The National Academy of Sciences, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Congressional Budget Office and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have separately concluded in multiple studies dating back about 20 years that fuel-economy standards force automakers to build more small cars, which has led to thousands more deaths in crashes annually. Even though the standards were updated in recent years to reduce the incentive for automakers to sell more small cars by allowing different fuel-economy targets for different vehicles, the fastest way to make cars more fuel-efficient is to make them smaller.
When the rules are finalized, if they "leave the automakers the option of downsizing, clearly we're going to have some safety consequences," Lund says. "Smaller vehicles do not protect their occupants as well as large ones."
Though it'll be expensive, Ford's Cischke says, a lighter car can be made as safe as a heavier car.Is this a good time to be foisting ever-more stringent mileage standards on the car companies? What if people don't want smaller cars? Guess we'll just have to suck it up and buy what "the man" says is best for us.
Even before the new regulation, Ford Motor was planning on "taking between 250 and 750 pounds from (each of) our vehicles. That's a huge challenge," she says.
"It's all about managing the energy, protecting the crash cage," she says. "There are ways you can design a vehicle to be very strong, to provide the same crash safety as a heavier one."
"When regulations establish requirements on what people buy, not what we make, if people aren't buying those, we have to offer incentives," says Sue Cischke, Ford Motor's vice president for environment and safety. "We can't force people to buy what they don't want to buy."BTW: this external combustion engine looks like an interesting option. Maybe the car companies will start looking into radical designs like this? Or, given the accelerated advent of the new regulations, probably not. And we criticized corporations for having too short of a time horizon on profits? Cyclone Engine
Jim Lentz, president of Toyota's U.S. sales unit, says he doesn't think that all drivers will be forced into smaller cars but notes that in order to sell the bigger, thirstier ones, he will have to sell more Priuses or other gas-savers. If the gas-savers don't sell, there is the "possibility" that there could be shortages of larger vehicles, he says.