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Thread: Interesting Article

  1. #1
    Z8 Addict Scott Pettit's Avatar
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    Interesting Article

    Why Sports Cars Could Cost More

    Joseph B. White. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Apr 14, 2010. pg. D.1



    If you like the new 12-cylinder Aston Martin DB9 -- or the Porsche 911 -- and hard work and good fortune have put you in position to buy such a car, you should consider acting on the impulse. In six years, these beauties could be harder to find or more expensive to acquire. Or they could be quite different cars.

    Blame it on the Obama administration's strict new fuel-economy and emissions standards, which were formally adopted April 1. By the 2016 model year, the vehicles auto makers sell in the U.S. market will have to have a fleet average of 35.5 miles per gallon -- up from the 2009 model year's 26.4 mpg.

    That means the average car in the U.S. will need to be more fuel-efficient than compact cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle or Honda Fit are today.

    Consider the Aston Martin. It may bring images of James Bond hurtling around a twisting mountain road, or a 470-horsepower, V-12-powered sports car that starts at about $200,000. But not a pint-sized commuter car derived from a European Toyota model.

    The idea of an Aston Martin "luxury commuter car" sounds like a double oxymoron. But it's not a joke. Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. has been showing a concept car called the Cygnet, derived from the Toyota iQ. The company says the car could be sold, initially in Europe, as a way to zip around congested city centers.

    The Cygnet is just one example of the tradition-busting ways in which car makers -- particularly low-volume exotic sports-car makers -- are scrambling to rethink their model lineups and business strategies to meet ever-tougher fuel-economy rules in the U.S. and other major markets around the world.

    The new U.S. fuel-economy standards are actually two standards. One measures greenhouse-gas emissions per mile -- the limit will be 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile -- and the other miles per gallon of fuel. The two standards will be enforced in tandem by two different federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.

    Auto makers supported the tougher rules partly in return for an agreement that California and other states would not pursue their own mileage standards until at least 2016. Detroit also supported the switch to setting fuel-economy targets according to the size of the vehicle because it allowed them more flexibility to keep producing larger, more-profitable sport-utility vehicles and trucks.

    The upshot for U.S. consumers is that mass-market cars such as a Ford Fusion midsize sedan or a Chevy Silverado large pickup or a Toyota Sienna minivan will have to evolve into more efficient versions of the vehicles they are today. The Silverado, for example, will have a 2016 target of 24.7 mpg, up 33% from the 2010 model.

    But certain kinds of vehicles -- particularly high-performance luxury cars -- cannot meet the proposed standards without a substantial transformation.

    Either the companies will have to change, merging or allying with mass-market partners to get credits for sales of cheap small cars, or super-luxury cars will have to change.

    Different classes of vehicles will have harder or easier targets depending on their "footprint," or the size of the vehicle. The smaller the vehicle, the higher the mileage target. The fewer different kinds of vehicles a manufacturer sells, the harder it could be to hit the overall target -- especially if the brand in question specializes in high-performance cars that are relatively small and slurp lots of gasoline.

    "It's a fairly overwhelming challenge for companies that are low-volume or have a limited lineup," says Stuart Schorr, a spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover, a unit of Tata Motors Ltd. of India.

    Consider the Jaguar XK. Based on its footprint, the XK is roughly in the same class as a Ford Fusion, which by 2016 is supposed to achieve 37.1 mpg and emit just 230 grams per mile of CO2.

    Today's Jaguar XK emits CO2 at roughly double that rate.

    To make a Jaguar XK as fuel-efficient as a Ford Fusion, the company would likely have to choose among the following: Make the car bigger to move it into a larger class with a more lenient mileage target; use a hybrid or a highly efficient diesel engine; make the car much lighter and smaller; or start selling a flock of small Jaguar models to offset the big gas guzzlers.

    Jaguar tried the latter option a few years ago, offering a midsize car adapted from former parent Ford Motor Co.'s European lineup. The car died, unlamented.

    "We are making huge investments in advanced power trains, hybrid, diesel," says Mr. Schorr. Jaguar Land Rover plans to increase the use of aluminum to reduce weight. All of these moves will likely push up the cost of subsequent Jaguars. Whether the company can recover a price premium is a function of competition and gas prices, which Jaguar can't control.

    For many companies, the response to regulatory pressure to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in both the U.S. and Europe will be to use hitherto unthinkable business alliances to spread the costs of new technology to cut consumption of fossil fuel.

    That's part of the reason why Daimler AG, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, earlier this month agreed to a share-swapping deal with Renault-Nissan. Mercedes gets small engines from Renault-Nissan for its new line of fuel-efficient Baby Benzes. The Franco-Japanese partners get Mercedes engines for Infiniti luxury cars.

    Both sides hope to reap savings. Mercedes is also looking to expand the use of hybrid technology in its big S-class sedans and has taken a stake in California-based electric luxury-car maker Tesla Motors Inc.

    Several luxury car brands have announced plans for hybrid models, including Porsche AG and Ferrari. BMW AG is building the capability to offer a super-lightweight carbon-fiber, electric city car and is considering a new line of BMW-branded compact, front-wheel-drive cars.

