Tag Archive | "USA"

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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American Pickup


Across the world there is a mighty push to find alternative fuel sources for our cars. We are seeing more and more electric cars and even hydrogen is being considered as a potentially viable power source. Additionally we have some excellent hybrid vehicles and many manufacturers now produce highly efficient internal combustion engines of which Ford’s EcoBoost is an example.

None of this is troubling our friends across the ocean, however. Despite many of these alternatives being available, the really strong sellers in the auto market are, as ever, pickups trucks. The manufacturer who gets his new model pickup wrong will lose sales in a heartbeat. The rivalry between the big manufacturers is intense.

Many drivers are prepared to accept that they should buy versions with more frugal engines, like the tiny Chrysler 3.6L V6 found in the new Ram 1500 (formerly Dodge Ram – pictured). With stop/start technology and an eight-speed auto ‘box this will give an impressive 18mpg around town and 25mpg on the open road. Purists can still get a good ’ole Hemi V8 of either 4.7 or 5.7 litres. We very much like the idea of a 5.7L V8 offering fuel saving technology! With the big motor the figures are 14/20mpg. Imagine running that with our fuel prices.

Ford have applied their Ecoboost technology to a 3.5L V6 that is found in the new F150. With American preference for big V8’s the company thought this would be a minority seller. In fact, forty percent of orders are for this engine despite it carrying a one thousand dollar premium on the price tag. The eco-message must be slowly seeping through.

American pickups are not small. As is the trend generally with car manufacture, the vehicles are getting bigger. More importantly they have completely lost their agricultural reputation. The Ram 1500 is available Stateside with air suspension in a much lighter yet stronger frame. It comes with leather and all the usual mod-cons including on-board wi-fi. The cheap n’ tacky Chrysler interiors of old are long gone.

In general, the big manufacturers are ensuring that they cater for the modern motorists by making sure that there’s a greater emphasis on quality and refinement. These pickups have morphed into family cars as well as Tonka toy workhorses. They are now seen as much on the school run as they are out in the boondocks being driven by old guys with really tanned, gnarly forearms.

So despite rising fuel prices, concern for the environment and the rise of the hybrid, the good folks of the USA are not going to relinquish their right to drive what the heck they want without interference from others. Would that things were like that in Europe. So, if you are feeling butch and are flush with cash for petrol, why not buy an American pickup? Look in the right places and you can buy them new, or nearly new, relatively cheaply. They’ll be lefties of course but they are so big you won’t really care. The thought of rumbling up to the supermarket is almost too hard to resist.

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