Home » You Know Things Are Bad When Honda Starts Selling Decade-Old High-Mileage Cars as Certified Pre-Owned

You Know Things Are Bad When Honda Starts Selling Decade-Old High-Mileage Cars as Certified Pre-Owned

Welcome to The Morning Dump

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized news stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Honda’s CPO program Throws It Back

A chart detailing coverage of Honda's Certified Pre-Owned Programs
Screenshot: Honda

Certified Pre-Owned programs sound pretty appealing to car shoppers who don’t want to wait months for an order or get hammered by dealer markups. A nice used vehicle with extended OEM warranty coverage seems like a great idea, but most CPO programs currently have a problem – they only cover fairly recent vehicles. Due to short supply, trying to get your hands on a five-year-old Honda right now is trickier than trying to move a California King into a basement apartment. Sensing a need to expand and make even more money, Honda has announced a new tier of its CPO program called HondaTrue Used for vehicles up to ten years old with no mileage limit.

To satiate buyers, Honda’s throwing in a 100 day, 5,000 mile warranty that starts on the date of purchase. Not phenomenal but definitely not terrible, especially on a ten-year-old car. Honda’s also throwing in the usual one-year perks of roadside assistance and trip interruption reimbursement along with a three-day/300 mile exchange program, one free oil change within the first year or 12,000 miles, 90 days of satellite radio (does anyone still use that?), and a year of concierge services.

While slapping a CPO seal of approval on ten-year-old cars reeks of desperation harder than Axe Chocolate body spray, there is a bright side for cautious enthusiasts. The ninth-gen Civic Si was the last one with an enjoyable engine and is getting on seven years old at the newest, so a bit of extra protection sounds like nice insurance. While there’s no guarantee that an Si will be covered under warranty if the synchros turn out crunchier than a fresh bag of Tostitos, the possibility is somewhat reassuring. As always, it’s worth weighing the cost of a CPO car against a standard used car with a reputable extended warranty.

CAFE Ratchets Things Up To 49 MPG

A Shell gas station.
Photo credit: “Shell Gas Station” by JeepersMedia is marked with CC BY 2.0.

With pain at the pumps continuing to plague motorists, the US Federal Government has announced a plan to increase corporate average fuel economy standards to roughly 49 miles per gallon by 2026. While the NHTSA estimates that these new CAFE standards will add an average of $1,087 to sticker prices, new vehicle owners are expected to save about $1,387 on gas over the lifetime of a 2029 model year vehicle. Not great news when the average new car transaction stands at over $43,000, but not the end of the world either. The rollout strategy for these new CAFE standards is to increase the current mandate by eight percent in 2024, another eight percent in 2025 and a further ten percent in 2026. While these seem like aggressive targets, the arcane machinations of bureaucracy are hard at work to reduce actual impact of this big headline.

Here’s the gist of things. Firstly, CAFE MPG still uses two-cycle city and highway testing established in the 1970s which clocks in at around 10 to 20 per cent higher than the five-cycle testing-derived MPG seen on window stickers. Secondly, each size class of vehicle has to meet different CAFE MPG requirements, so companies with a heavy large vehicle mix will need to meet a lower figure than companies with a heavy small vehicle mix. Regulations for light trucks such as pickup trucks and SUVs are also less stringent than regulations for cars, so manufacturers with a heavy SUV mix also see benefit. Thirdly, fuel economy improvements aren’t the only way to meet CAFE regulation. EVs are heavily incentivized by use of MPGe, or miles per 33.7 kWh (the amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline), while low-impact A/C refrigerants like R-1234yf are eligible for fuel consumption improvement value credits retroactive to 2017. Neither of these technologies will actually increase the EPA combined fuel economy on gasoline-powered cars. The bottom line? The average gasoline-powered car won’t average 49 MPG combined any time soon.

