Small car at Detroit Auto Show

High-efficiency small cars shine at 2011 Detroit Auto Show

There’s more behind the increased number of small cars appearing at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show than any year before, and far more than just the threat of $5 gasoline that may or may not occur.

Few realize just how leaders in the auto industry really think behind the scenes. Ironically, sometimes they don’t; hence the bankruptcies and lack of vision. At other times, the auto industry talks and walks like a sly fox; meaning, it knows precisely what it wants to do.

One of those bucket-list things that the auto industry definitely wants to do is meet America’s fuel economy standards for 2016. Witness the fact that every automaker at 2011 NAIAS has at least one, new small-car entry. Beyond 2016, they know it’s only going to get tougher, and are hoping for fuel cells and hydrogen. What about after?

Actually, 2016 is an official obligation, as a result of a comprehensive agreement with the federal government, state regulators and environmental groups, whereby the auto industry must meet a 35.5 mpg fleet-wide average; but note the words, “fleet-wide average.” No matter how the fleet is dispersed via the segments, it is the public, not the automakers, that determines where sales will focus; and that’s often a moving target.

So, the industry is hedging its bets against an economy that is still hurting, high unemployment, rising energy costs except for natural gas, and government mandates. So, despite all the rhetoric about a green planet and conservation, the industry is simply concerned for its own welfare; but, hey, who isn’t?

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