    The new U.S. rules do offer temporary relief for low-volume luxury brands. Companies that sell between 50,000 and 400,000 vehicles in the U.S. a year (a category that includes Daimler and BMW) can carve out as many as 25,000 vehicles a year that will be allowed to exceed the mileage targets by 25% without penalty. Manufacturers that sell fewer than 50,000 vehicles a year could get a break for their entire fleets up to 50,000 a year.

    But by 2016, the holiday is over.

    Very small brands that sell fewer than 5,000 cars per year will get their own rules to follow within 18 months, the government says. How those rules are enforced will be critical for small companies such as Aston Martin, which in a statement said it was gratified that "the EPA has recognized that Aston Martin has a unique challenge due to the low volume and niche nature of our product."

    The government will weigh case by case how big a break companies may receive. One factor could be whether a luxury brand that looks tiny in the U.S. is actually part of a much bigger enterprise overseas.

    Ferrari, for example, is part of Fiat SpA, one of the largest auto makers in the world, and regulators may judge Ferrari's ability to meet tougher fuel-economy targets based on Fiat's resources.

    That's why Fiat's decision to sell the tiny, fuel-sipping Fiat 500 in the U.S. is good news for people who prefer Ferraris to be like the 599 GTO, a limited-run model unveiled last week that Ferrari bills as the fastest road car it has ever made.

    Ferrari is unveiling the car officially later this month -- at the Beijing Motor Show.

    ---
    Scott Pettit
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  2. #2
    Beyond the Valley of Z8 Madness
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    Note to self: Prior to 2016, buy the following dream cars: Maserati GranTurismo S, Porsche 911 GT3, Nissan GTR, AM Vantage V8 (unless a v12 becomes available in US) and, to facilitate the purchases, rob a few banks
    2003 Z8 Black/Red

  3. #3
    I'm not too worried, as luckily I've already had my fair share of fast cars and track days, and in all honesty I'm actually quite excited for something like an electric Mini that I can run off the solar panels on my roof for pottering around town. As y'all know I've already committed myself to the Z8 as my long distance dream drives partner. Apart from it, all the other cars I can see in my future are just daily drivers, and solar electric is what I'd like for those.

    My overall carbon footprint will be very minimal, I'll use around a hundred and twenty gallons of gas a year to enjoy my Z8, my one 'oil burning extravagance' - a majestic reminder of the golden age of motoring. We are moving into very different times, and I'm so grateful for all we have been lucky to have enjoyed so far!
    Andrew Macpherson

    Expert Z8 Inspections, with full support for both Z8 sale and purchases.

  4. #4
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    But Mac, the next step after prohibiting high performance sports cars is to prohibit even DRIVING these symbols of "oil burning extravagance" and "excessive wealth". This new round of regulation is really about control/power/politically motivated attempt to benefit from class envy, rather than lowering "carbon footprints".
    Even the common man, once "trailer trash" like us need a dream to get up and go to work-to do good and to do well. An important dream for us was a Z8, and it's a dream come true.
    Look forward to the August drive while we can still drive to our heart's content.
    Edy

  5. #5
    Look forward to the August drive while we can still drive to our heart's content.
    Amen to that!

    Sadly I think there really could be some meat to your suggestion of a prohibition on driving in the future, but I think we'll be ok for a few more years yet. It is in part why I'm making such a big effort documenting of our combined ownership experience. Whatever way you look at it oil isn't forever, so the freedom it is giving us may really be lost to future generations, and our experiences may become as distant and forgotten as those who could only cross the ocean by sail.

    A friend in England sent me a great story last year about what it took to pilot a steam locomotive across the Pennine Mountains. The work involved in balancing the amount of water in the boiler, to cover the firebox as the loco first heads up one hill, but not leave the firebox crown dry as it goes down next, was fascinating. Very few who sat in those trains understood the incredible teamwork demanded of the driver and fireman to pilot a heavy train through though those mountains and get it to its destination on time. I was very inspired to read that very well written piece by a journalist who did the journey on the footplate, as it gave me a great glimpse into a time gone by. I hope our Z8 book will be that timeless!
    Andrew Macpherson

    Expert Z8 Inspections, with full support for both Z8 sale and purchases.

  6. #6
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    Mac, Fortunately the future is an unknown and while we still have the privilege to drive these beautiful high performance cars we will do so. Thanks for up dating the PNW drive thread. I'm an optimist and feel as long as people with common sense stay involved common sense will rule in the long run. Take care, Erik

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    As we all have become accustomed to State Inspections which involve verification of emission standards...in the future onboard computers will reveal mpg data to state mv systems which will determine compliance to increasingly green consumption standards and of coarse levy fines to anyone outside those standards....i think we will be able to drive our cars for the foreseeable future but i fear big brother is prepared to profit from taxing our excess...both at the pump and at the inspection station...i have a hard time imagining any proletariat uprising supporting owners of high performance luxury cars of any kind....i'm also looking forward to romping around in an electric mini....