Better Faster Stronger – Past Week of Fuel Efficiency News Confirms More Great Cars and Trucks Ahead

In Trucks that Work, a report NWF released last week, we walk through just how much pickup truck owners save under new fuel efficiency standards (a lot), how fast they save it (fast), and we do a component-by-component breakdown that shows how American innovation is improving truck efficiency, power and performance together.

We focused on trucks because many of our members rely on them for work or as they hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors, but also because trucks are a tough case: Trucks use a lot of fuel, so truck owners are hard hit by rising fuel prices, but at the same time, work trucks need power.  What we found was that the standards were win-win across the board.  With apologies to Daft Punk, these trucks work it harder, make us stronger – and save truck owners money at the same time.

And in the week since we released the report, the press has been alive with other announcements that reinforce the point that current efficiency and fuel savings improvements are the result of real innovation – not short cuts that shortchange vehicle performance.

In the report, we compare the 2005 and 2011 Ford F150 models as an example of how fuel economy innovation is already bringing consumers more and better choices – but a second wave is already underway.

Monday’s New York Times reports a partnership between Ford and Toyota to more rapidly bring out affordable, effective, rear wheel drive hybrid systems for trucks and SUVs.  “Clearly Ford and Toyota will remain competitors,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president for research and development. “By working together, we will be able to offer our customers more affordable technology sooner.”

Cadillac Converj at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show (photo: NWF Zoe Lipman)

Meanwhile,  General Motors announced they’ll be building – for real this time- the elegant, electric, extended-range Cadillac Converj – unveiled as a very sweet concept car in 2009 and now renamed the ELR – using a plug-in electric hybrid system like the Chevy Volt’s.    Then,  at the Pebble Beach luxury car show, they showed off the Ciel –  a hybrid concept car NYT Wheels blog says is “envisioned by Cadillac as a range-topping luxury flagship, the Ciel is powered by a 425-horsepower twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 engine and a hybrid system using lithium-ion battery technology.“  Car and Driver writes: “Cadillac tells us that this is not a direct preview of its rumored flagship, but we think it should be.”

And these announcements complement ongoing innovation in engines, transmissions and materials that is delivering quality, affordable vehicles like the Cruze – a 39 mpg strong seller that replaced the Cobalt.  GM is planning to add an even higher mileage clean diesel Cruze in 2013.

None of this stops some naysayers from being stuck in 1975 – ignoring four decades of changes in technology, in regulation, and in global demand for oil – and making some frankly head-scratching assertions about crazy costs, second rate cars and how new fuel efficiency standards are somehow bad for us.  These claims just don’t hold water today.   In 2011, America has the answer – and its coming now to a driveway near you.

In other words, whether cars and trucks bring to mind Daft Punk or “Mustang Sally”, “Pink Cadillac”, and  “Little Red Corvette” – today’s renaissance in auto innovation should be music to your ears.