Faraday Future’s in Hot Water Again

Faraday Future Ff 91
Photo credit: Faraday Future

Making cars is hard, and Faraday Future seems to be learning the hard way. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been on a bit of an EV investigation tear lately, focusing on EV startups that have gone public by merging with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). Lucid GroupLordstown MotorsCanoo and others have already been probed, but the SEC’s latest focus is on Faraday Future. It’s alleged in an internal investigation that Faraday Future made some seriously inaccurate statements to investors, including statements declaring 14,000 unpaid indications of interest as reservations for their FF 91 crossover. As a result, several members of Faraday Future’s management have been subpoenaed by the SEC. This SEC investigation adds pressure to an ongoing internal investigation that Faraday Future says will likely cause the company to miss its extended deadline for fiscal year 2021 annual reporting.

None of this is good news for Faraday Future, but good news for future SPAC investors may be on the horizon. On Wednesday, the SEC voted to propose new rules that would protect investors by placing liability for misleading claims on companies going public via SPAC, potentially closing a loophole that made raising capital via SPAC advantageous. Here’s to hoping that the wild west days of EV startups are over soon.

Cue the Volkswagen Electrical Fault Jokes

2021 Volkswagen Atlas
Photo credit: Volkswagen

Thom Yorke once sang, “In a fast German car, I’m amazed that I survived. An airbag saved my life.” While nobody would accuse the Volkswagen Atlas of being fast, its array of airbags should help in a crash, right? Well, some of them might not. Volkswagen has issued a recall for 222,892 Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport midsize crossover SUVs built for model years 2019 through 2023 due to a faulty connection in the wiring harness that runs from the A-pillar to the door. A lack of anti-vibration measures in a connector from one supplier could promote contact corrosion and spawn all sorts of gremlins, from power windows with a mind of their own to delayed airbag deployment. I know exactly what you’re thinking, they’re making 2023 Atlases already? Apparently so. Other symptoms may include door sensor warnings and inadvertent parking brake engagement at speeds below 1.8 mph (3 km/h). As multiple suppliers build these harnesses, not all Atlases are affected. Owners should receive recall notifications in early-to-mid May. Until then, don’t die I guess.

If you think Americans have it bad with the Atlas recall, you should hear what’s going on in the rest of the world. More than 100,000 Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda plug-in hybrids have been recalled for risk of fiery death. The cause? Insufficient battery pack insulation. It turns out that slightly loose engine covers can ignite from battery pack heat, creating such consequences as toasty Tiguans and charred Arteons. This insulation issue has already been linked to 16 fires, although no American models are affected. There’s currently no clear timeline on when affected owners will be notified, nor a defined fix for this self-immolation issue. In the meantime, maybe check your engine cover if you own an affected PHEV model.

2021 Ford F-150 towing a boat.
Photo credit: Ford

Not content to let Volkswagen issue the largest recall this week, Ford’s trotting out two different recalls, each audaciously huge in scope. For the smaller recall, 345,451 2020-2022 Escapes and 2021-2022 Bronco Sports with the 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine may experience cracking of the air oil separator. What’s an air oil separator? It’s part of the PCV system designed to draw oil droplets out of the pressurized air in the crankcase and return the collected fluid to the lubrication system. It’s a pretty smart piece that prevents excessive carbon deposits from forming on the intake valves in direct-injection engines. The air oil separator on the current Ford 1.5T is made of plastic and if it were to crack, separated oil would get all over hot engine components. Fiery death? Potentially! Six fires have been identified as possibly having stemmed from air oil separator cracks. The good news is that the expected failure rate is in the one per cent range; Ford will send out owner notifications on April 18, and all cracked air oil separators will be replaced.

There are more FoMoCo recalls to discuss. Braking performance is pretty critical, particularly when towing big stuff. Unfortunately, Ford has recalled 391,836 trucks and SUVs for a fault in their trailer brake controller software. There’s a chance that the trailer brake controller might fail to actuate electric or electric-over-hydraulic trailer brakes, drastically increasing stopping distances. Nobody likes a code brown, so Ford’s planning a software update to fix this. What models are affected? Brace yourself, it’s a pretty big group. Listed on the recall notice are certain 2021-2022 F-150s, 2022 Mavericks, 2022 Expeditions, 2022 F-250s, 2022 F-350s, 2022 F-450s, 2022 F-550s and 2022 Lincoln Navigators. Like with the 1.5T air oil separator recall, Ford is mailing out owner notification letters on April 18. While it’s perfectly fine to tow surge brake-equipped trailers with any of the affected vehicles, it’s best to hold off on towing with electronically-controlled trailer brakes until the software update is complete.

