2010 LA Auto Show: Upping the Ante on Fuel Economy

An auto show has two aspects—the eye candy designed to draw you in and then the hardware they really want to sell. When the two are the same, it’s a wonderful thing. At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, the eye candy was all about green. Fuel economy, as in better fuel economy, was mentioned at virtually every press conference and highlighted in both featured show vehicles and the bread and butter cars and trucks that filled the displays.

The LA Show was green from the opening press conference highlighting the “most-hyped car”—G.M.’s own description of the Chevy Volt, which took home “Green Car of the Year” honors, through unveilings of a Jaguar plug-in supercar; Mercedes’ B-Class fuel cell electric vehicle; FIAT’s high-mileage 500 minicar; Ford’s 13 segment leading fuel economy leaders and green marketing award; Honda’s new EV; plug-in and fuel cell strategy; Dodge’s revamped lineup’s improved fuel economy; Lotus’s hybrid exotic; Toyota’s RAV4 EV revived in partnership with Tesla; Kia’s mini-EV Pop concept and Optima hybrid; Buick’s LaCrosse mild hybrid; Hyundai’s high-mileage redone gas-powered Elantra; Audi’s promise of more high-mileage diesels; and Mitsubishi’s U.S.-spec i-MiEV electric car, among others. Showing off their wares without a press conference were the Coda EV, Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid and some BMW diesels.

Based on the experience of the last few years’ spike in fuel prices and promised future volatility—along with government fuel economy and greenhouse gas reduction measures on the books in all of the major auto markets in the world—automakers have ramped up advanced technologies and are pushing their engineers to develop a veritable cornucopia of tools to improve fuel economy in all models. The goal is to keep customers happy with all of the traditional comfort and performance features, while bumping up all vehicles’ efficiency. Given the substantial investments being made, it follows logically that the automakers would tout the improvements that result from the investment. The LA Auto Show was a coming out party of sorts for much of this technology, but it is only the beginning of what will be a permanent and fundamental theme for all future major auto shows.

Stay tuned for reviews, exclusive interviews, and videos from Los Angeles.


  • JamesDavis

    I thought the show was supposed to award the car that gives the best fuel millage…not the worst. I think the mayor is a bit prejudice for the Chevy Volt and ignored the best fuel millage cars.

  • Indigo

    I get so sick about hearing about the Government Motors Chevy Volt. It’s a welfare check for the rich, subsidized by all the folk who cannot afford to buy a $40k car. Oh, the Volt isn’t an electric car. It’s a hybrid. See, electric cars don’t have tanks for gasoline, nor to they sport internal combustion engines.

    And the fuel economy? In what universe are we supposed to be impressed by a 1.4L i4 “electric car” that gets a whopping 37 MPG on the highway? The Insight-II easily beats that figure and costs half the price (and no welfare checks for the rich are granted).

  • Capt. Concernicus

    Meanwhile the undisputed leader in hybrid cars, Toyota has sold 2,000,000 Prius cars worldwide.

    Most over hyped vehicle: Chevy Volt. It hasn’t done or proved anything. In fact, not one Volt is on the road and yet it has won Motor Trend “Car of the Year” and “Green Car of the Year” awards. It should have won several other awards like “Priciest Hybrid Car for the Middle Class”, the “I’m Not an EV Like GM Claimed” or “Most Over-Hyped Car of the Year” award. Any one of those would suit it well.

    Dodge=Fuel Economy? Isn’t that an oxymoron? lol!

    There are aproximately 1,000,000 Prius’s in the U.S. If every Prius averages only 40 MPG (I think that’s being conservative) and you compare that to 1,000,000 other cars on the road that average 27 MPG (I think that’s being a little optimistic, but hey why not?) the Prius owners save 180,000,000 gallons of gas a year or a little over half a billion dollars a year. Based on an average of 15,000 miles driven a year and gas being on average of $2.90 a gallon. Now if you take the numbers I think are a little more realistic 45 MPGs for the Prius and 25 for other cars then it comes out to a savings of 266,000,000 gallons of gas a year and a savings of $773,000,000 a year. That’s just the Prius alone. Now there are other hybrids or EV’s already out there like the Tesla, Fusion, Insight, Civic, Altima, Camry etc. These numbers can start to add up quickly. The more we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil the better off the U.S. will be. Heck, I’d be happy to see a 25% reduction in the next 5 years or so.

