Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fuel Prices Steer Consumers Toward Compact Cars

In Australia, the Holden Commodore was dethroned in 2011 as the continent's top-selling car for the past 15 years by the Mazda 3. And in the U.S., Ford announced that their world car, the Ford Focus, had become one of their top-selling vehicles. These are both fuel-efficient cars. It's apparent that people who buy a car nowadays have fuel efficiency foremost in their minds. Coinciding with this is the news that in the first quarter of 2012, fuel prices have breached record levels all around the world. A recent news article even revealed the results of a study which showed families eating less at mid to upscale restaurants just to accommodate their fuel budget.

Consumers are not abandoning their cars yet, and most cannot just switch to lifestyles that take a car out of the equation. We are too dependent on cars for that. Fortunately for people who need to buy a car, manufacturers from Toyota to Mercedes, even Porsche, have responded by offering much more fuel-efficient cars and, in Mercedes' case, even hydrogen-powered cars. So, we can rest easy that cars are here to stay. What is clearly evident though is that big thirsty V8s will disappear as a mainstream engine and that alternative fuels and technologies will combine to make gasoline a less critical factor in a car owner's budget.

Although people who buy a car for everyday commuting couldn't care less, it's noteworthy that even BMW, has downsized the engines on all their flagship performance cars like the new M5. The 2012 BMW M5 now has a V8, compared to its predecessor which was equipped with a V10 derived from the company's Formula 1 racing efforts. While having an output of 500 horsepower, the V10 was not one of the more fuel-efficient cars. Most owners described it as being a pig when it came to guzzling fuel. The latest M5 sports 560 horsepower yet consumes 40% less fuel. Even the Ford Explorer, which had an average fuel consumption rating of 17 MPG when it first came out is now rated at 28 MPG. At the other end of the spectrum, diesels are making a comeback and giving electric vehicles a run for their money. The benefit of the newest crop of diesel over EVs is that you don't need to hunt for charging stations and the performance of the latest diesel variants rival that of gasoline engines from just a decade back. As a fuel-efficient car, diesels have a lot going for them nowadays.

So there is hope for car enthusiasts, as well commuters, who want to buy a car. Cars aren't going away anytime soon, and the convenience, necessity and enjoyment that we have enjoyed since the first Ford rolled off the assembly line will be with us for the foreseeable future. As consumers of mass-produced vehicles however, it is your responsibility to buy fuel-efficient cars and promote technologies that reduce the global dependency on volatile fuel supplies.

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