24. WOULD YOU BUY A CAR THAT GETS 100 MILES PER GALLONS?

For several years, U.S. automakers have had the technology, to produce a car capable of getting 100 miles per gallon (mpg) of gasoline. But, as you know, this car is not being built. Why? Because U.S. automakers feel they couldn't sell it to the public and the federal government does not require them to build cars to such mpg standards.

In 1982, the Battelle Memorial Institute, the world's largest private contract-research facility, did a feasibility study on cars capable of achieving 100 mpg. In late 1982, BMI researchers drew up plans for a 100 mpg vehicle called the Pertran. They gave the plans to the automakers.

Soon afterward General Motors also drew up plans for a fuel-efficient prototype. Similar to the Pertran, the TPC, according to GM, was capable of 95 mpg and would have a retain price of about that of a Chevette.

But neither car has been built nor does it appear to be coming out with the 1985 models.

According to U.S. automakers, the reason why a high mileage car is not built is that there would have to be design changes which would turn consumers off. One example given for the TPC was that its windows wouldn't roll down. Automakers also say that fuel efficient cars are not in high demand. (In 1982, small, fuel efficient cars accounted for a third of the market.)

The federal government could pressure Detroit into building more fuel efficient cars. In 1978, the government passed a law that required domestic automakers to build cars with better gas mileage. A Corporate-Average-Fuel-Economy (CAFE) goal was set, rising each year with a maximum of 27.5 mpg to be achieved in 1985. The 1983 CAFE was 26 mpg.

Meanwhile, the Reagan administration reportedly is thinking about lowering or even repealing the CAFE law.

SOURCES:

THE SPOTLIGHT, 5/9/83, "Technology for High Mileage," by Tom Valentine; THE ATLANTIC, January 1983, p.245; NEWSWEEK, 6/27/83, PP.70-71.