  • schanie

    So much Volt hate and name calling going on here. GM really did a good job here and people seem actually upset. The same people swore that the car would never see the light of day, that it’d be made overseas and imported, that it only gets 25 miles on a charge and only gets 30 mpg, that production would never be more than a few token cars, that the IPO would fail and doom the car. Every naysayer has so far been wrong wrong wrong.

    The arguments are weak. Oh, if you go over 70 mph and the battery is drained, it suddenly turns into a normal hybrid and not a true EREV. Therefore GM was lying to us (well, GM said that the engine never really engages the wheels directly and see, at 70mph on a dead battery, it does…). Really?

    Or – GM owes the US government money, therefore we shouldn’t do business with them. That one makes no sense whatsoever. If you don’t want to buy from a company that receives government subsidies you better stop buying gas, electricity made from coal or any food farmed by big agriculture firms. They all get billions a year.

    Sure, I’d love to have an all electric car but I go more than 150 miles at least 4 times a month and 300 miles at least twice a month. Buying a backup car more than ruins the electric car advantage. The Prius and similar cars are too small for me for long distances and too slow for me. The Volt is faster, more comfortable, better looking, made in the US and 6 days a week I wouldn’t use a a drop of fuel.

  • Stan Smart

    Not ONE Vhevy Volt on the road? Are you living in a cave?

    There are over 100 in use over the past year. This car is one of the
    most heavily tested of any new production model.

    Of course there’s a gas engine … do you want to stop and recharge for 8 hours
    when you’re driving to Grandma’s house?

  • Baltimore Prius Owner

    What were the folks at Motor Trend thinking? They designated the Chevrolet Volt as ‘Car of the Year’? If it’s the ‘Car of the Year’, where can I buy one……….today, right now??? Wait a minute, you can’t. Motor Trend = MT = their heads (empty)!!!

  • Indigo

    The Volt “hate” comes from several factors:
    – The taxpayer subsidy for the Volt is HUGE. It’s close to a quarter of the vehicle’s cost. Most hard-working folk don’t make enough money to buy a Volt, but we’re told the chip in for the six-digit-income crowd so THEY can get a discount.

    – The Volt is **NOT** an electric car. It’s a plug-in hybrid. The false advertising from GM gets really old after a while.

    – The Volt was originally hyped as getting 230 MPG, then it was downgraded to 65 MPG, but it really gets 37 MPG. (Hint: Actual electric cars don’t have a “MPG” because they don’t burn fuel. They go kilometers per kilowatt expended.)

    – The vehicle is basically useless. If you drive almost all in-city, then the Leaf is better and cheaper. If you often make extended drives, the Prius/Insight is better and cheaper.

    If Honda or Toyota released the Volt, they would be laughed out of town. On the other hand, if Honda or Toyota developed the Volt, it would probably get 65 MPG and cost $32.5k without the $7,500 welfare check for the wealthy.

  • JBob

    I’m no fan of GM, that said I understand the logic behind what the Volt brings to the table. The ability to drive a car that provides a transition for those who are obsessed with the whole range issue.

    If the tech behind electrical storage advances the way it has been the past 10 years, you’ll possibly (I’m still wary here because its GM) see a 2020 Volt with the ability to go an industry standard of 300 miles on a battery of the same size as in todays Volt.

    Infrastructure for recharging plug-in vehicles will be much more far reaching. Costs of production will be reduced due to increased scale of producing these storage mediums.

    Am I a hater, no.. the foots finally in the door with major automotive manufacturers. The change isn’t going to be full electric right away, but methodical.

  • Max Reid

    In Cash for clunkers program in Japan, only the Japanese cars were given the subsidy, had the US done the same, people would have cried like wolf. Japan had discriminated against imports all along and continues to do so.

    Anyway, Volt will go on sale only on Nov-30, so dont expect it right away. The price is expensive, but it could come down eventually.

    Pure EVs are difficult since they have only 100 Mile range. If you increase the range, the battery will make the vehicle much heavier. Therefore Range extenders like Volt has a role.

    By the way, GM is General Motors again and they have improved their quality a lot. Also Toyota and Honda are losing share to GM, Ford & Hyundai.

  • Anonymous

    There were big subsidies for the first purchasers of Priuses and other hybrids too.

