Ford’s compact Ranger is the first casualty.
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With trucks, it’s even worse, because to a great extent the market for such vehicles is middle and working class. There are people in San Francisco and Washington with $200k annually incomes who will buy the Volt. But how many $40k-per-year electricians will be willing or even able to plunk down $30,000 for a “high efficiency” compact truck, as outlined above? Hence Ford’s decision to pull the Ranger from its U.S. model lineup — while continuing to sell it in other countries where there is no CAFE law.
It’s an impossible situation for the car companies. You can’t have both very high fuel economy and the capability people expect at a reasonable cost, while also meeting all the government’s existing crashworthiness standards, too.
The latter is especially interesting because, for the first time, two mutually exclusive government edicts — one relating to fuel economy, the other relating to crashworthiness — are coming into obvious conflict. It would be relatively easy to chop a few hundred pounds off the typical truck and without doing anything else, score a significant increase in fuel economy. It would also be possible, with a lower curb weight, to use a smaller (or less powerful) engine and still maintain approximately the same performance while further increasing fuel economy (by dint of the fact that a smaller, less powerful engine would use less fuel). This would also have the happy effect of lowering the price of the vehicle since it costs nothing to remove weight, or equipment that adds weight, such as the now-mandatory multiple air bags that all vehicles come equipped with.
But maintaining the vehicle’s compliance with existing and pending federal crashworthiness requirements while also significantly reducing its curb weight won’t be easily or cheaply done. It will probably require wholesale re-engineering of the vehicle, not merely replacing steel with high-strength, lightweight (and very expensive) composites. Major R&D will be involved and the end result, though possibly both “safe” and “efficient” will also cost a small fortune, just like the Chevy Volt.
The people on the top floor of the Ford building are not idiots. They’ve crunched the numbers. They see the future. There is none for the Ranger — and soon, bigger trucks, too. Bet your bippie GM and Chrysler are hip, too.
I predict it’s all over for trucks as mass-market vehicles.
We just don’t realize it yet.
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Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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