GM Breaks from Automaker Pack to Meet 56.2 MPG Challenge

On Saturday, I lamented that automakers wanted the "lowest fuel efficiency bar possible." I am pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong by at least one automaker. According to recent reports from the Associated Press and Automotive News, General Motors has broken from the pack by saying they can "find a way" to reach 56.2 mpg.

In an AP article printed in the Washington Post, GM's North American President stated the following:

The goal of 56.2 mpg is tough, but General Motors will figure out a way to reach it, said Mark Reuss, the company's North American president. He would not say what technologies GM would use to reach the target, but he conceded that many easier, less-costly solutions already are under way or have been done such as switching to smaller engines and developing more fuel-efficient transmissions.

"When you put those things in for the first time, they may be more expensive," he said. "But this is a volume and scale industry. What was very expensive in the past is no longer very expensive."

In an online interview today with Automotive News, Mark Reuss reinforced his companies commitment to support 56.2 mpg (my personal transcription so any errors are attributable to myself):

... is very challenging but again I think the challenge for us as automakers and engineers is to dig in and support things that enable clean air and fuel economy and unleveraging ourselves from foreign oil. I think those are all the things everybody are concerned about and that's the task.

The race to be fuel economy leaders is already on. Traditional fuel economy leader Honda is already in jeopardy of losing its competitive advantage to up and coming Korean automaker Hyundai

In fact in 2010, Hyundai surpassed Honda to take the title of the most efficient auto company in America, according to the U.S. EPA. And Hyundai is not stopping there. Last year, it broke from the pack by saying that it will voluntarily target 50 mpg by 2025.

So some companies like General Motors and Hyundai appear to get that fuel economy is a necessary and important competitive advantage to survive in today's world of high and volatile gasoline prices. It's time for Ford, Toyota, Honda and other automakers to wake up and get in the game by supporting strong fuel economy standards.

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This article originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard Blog and is reprinted with permission.