Compact Cure: Affordable, efficient cars could provide answers to America’s high gas prices

Ben Olson/Staff Writer
Today, all of us who drive are looking for relief from the gas price burden. Here in the United States, the average September price was just under $3.82 per gallon. Many automobile manufacturers now recognize this severe money and environmental issue and are coming out with new models that attempt to ease this burden.

Some new models of MPG-saving automobiles are the ’09 Toyota Prius, which gets 48 city and 45 hwy MPGs, with a price tag ranging from $22,000-24,270. Another popular sedan is the upcoming ’09 Honda Civic Hybrid, with 40 city and 45 hwy miles per gallon, and a price starting at $23,550.

On the truck/SUV side, the 2008 Lexus RX Hybrid gets 27 city and 24 hwy miles to the gallon, with a cost of $42,080. Another, the ’08 Ford Escape Hybrid, averages 29 city and 27 hwy MPGs, with a tag at $26,640.

Also, Honda released the FCX Clarity vehicle in the summer of 2008. This groundbreaking car runs on compressed hydrogen gas. With a leasing of $600 per month, this car was limited edition and only available to southern Californians.
These newer vehicles are all good options for the current oil crisis, but they all fall short in one area: price.

This isn’t the first time our country has experienced a rise in fuel prices. Back in the mid-’70s, oil skyrocketed and out automakers met the needs then with small, fuel-efficient cars such as the ’81 Dodge Omni, which averaged 30 city and 50 highway miles to the gallon. The ’81 Honda Civic got 32 city and 40 highway MPGs. Also, the ’81 Volkswagen Rabbit averaged 40 city and 54 highway miles per gallon.

One reason these cars were so successful is because they cost 25 percent less than regular sedans.
My question is why should things be different this time around? All of the fuel-efficient cars now cost the same or even more than regular models, and some are only limited edition models.

Car companies address the higher costs of MPG-saving cars with the fact that additional safety measures make the cars weigh more, which then raises the price. You would think, though, with 25 plus years of technological advances in power improvements that things would be the other way around.

Maybe we should relax our safety standards. Back in the mid ’70s through ’80s, cars didn’t have full-surrounding airbags, yet people weren’t afraid to drive, and the deaths due to accident weren’t extremely higher than they are now.
Also, hybrid technology is sometimes brought up as a reason for a high price, but again, with all of our tremendous advances in technology and our government’s cry for no more dependency on foreign oil, you would think it would be a higher priority to have affordable prices on those types of vehicles.

Finally, SUVs are very profitable for car companies because of their large size, even if they are hybrids. Some of these automakers may have a profit addiction that prevents the price from coming down.

Either way, what people need during our current fuel and economic hardships is a car with great efficiency, yet a small price tag, and that is available to everyone.
So, why should better gas mileage result only in a more expensive vehicle?

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