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New York Auto Show: Fuel Efficiency Not a Big Deal in the Big Apple

Charles Krome
by Charles Krome
April 9, 2009

A fair amount of information has already trickled out about the , and it looks like not too many automakers got that memo about consumer interest in fuel-efficient vehicles.

No, I take that back. They all got the memo, but I don't think they 'get' it, if you know what I mean. Looking at what's scheduled to debut in New York just doesn't turn up very much good news for anyone '” outside of the very rich '” who might be interested in saving some gas.

Take . The General decided to team up with Segway on the 'Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility" (PUMA) project, which will likely have just about the same impact on the real world as the original Segway. Of course, since we're talking about GM, it comes as no surprise that the PUMA is bigger than the Segway proper, now offering room for two (very friendly) people and a certain amount of protection from the elements. But seriously, folks, this is just like trying to pump up the buzz for its GEM Peapod thing.

Of course, was showing a couple of its high-tech hybrids, like the sport utility and the S400 HYBRID sedan, the 'world's most economical luxury car with a gasoline engine.' There's certainly some nice technology here but the SUV is likely to come in with a sticker of at least $60,000 (before any options): after all, the current starts at nearly $56,000. As far as the hybrid, the least expensive current S model, the S550, starts at over $89,000.

The new is also going to premiere in New York, for all those people who want more traditional SUV characteristics '” like mileage ratings of 16/23 for the front-wheel-drive base model and 16/22 for the base AWD. Which actually aren't bad when compared to the HEMI-powered version's 14/20 and 13/19 figures. Gee, with vehicles like this on the way, I just can't understand why the government doesn't think Chrysler is a viable auto company.

But if you're talking truly unmitigated gall, you've got to hand it to the new owners of . They managed to convince the European Investment Bank to cough up nearly $500 million to develop 'greener' vehicles at the same time they've decided to drop a 510-hp supercharged V-8 into the in New York.

The two most intriguing vehicles at the show look to be the , which apparently made a special appearance today during the reveal of the new Grand Cherokee, and a -tuned concept of iQ minicar, which is currently on sale in Japan and Europe.

The Fiat has to be viewed as a propaganda move for a potential Chrysler-Fiat tie up of some sort, while the iQ is being touted as Toyota's answer to the . Except I'm betting that, even with its current financial troubles, Toyota would pack a lot more quality and fuel efficiency into its package.

Now, part of the disappointing lineup in New York is the fact that some of the other automakers have showed their fuel-sipping future products earlier this year, as and GM both did. If either the or city car debuted in New York, I'd certainly be talking about them.

But the other side of the equation is the almost complete failure on the part of automakers, foreign and domestic, to actually bring their most fuel-efficient vehicles to the U.S. And that's something I just don't get.


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