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Automakers' New Years Resolution is to Trim Some Weight

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On: Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 10:37AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Automakers' New Years Resolution is to Trim Some Weight

A common thought among fearful flyers is always “how are the tons of steel I’m sitting going to get off the ground and fly?” Aerodynamics plays a big part in the theory of flight. It also has a role in auto manufacturing, particularly when it comes to improving fuel efficiency. The lighter the vehicle the better the miles per gallon. That concept works great for compact models, but what about big pickup trucks? They need that weight to add the muscle to their towing capacity. If not for new government regulations, truck makers might just leave well enough alone. Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for truck owners) the automakers need to redesign their lineup to comply with new fuel efficiency standards.

By the year 2016, all auto manufacturers need to have a fleet fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon. In the light truck category, they will have to average at least 30 miles per gallon. Right now the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) is 29 miles per gallon in cars and 24 mpg in light trucks. When you consider that light trucks actually made up half of the total auto sales in 2010, then you realize the auto companies have their work cut out for them.

Dick Shultz, a consultant at Ducker Worldwide, and expert in the use of metals for autos, has his finger on the heartbeat of the industry. “There is a lot of hand-wringing in the industry right now,” said Shultz. “You can't afford to be on the wrong side of this thing.”

How will this all break down? Start with the fact that the average truck weighs around 5,000 pounds. Ironically, car buyers have been asking for comfort improvements in their trucks. Since 2000, the average weight of a truck has gone up by 22 percent while the fuel economy improved by only 2 percent. That means all those gadgets, seat heaters, and assorted gizmos have made filling up a truck more expensive.

It looks as though GM will be first one off the assembly line with a large pickup that will meet those higher fuel standards. This will be the 2014 Chevy Silverado leading the charge and yes, they are planning out car models that far and even farther!

Rick Spina heads the full-size truck development for GM. “It's a tough task, but we're facing it as grown-ups,” he said. “We're going to do everything we can to keep the customer from realizing we've had to make changes in a fundamental way.”

In order to meet these goals, Spina says that GM is looking to drop 500 pounds from its trucks by 2016. When 2020 rolls around, they might need to bump that “diet” up to 1,000 pounds per truck.




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