer as well. There are Green forces that are encouraging us to want fuel efficient, low emissions vehicles while at the same time there are Performance forces that encourage us to desire the vehicle that goes faster or hauls more. It is a Frosted Mini Wheat of a conundrum and until there are sufficient cars on the road that satisfy our Frosted Side for performance and our healthy Wheat side with low environmental impact we are going to continue to have this fight.
According to Wards Auto (via the Motor Authority) the EPA, the federal agency that regulates emissions and determines MPG ratings for cars (among other tasks), is calling for an end to the horsepower wars that they see being waged within the auto industry. Apparently the Gas Guzzler Tax that is slapped on high horsepower and low fuel mileage cars is not deterrent enough. They are calling on the auto industry to scull back the horsepower battle and to refocus their energies on Greener projects.
The auto industry is bereft with multiple personalities. While promoting alternative fuels and PZEV (partial zero emissions vehicles) with one group the same manufacturer is showing off their latest high performance sports car with another group. The winner between the two will be whichever sells the best. The auto industry is market driven and the people will determine what is built.
So what do the people want? Well, if you could definitively answer that question the car industry would pay you millions. Bob Lutz believes that in order for the small car market to flourish gas prices will need to go higher still; as high as $4 per gallon. It seems that $3 per gallon has only stirred a minor shift in car buyers choices. If you consider the banner year the exotic sports car market had in 2007 it seems that for those who have money fuel prices are not a hindrance, yet.
In the end the pro-consumer is going to want Green Performance; both their frosted and their wheat side. Toyota struck a chord with many concept car ooglers when they introduced the FT-HS that sported a 400 horsepower hybrid-gasoline engine. It had striking looks, the promise of performance and the peace of mind of hybrid benefits. However, even that concept now seems mired in the auto industries confusion of whether to go Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV or hydrogen/alternative fuel.
Given the choice will you the consumer choose Performance over Fuel Efficiency? Or is Green Technology the future and Horsepower an antiquated concept that will fade away in time? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below, and we shall see at the end of 2008 if the consumers auto purchases answers the question for us.