That concludes today’s issue of The Morning Dump. Hopefully your dinner has worked its way out of your system by now. If not, you may want to see a doctor. While Monday may be often considered the worst day of the week, it’s also the day to share what wrenching adventures you got up to on the weekend. Whether routine spring maintenance on your daily driver or serious fabrication work on a project, we’d love to hear how you got greasy. I helped a good friend with some springtime maintenance on his Celica Supra, just a nice simple tire rotation and oil change.

Lead photo credit: Honda

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30 Responses

  1. OK, for starters….ALL used cars are certified pre owned. Thanks to the state DMV, they will happily certify that you are a subsequent owner that did not purchase the car on the MSO.

    OK, now that I’m SLIGHTLY done being a dick, who’s fooling who? So you’re charging me EXTRA for a car that should have gone to wholesale, and calling it A-OK with just enough warranty to complete a drive cycle before the MIL illuminates?

    Honda, you can kindly fuck right off with that.

      1. “The Camry Bumper Dent Service Plan™ ensures there is a CPO checklist option for this feature, or one will be installed at no cost to you.”

        I’m waiting for them to release the Vintage Toyota Certified Pre-Owned Program where they sell “distressed” V20 and XV10 platform Camrys to the chronically ironic.

  2. I spent two hours bleeding a clutch line! What fun!

    In the middle of a midweek drive, my Miata’s clutch line self-converted from hydraulic to pneumatic. I made it home with some slam shifts and no stops. NA Miata clutch slave cylinders are legendary for their bubble-gum-and-marshmallows construction, so I preemptively picked a new one up along with a bottle of DOT 3 and got to work (after calling my novice wrencher friend Kevin for help. Thanks for helping with the world’s most repetitive wrenching task, Kevin!).

    Under the hood, the only substance that doesn’t seem to be profusely leaking is hydraulic fluid. The slave clutch rod boot, typically full of leaked fluid and Miata owners’ tears, is dry. So I fill the clutch reservoir, half-assedly bleed the system, and have Kevin work the clutch while I look for signs of a leak. Nothing. Nothing at all.

    So I give it a shrug and set about fully bleeding the system. Except Kevin and I are easily-distracted, so we lose track of pumps and keep sucking air into the system after the reservoir goes dry. So I end up needing to bleed four separate big air bubbles out of the system. Thankfully Kevin has lots of left leg stamina and the patience of a single parent of five, so we eventually finish the job.

  3. Combining poop jokes with real automotive journalism. This is why I come here! Keep up the good work. Your explanation of the CAFE requirements was great.

  4. The rear brakes on my JK have been rattling over bumps and certain “harmonic frequencies” for awhile now. The caliper slide pins needed to be cleaned and repacked. I had done the driver side the previous weekend but ended up doing the passenger side this last weekend. I was almost done and was finishing the torque sequence (to the correct torque spec) on the caliper bracket mounting bolt into the slide pin. The grade 10.9 bolt not only destroyed the threads in the slide pin, it actually pulled them out in one piece.

    So, I had to have the missus stop at the parts store to pick up a replacement slide pin on Saturday night. Thank goodness she doesn’t even question this stuff anymore. What should’ve been a simple process using just time ended up costing me $17. But hey, the rattles are gone now! We’ll see how long my Chinesium slide pin lasts. ????

    1. I need to remember that emotes translate to “????” on here, d’oh!

      Forgot to mention, I treated my JK’s acres of plastic with Chemical Guys plastic restorer. The stuff works well, but it takes a really long time to get massaged in.

