Consumer Reports has published a study evaluating the value of several “eco” models that are being offered to fuel economy-conscious consumers. The results are not good news for the automakers. The study’s conclusion: the extra cost of these models is not worth money.
Automakers are in a race against time as they rush to meet recently accelerated CAFE requirements. One way to reach this fuel economy mandate is to wring every last mpg out of existing models and to appeal to environmentally conscious buyers. Plus by offering ‘eco’ models, automakers have a better fuel economy story to advertise to consumers.
The study points out that ‘eco’ models make slight equipment changes to the base model, like low rolling resistance tires, spoilers and sealed underbodies. These ‘tweaks’ result in slight improvements to fuel economy at an additional cost of $500 to $800 MSRP. It could take up to 38-years of normal driving to recover the extra costs. Consumer Reports did have some praise for the Ford Focus SFE which only takes 3.5-years to recover the cost of $495.
Pressure on automakers to improve fuel economy will continue to grow in advance of the CAFE deadline. They have their work cut out for them as gasoline prices fall and sales of electric vehicles fail to meet projections. Consumers have yet to be convinced to give up their trucks and SUVs.