    I for one hope the Volt succeeds. I was very doubtful it would ever come to market, but it’s here now!

    My only reason for not looking at GM cars is their lousy quality. I used to buy GM cars, but I got tired of shelling out THOUSANDS of dollars for repairs after the 3 year warranty expired and while still making payments on the car. When I complained to GM and the dealer that my car with only 38,000 miles on it should not be having these kinds of problems, they told me to stuff it. I sold the car and bought a Honda.

    Honda is not perfect either, I’ve had one Honda that had some A/C conditions that took a while for the mechanics to find out the problem. The problem got bad enough that they were able to figure it out, but the warranty had expired. How did Honda react? They ate the cost of the repairs since we had brought the vehicle in for the problem before the warranty expired. On top of that they detailed the car, gratis. An entirely different reaction from GM. GM and their dealer were hostile and blamed our driving habits for the problems. Long story, but that’s why I stopped buying GM. I just hope the Volts are much better.

  • schanie

    The subsidy is at about 18%. The leaf gets the same subsidy and it is at about 25%. Most of the people lined up to buy a Volt aren’t 6 figure income people. It’s not being bought as a status symbol. If they took the oil subsidies away this wouldn’t be quite as necessary since artificially low gas prices would go away.

    I can’t find mention of GM actually calling the Volt an electric vehicle at least since the early days when they weren’t really sure what they had yet. They say things like “powered by electricity” in longer descriptions. Some fans and websites have been calling it an electric vehicle. Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EREV, whatever, it’s all semantics after a while. We know how it works. This is a new field and the vocabulary isn’t nearly settled yet.

    The 230mpg came out from determining what the average user would get over a year’s time. That was probably a misstep on GM’s part because everyone pounced on it. But, still, a lot of people will get 230mpg. A lot won’t. Some will do better.

    If you drive “all” city or maybe leave a couple times a year the Leaf is better from an EV view point. Or if you have a 2-car family and can dedicate one as a city commuter. For long-range 70+ mph trips the Prius/Insight is not as good a choice as the clean diesels, such as VW has. But if you commute 5 days a week and leave town every week or even every month the Volt is a good combination. Definitely far from useless.

    Toyota has a plug-in prius for 2011. It gets 13 miles to a charge and costs $36k.

    The Volt definitely fills an automotive niche and it looks like the first year’s sales have already been snapped up and production may increase early.

  • Anonymous

    Schanie : Can u tell me the source which says that Plugin Prius costs 36 K. Thats way too much for a vehicle that goes only 13 miles.

    Hybrid has so many types
    Mild (Start Stop)
    Partial (Motor Supplements Engine)
    Full (Motor alternates with Engine)
    Plugin (Motor uses battery power and alternates with Engine)
    Range Extender (Motor alone powers with engine being a generator)
    EV (100 % Battery power).

    While Volt is a Range Extender, Plugin Prius is only a Plugin and it should cost much lesser.

  • Anonymous

    http://money.cnn.com/2010/11/19/autos/volt_epa_label/index.htm

    Volt’s final glitch is labelling the mileage. Government does not know how to label the mileage for Volt. Sad thing.

    You cannot apply a mileage for a vehicle that can run on motor as well. Simply have 2 parts.
    Miles / Kwh
    Miles / Gallon.
    Gallons cannot apply for a vehicle that uses Electricity. Simple.

  • Anonymous

    The Volt has less than half the cargo capacity of the existing Prius, and does something like 37mpg on -PREMIUM EXTRA EXPENSIVE GAS-

    The exisiting Prius, and 2012 factory plug in use less costly regular grade gas, with the exisiting model doing 50mpg.

    Top up and exisiting Prius tank, top up a chevy volt battery with the 220 volt charging station you paid to install and then fill it’s almost identically sized gas tank with premium gas.

    drive both until they need to be refuelled, and tell me which one traveller farther, carrying more passengers and luggage, and cost less for the trip, never mind the upfront price of the car?

    If you guessed volt….. fail.

  • Nelson Lu

    Nobody is forcing any of the Volt-haters here to buy it. It’s not for everyone. Just as Priuses are not for everyone. Certainly I don’t think a Prius is for me, as I bought a Ford Fusion Hybrid, but I’m not going to trash the Prius just because it isn’t a Fusion.

    The Volt is going to save money for some people, over a Prius — not many, but for some it will be a major money saver and a pollution-reducer. Get over it.