  5. It’s ridiculous that CAFE standards encourage SUVs and trucks over cars. Should be a single standard across all of a manufacturers’ vehicles. If the manufacturer wants to meet the standard by selling more cars, great, if they want to meet it by hybridizing their SUVs and trucks, great as well

    1. For real. If they had done it right in the first place, we wouldn’t have this sea of crossovers, SUVs, and trucks on the road.

    1. Thanks! It’s an E90. It could use a driveshaft refresh and some paintless dent removal, but knock on wood, it’s been the most reliable car I’ve ever owned. Come to think of it, that probably just means I make terrible decisions.

      1. I had a 2006 E90… 6speed, grey, no options (manual seats FTW!). Really enjoyed the car until the Poke-ball failure showed up on the dash – otherwise known as the key interlock solenoid failure that requires a new steering column. Ended up being a failing battery, but that scared me enough to look for other wheels and dump it. Probably a mistake.

  6. I saw Mayor Pete on TV telling America that high gas prices aren’t going to be a problem because they’re raising the CAFE standards. Or words to that effect.
    Seriously. Yes the cost of everything has risen astronomically to the point where your last raise has been wiped out but it’s okay. In 4 years you can spend $35 to $40,000 on a new car so you can save $1,000 a year on gas.

    1. The average new car buyer in the U.S. has an individual income within the upper 20%. Most of the population lives paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford new cars. Those with money to burn are the ones driving the market, and everyone else has to make due with what they later decide to sell or trade-in. It is not without reason that your more basic, reliable, and efficient vehicles like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Nissan Altima tend to hold their value much better than the SUVs/CUVs on the used market. Law of supply and demand. Those who are cash strapped really badly want fuel economy and low operating cost, and they tend to be so cash strapped that even a new penalty box Mirage is well outside of their price range. Consider close to half the U.S. population can’t come up with $500 in an emergency.

      The next time we have a major fuel crisis, it’s REALLY going to hurt.

      1. Totally – the used car market is completely bonkers, but there is no shortage of lightly used German Leasing Wagens (GLW) to choose between for those who like spending $1200 a month on sensors.

  7. Love the morning dump. The last concluding paragraph does get a bit lost in the last story, perhaps separate it out as it’s own closing/”neutral” category… except in the spirit of “the dump” name it… the wipe out, the cool flush, wrap up, clean up, or something

  8. I don’t like the segment name. I thought “Cold Start” was going to be the daily update when I saw that title this morning, it’s a much less repulsive title.

  9. Wonder if I can post on this site? Never could make it thru the kinja haze. Love’ the morning dump’…often the best part of the day!

  10. It’s sad that it is taking government regulation to boost the fuel economy of cars at all. 46 mpg really isn’t that difficult to do.

    On the subject of CAFE standards and fuel economy, and on the subject of poop jokes, I’ve got something to get out of my system here that I posted the following in another topic here, but it’s even more relevant in this topic, and I’ve added to it, so without further adu, here’s a car-oriented info dump:


    The Vehicle Research Institute of Western Washington University made some interesting concepts in the 1970s. The 1978 Viking IV was powered by a 1.5L 4-cylinder diesel from a Volkswagen Rabbit, producing 48 peak horsepower. The car weighed a mere 1,250 lbs. In 1981, the Viking IV was able to average 87.5 mpg during a rally that spanned the continental United States. According to the car’s builder, Professor Michael R. Seal, it was safe enough for the occupants to survive a 50 mph head on collision. In 1982, the car was tested at the GM proving grounds and the Transportation Research Center of Ohio, yielding 73 miles per gallon at a steady 70 mph. It was later upgraded to make use of low rolling resistance tires, a 5 speed transmission with overdrive, and a 1L, 3-cylinder turbo diesel. This allowed it to achieve 100 mpg at a steady 50 mph.

    The Viking VI was built to achieve high fuel economy while exceeding the crash safety standards that were in place; it achieved 118 mpg at a steady 50 mph.

