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Obama's CAFE Ruling Has Many Pondering Mustang's Future

Death of the Muscle Car?


Obama's CAFE Ruling Has Many Pondering Mustang's Future

President Barack Obama

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images
For many years now the United States government has been encouraging automakers to build fuel-efficient vehicles. The goal has been to create a cleaner environment while decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. The result of these efforts has been the creation of hybrid vehicles along with the development of electric-powered vehicles. No doubt, automakers have made many advances in the creation of alternative-fuel vehicles.

As such, many people have begun to question the future of the American muscle car. These V-8 powered performance cars have become as American as apple pie. The problem is many are gas guzzlers with poor fuel economy to match. In a world where everyone is working to conserve gasoline, these cars have become the target of much debate. In fact, the government is no longer encouraging automakers to build vehicles that get good gas mileage; they are requiring automakers get with the program by tightening existing CAFE laws.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) dates back to "The Energy Policy Conservation Act,” which was enacted into law by Congress in 1975. Its goal was to improving automotive efficiency. The Act was passed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. The near-term goal was to double new car fuel economy by model year 1985.

In 2007 President George W. Bush moved forward with the Energy Independence and Security Act which would have called for a new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 35 MPG by the year 2020. That meant a company such as Ford would have to maintain an average of 35 MPG for all the vehicles in its fleet. Well, here we are in 2009. We have a new President, we have a new Mustang, and we have even more talk of the muscle car's demise. Why?

On May 19, 2009, President Obama enacted even tougher standards. Under the new plan the corporate average fuel economy for cars will be raised to 39 MPG and 27 MPG for trucks. But wait, there's more. Instead of a 2020 deadline, President Obama set a 2016 deadline. In fact, the CAFE standard will increase by five percent each year, building on the new 2011 standard (27.3 MPG), until we get to 2016.

With such stringent fuel economy rules, one has to wonder if a car such as the Mustang can survive. All it takes is one car with bad fuel economy to bring down an automaker's fleet average. In a statement issued to the press, Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally said, "We are pleased President Obama is taking decisive and positive action as we work together toward one national standard for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions that will benefit the environment and the economy."

Will the Mustang weather this storm? I'd like to think so. In fact, Ford’s development of the twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost engine goes to show the company is looking ahead to insure the company’s success. Rumor has it the engine will appear in the Mustang before 2012. Of course that brings us back to the issue of the muscle car we’ve come to love so much. What about the powerful V-8 engines? Would you buy a Mustang if it was only available with a V-6 or 4-cylinder engine? Unfortunately, that might be your only option in the coming years. Muscle cars might not die out, but they will definitely change.

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