Planned fuel standards ambitious

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's aim is to mimic - or better - the new U.S. fuel bill standards that were passed over a month ago in Washington.

  • Detail of an automatic gear shifter in a new, modern car. Modern car interior with close-up of automatic transmission and cockpit background

6.7 litres per 100 km, or bust, eh!

Appearing as a politician who doesn’t have a problem with the not-invented-here syndrome, Canadian Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon grandly announced his government is working toward a “made-in-Canada” solution to reduce the fuel consumption of new cars and light trucks by 2020.

Speaking at the Montreal International Auto Show, Cannon’s aim is to mimic – or better – the new U.S. fuel bill standards that were passed over a month ago in Washington.

These new regs set a target of 35 miles per gallon, or 6.7 L/100 km, for the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold by 2020.

In 2006, the combined new vehicle fleet (car and light trucks) average fuel consumption was approximately 8.6 litres per 100 km in Canada.

As Canadian automakers cite that Canadian bumper and headlight regulations already add substantial costs to our vehicles, Cannon didn’t mention what additional costs Canadian consumers would incur to cover the potential engineering changes in having higher fuel standards than U.S., Asian, or European models.

He did say his government will launch a consultation process and intends to write to Canadian provincial premiers to get their feedback

With Quebec’s Jean Charest and British Columbia’s Gordon Campbell having said they want to move toward the even tougher California standard, I’m not sure I’d fire off that letter anytime soon.

So are you ready to pay even more for more energy-efficient, Canadian-specific vehicles?

Or maybe here’s a more practical question: Have you received our ecoAUTO Program rebate cheque yet?

Acura to get Honda’s first clean diesel

Admitting its premium vehicles haven’t done enough to distance themselves from its more plebian Honda brand, Dick Colliver, Acura’s executive vice-president of American Honda Motor Corp., has been quoted as saying that Honda’s luxury brand will be a totally different brand in the next five or six years.

The first step on that path will be making Acura the landing spot for Honda’s forthcoming North American 2.2-litre i-DTEC turbodiesel engine announced last week at the Detroit auto show.

Honda initially told us the Accord was to get a diesel this fall to replace its Accord gasoline-electric hybrid, but Acura, in fact, the Acura TSX sedan will be the first North American Honda model to go diesel “sometime in 2009.”

Expect the i-DTEC to makes its way into Acura’s RDX crossover.

A V6 diesel is also expected to arrive sometime in 2010.

If you want an early glimpse of a close facsimile of the next TSX, check out the European Accord sedan that will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March. It goes on sale over there this September with the same i-DTEC mill.

As diesel engines are inherently more expensive to make, one can see why Honda chose to market its diesel under its premium Acura brand.

Granted, the diesel option helps differentiate Acura from Honda.

But if Acura really wants to compete against the likes of BMW and other premium brands (that are also planning diesels), the TSX needs to move away from its exclusively front-wheel-drive layout.

GM gets the rear-wheel-drive blues

Poor old General Motors.

Since Chrysler launched its rear-wheel-drive cars four years ago, driving enthusiasts and the motoring press have been clamouring for a response.

Now, just when the General is ready to debut a bunch of affordable RWD cars, it looks like the new U.S. fuel regulations are killing the automaker’s plans.

At last week’s Detroit show, GM co-chairman Bob Lutz said the Pontiac GTO is gone for now, and the internal debate on the Impala is on hold.

“[We have] no firm decision at this point, but my guess is that we will come down on the side of the front-drive [Impala].”

“We have to find ways to stimulate demand and desirability in cars that will get us closer to the 35 m.p.g. average.”

Of the planned Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick rear-drive models, only the Pontiac G8 sedan and Chevrolet Camaro coupe are coming to market.

GM isn’t abandoning RWD cars entirely.

If you liked the Cadillac CTS Coupe concept shown in Detroit last week, reportedly it will go into production in mid-2009 as a 2010 model.

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