  • Charles

    The Volt is not as good as the Leaf in the city or as good as a Prius on the highway and costs more than the Prius or Leaf. A true but in the end meaningless statement. It is almost as good as the Leaf in the city and almost as good as the Prius on the highway and costs way less than a Prius and a Leaf combined. Life if full of compromises, the Volt is just another one, just like the Leaf or Prius.

    Looking at the Motor Trend road test for the Volt, the lowest MPG they got was 44. In driving a Gen II Prius I have gotten as low as 36 and as high as 53, with a typical of around 45. So I will defend the Volt as being almost as good as a Prius on the highway.

  • Shines

    I think the Volt is a good idea. I don’t understand people faulting the vehicle itself. Whether you want to call it an EV or Hybrid is just semantics. I have not driven one, but the styling isn’t bad. I am not sure GM doesn’t have it over-priced especially since it is just a 4 seater with only 10cf of trunk. Maybe down the road they will offer cheaper versions of it. Time will tell how the market accepts it.

  • Indigo

    Nelson: You are right that nobody is forcing anyone to buy a Volt. GM/Feds are, however, forcing the American taxpayer to pick up a big chunk of the cost of a Volt for anyone who does buy one.

  • Nelson Lu

    Indigo write:

    “Nelson: You are right that nobody is forcing anyone to buy a Volt. GM/Feds are, however, forcing the American taxpayer to pick up a big chunk of the cost of a Volt for anyone who does buy one.”

    The American taxpayer also financed the Prius, by giving a tax credit for it (and, of course, also the Fusion Hybrid that I drive). In any case, the Volt is a good investment because it is eventually going to have to be GM’s future; with the CAFE standards going up and up, every automaker will have to invest in new technology — *and every single one of those automakers will initially lose money on that new technology before beginning to make money on it* — in order to do that. Singling out GM is unfair and, frankly, incomprehensible, given that every automaker did and will go through it. Yes, even Toyota, which seems to be many people’s darling here, and Ford, which I think has a better hybrid implementation than Toyota right now. (Ford claims to make money now on its hybrids; it didn’t make the same claim when the Escape Hybrid first came out.)

    In any case, based on the way that GM stock is going, it doesn’t look like the U.S. Treasury will lose much, if any, money at all on the GM bailout.

  • DownUnder

    The banner “230 MPG” from GM reminds me of “Mission accomplished” from GWB.
    Who do they think they’re kidding?

  • DownUnder

    The VOLT will be judged by buyers/users, not the haters or lovers.
    However, awarding it while it hasn’t been in the market yet is a bit weird. Count the chickens too early?

  • Steve414

    I went to the Hartford Auto Show a day or so ago. It was miserably pathetic and another reason why I don’t bother with auto shows unless absolutely goaded by my Dad…

    * You couldn’t sit in the Volt (It was on an elevated turntable).

    * The Leaf wasn’t there AT ALL (The Nissan people gave me a double-sided one-sheet about it).

    * The Insight wasn’t there AT ALL (The Honda people wanted to steer my attention towards their other “more exciting” hybrids).

    * The Prius still has that annoying “center console display” so I didn’t even bother with it (The Toyota people insist that people love it).

    In general, it was another “SUVs, pick-up trucks & highway race cars” show that turns me off five paces into the exhibition hall.

  • DownUnder

    Steve414:

    * The Prius still has that annoying “center console display” so I didn’t even bother with it (The Toyota people insist that people love it).

    I’m one of those people. :)

  • veek

    Volt.

    The name conjures up all the memories of “all-new, improved, this-time-we-mean-it-it’s-really-different” GM designs of the past. The Vega. The Citation. The Saturn. The GM passenger car diesels. The Solstice/Sky sports cars. The Hummer. The Malibu/GMC/Saturn pseudo-hybrids.

    Yes, it would be nice to see a government entity succeed, but the probability does not seem very good. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again and again and again … shame on me.

  • bani

    I love Chevy Volt!
    It`s a great and economic car. The design it`s really awesome!

  • MrEnergyCzar

    I’ve driven the Vot and will be getting one the next few months… The car is an impressive ride and you have to of course pay more to get the 175 mpg I plan on getting since I drive 15 miles to work each way and will plug into a 110v while at work…. If you can’t afford a 150 mpg car then get a Prius.

    MrEnergyCzar