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Americans Bow To The Eco-Pressure

Americans Bow To The Eco-Pressure

The news that true petrolheads have been dreading has finally arrived. America, the final frontier of the legendary V8 engine, is finally turning its back on power derived through multi-pot normally aspirated engines and instead has begun to believe that small is good.

There was a time when red-blooded American males would sneer at what they described as ‘four bangers’ – cars with only half the cylinders required by petrolhead law, but the fact is the eco-sensibility being drummed into us all has finally had its effect.

Small fuel-efficient engines are now the motors of choice for 55.8% of new car buyers during the first half of this year. That’s a rise, albeit modest, on the figure for last year. It would appear that, although our cousins across the pond pay significantly less for fuel than we do, it is still beginning to hurt. Thanks to direct injection and turbo charging they have realised that they can still have performance but with better economy and smaller bills.

Cars with engines containing five, four and even three cylinder engines are increasingly in demand as people become more environmentally friendly. Small engines are starting to appear across the board – compacts, midsized vehicles and even small trucks. It isn’t entirely through choice though. The American Government – looking at the bigger picture presumably – are shortly to introduce the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations that will, by 2025, require a minimum consumption of 54.5mpg, thus sounding the death knell for big gas-guzzlers.

In 2008 there were just five brands consuming more than ninety percent of the small engine US market. Today, there are eleven. Also in 2008, ten badges did not even have any engines smaller than six cylinder in their model line-up. That number is now reduced to three.

Only one company, Smart, has a three cylinder engine on offer. This is about to change as more come on-stream including Ford’s terrific three cylinder, one litre EcoBoost motor. There’s a report that in the next few years mighty General Motors will follow suit as the technology develops.

They (the mysterious they) say that where America leads the rest will follow. The reverse is true here as US car buyers have resisted attempts to relinquish their V8’s in favour of the puny set-ups so readily accepted by Europeans and others. That’s all over now. The dice have rolled and the end of the true muscle car is nigh. Certainly it’s true that small engines can be equally as powerful but nothing else sounds like a V8 and now nothing will.

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- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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