Hell Froze Over: Fuel Economy Now More Important Than Number of Cup Holders to U.S. Car Buyers

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 10.19.09

Car’s Liquid Consumption Now More Important Than Driver’s

People from all around the world know about the love story between American drivers and cup holders. It’s been said that it’s simply a sign that Americans tend to drive more than others, or maybe it’s a symptom of a fast food culture. Either way, it seems like the fire isn’t burning as brightly as before. Could the love affair be nearing an end? According to a consumer survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, fuel economy is now more important than the number of cup holders to U.S. car buyers (it’s sad that it ever was otherwise). In the previous survey four years ago, it was the other way around…

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Photo: Flickr, CC

No, This Isn’t From The Onion

While this story seems like it could be from The Onion, it’s not quite as funny when you really think about it. Fossil fuel consumption is one of the major factors that shapes our planet geopolitically. It’s responsible for wars and terrible totalitarian states. On top of that, it is the cause of many environmental disasters, as well as air pollution and global warming. Yet until recently, people didn’t seem to care very much (at least in the U.S. where fuel is relatively inexpensive) about how much fuel their vehicles used.

Of course, the change in priorities isn’t only the result of heightened environmental awareness; The spike in the price of oil and the global recession are mostly to blame. Cynics will say that as soon as the recession is over, people won’t care about MPG anymore and cars will keep ballooning up in size. That sounds plausible, but what will probably happen is that when the economy picks up, demand for oil will go up, making the barrel of crude shoot back up. This should keep fuel economy a top concern, hopefully enough to accelerate the switch to electric cars.

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