Nov. 22, 2008
Letters on miles per gallon, the Vantage Point column on fake parts, and an Oriental Motor URL correction

MPG squabbles
I found your recent editorial (“MPG figures that aren’t what they seem,” Sept. 11) quite enlightening. But an additional point to be considered is that the Big Three refuse to consider offering more manual transmissions. The vast majority of European, Brazilian, and Mexican cars I have seen have manual transmissions.

If manual transmissions became more common in the U.S., there would be at least a 10% improvement in fuel economy. My midsized Saturn is called an Opel Vectra in Europe where you can get a nice five-speed manual transmission with the V6 engine. But GM can’t (or won’t) offer that option here. Why?

Don Vorwerk

Obviously I don’t know why GM doesn’t offer a manual tranny on the Saturn, but I can speculate. They probably figure they would sell all of 12 cars that way. It is just too difficult to manage a Big Gulp and a cell phone when you are shifting from second to third.

Back in the early 1980s, I drove a Corolla with a manual transmission. It was a good car, but the Corolla that replaced it in 1990 had an automatic. I can’t say I miss all that manual shifting. — Leland Teschler

I just read your editorial on mpg figures. I also just got back from Germany and a week in a Mercedes 220D. Three of us drove it hard. (We hit 126 mpg on the autobahn.) Overall mileage was 35 mpg. The car was comfortable and quiet for three, handled quite well, and had perfectly acceptable acceleration. It didn’t smoke and I saw no evidence of smog-ridden countryside in Germany, so I have a hard time believing Germans tolerate polluting automobiles. I’d buy this car in a second if we could import it to the U.S. I will not buy the piggish cars available to us now.

Rod Kleiss

Depends on your definition of “tolerate polluting automobiles.” Currently the EU allows higher NOx emissions than we do here, though they are looking at tightening up their regulations. — Leland Teschler

I have to say though that your explanation does not fill me with joy. If our NOx requirements are so stringent, why is it I can go down to my local dealer and buy a 400-hp vehicle without causing a stir? Such a vehicle would get less than half the mpg of the Mercedes 220d, and, I daresay, put out quite a bit more emissions. I am sure the percentage of emissions per horsepower is within tolerance but there seems to be no penalty at all for the overall volume of pollutants.

On another front, consider the Mercedes 320d already in the States. When first introduced, it got 37 mpg. Then Mercedes added the urea injection, which dropped it to 32 mpg. I’m sure they changed mixtures to assure complete reaction in the catalyst, but why don’t they just put in a smaller diesel engine, improve efficiencies, solve the problem, and save fuel too. The Smart Car gets 50 mpg in Europe. It is rated at 40 mpg here. The diesel Smart Car gets 70 mpg in Europe. We can’t get it here. Something is wrong here. It is not just tight standards. It is a system out of whack.

Rod Kleiss

My understanding of NOx regulations is that they set limits to NOx in ppm. So a car can emit any amount of exhaust as long as its NOx are within acceptable ppm levels.

The differences in mileage you allude to are partly because of different emissions requirements but also because automakers must use heavier 5-mph bumpers here which you won’t find in the EU. And it is my impression that some of the other required U.S. safety equipment is also heavier. So all things being equal, a car in the U.S. will get worse mileage than the equivalent model in the EU, with the same horsepower engine, because of the regulatory differences. And the U.S. model will be no safer than the EU model, but that is a subject for another editorial. — Leland Teschler

Americans do not buy tiny cars. The Geo Metro, for example, is no longer sold here because of lackluster sales. Look at the Smart Car. It only gets 30 to 35 mpg. That’s not very impressive. My ‘04 Dodge Neon gets that mileage on the freeway. And the freeway traffic here moves at 70 to 90 mph.

R. Boy

This is another problem that relates to the safety perceptions of small cars. There are several small cars which could be sold here, except our safety requirements and our safety perceptions limit their sales appeal. A great example is the Honda 600 imported only in 1972. It got 50 mpg (really) and could cruise at 75 mph. But it was so small any accident was a problem. The Smart Car is 400 lb heavier and its mileage shows the result.

Ray Martin

Pointing fingers
Missing from the Vantage Point column on fake parts (“Combating counter feit parts,” Aug. 7) is any information on where the vast majority of counterfeit parts are coming from. You and I both know it comes from our “friends” the chicoms (China), you know, the folks granted most-favored trading status by our elitist government.

Rick Thompson

Oriental Motor URL correction
The September 25, 2008 Issue of Machine Design listed the incorrect URL for Oriental Motor USA in the Scanning for Ideas column. The correct Web address is: orientalmotor.com

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