The impact of MPG regulations

GATHER ’round, children: a long time ago, before S.U.V.’s roamed the earth, families great and small piled into something called a station wagon.

It was a primitive thing, often paneled in wood — yes, it is true — and later a man-made, nostalgic variety thereof. These pioneering wagons served Americans well, though today you young’uns would be seized by child protective services if they spotted you bouncing in back, innocent of seat belts and such notions as parental supervision.

Younger generations can be forgiven if they see station wagons as hazy boomer memories. Some companies stubbornly roll out new wagons, but buyers mostly ignore them. Mazda recently axed its terrific 6 wagon after selling just 12,249 retail copies in 2004-7. Dodge has announced the end of its muscular but weak-selling Magnum.

Do you want to know what happened to the station wagon? It is called CAFE regulations. The MPG regulations were imposed on station wagon and not SUVs. Not a deep mystery, but with Bush signing the new MPG regulations this week it shows how important these regulations are in pushing people away from the cars that they otherwise would have purchased.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The existing CAFE standards provide a strong incentive for manufacturers to push car buyers looking for domestic stuff-hauling vehicles into SUVs. Cars that can haul stuff tend to be larger cars, and these add lower MPGs to the passenger-car average column, while SUVs don't. Those manufacturers who offer wagons serve only a niche market currently.
One way to reverse the trend, to increase demand for wagons, and to make them less uncool would be to enforce the "no trucks in the left lane" regulations on highways, for ALL trucks. A height-limit (except for emergency vehicles) would be appropriate, since vehicle height affects aerodynamics, which affects gas mileage at highway speeds. This would take in those damned crossovers, whose "commanding views" of the road are the highway equivalent of people who don't remove their hats in theaters.

12/21/2007 1:55 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

How about we just get rid of the CAFE rules? Wouldn't that be a lot simpler?

12/21/2007 5:02 PM  

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