    The Viking VII took this concept even further, proving that high fuel efficiency, safety, and high performance could exist within the same vehicle. It was able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds, achieve over 1G on a skid pad, and still manage 50 mpg highway. It was driven to a top speed of 186 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. It made use of a 4 cylinder DOHC Boxer engine which produced 133 horsepower. These features of high performance, adequate safety, and high fuel economy could coexist within the same vehicle due to a low drag coefficient of only 0.26, a small frontal area, a lightweight composite body, and an aluminum chassis. The performance of this car rivaled some the fastest production cars of the era; for comparison, the legendary Ferrari Daytona did 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds and had a top speed of 175 mph.

    None of the Viking Research Cars have ever reached production. The Avion, modeled off a previous Viking Research car and designed by former VRI student Craig Henderson, was perhaps the closest any of the cars came to being produced. While the car only achieved 40 mpg combined, it could reach a top speed of 135 mph and accelerate from 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds using a 4-cylinder engine from a 1980s model fuel-injected Audi. This combined performance and fuel economy was possible thanks to a 0.27 drag coefficient and a curb weight of only 1,500 lbs.

    The major automakers also demonstrated concepts that were at least equally as impressive.

    Renault unveiled their EVE concept car in 1980. The EVE was built on a Renault R18 chassis, used a supercharged 1.1 L inline 4-cylinder supercharged diesel engine, and had a 0.239 drag coefficient. This engine output a maximum of 50 horsepower. The curb weight of the vehicle was 1,900 lbs. The combination of these traits allowed it to achieve 70 mpg combined fuel economy.

    Expanding upon the previous concept, the Renault EVE+ concept car was revealed to the public in 1983. It used the same 50 horsepower diesel engine as the EVE, but had reduced the curb weight to 1,880 lbs, had reduced the drag coefficient to 0.225, and achieved 63 mpg city, 81 mpg highway.

    While the diesel Renault EVE concept cars were being developed and tested, Renault was also working on their gasoline powered Vesta concept cars. The Renault Vesta was revealed to the motoring public in 1981. It had a weight of 1130 lbs, a 0.25 drag coefficient, and a top speed of 75 mph. The Vesta’s fuel economy is 78 mpg.

    Renault’s next generation of their Vesta concept car had reduced weight and reduced aerodynamic drag, which improved fuel economy and top speed. The 1987 Renault Vesta II weighed only 1,047 lbs, had a 0.186 drag coefficient, a 27 horsepower engine, and was able to return 78 mpg city, 107 mpg highway. Its top speed was over 80 mph.

    Not wanting to be outdone by Renault, Peugeot and Citroen began the ECO 2000 program. The 1981 Citroen SA103 was able to obtain 65 mpg, thanks to a 0.27 drag coefficient, 948 lb curb weight, and a rear-mounted 700cc 2-cylinder gasoline engine.

    The 1983 Citroen SA117 showed a remarkable improvement over its predecessor due to a drag coefficient of 0.21, front mounted engine with a front wheel drive configuration, and a curb weight of only 932 lbs; these improvements resulted in a fuel economy of 79 mpg. The SL117 used the same engine as the SA103.

    The 1982 Citroen SA109 used an upgraded engine to 750cc 3-cylinder gasoline engine. The car weighed in at 1,058 lbs and had a drag coefficient of 0.321, giving a fuel economy of 67 mpg.

    The 1984 Citroen SL110 was the first of the ECO 2000 vehicles revealed to the public. It made use of the SA109’s 35 horsepower engine, which allowed a top speed of 88 mph. The fuel economy was 76 mpg combined, and 112 mpg at a steady 55 mph. This was achievable due to a low drag coefficient of 0.22 and 992 lb curb weight.

    Peugeot also revealed its ECO 2000 concept car. With a drag coefficient of 0.21, 990 lb curb weight, and a 28 horsepower 2-cylinder gasoline engine, the Peugeot ECO 2000 returned 70 mpg city and 77 mpg highway.

    An effort by Peugeot from 1982 were its VERA and VERA+ concept cars. Unlike the ECO 2000, these cars used 50 horsepower turbo diesel engines. The VERA+ had a 0.22 drag coefficient, 1,740 lbs curb weight, and achieved 55 mpg city, 87 mpg highway. The VERA+ also had performance comparable to the commercially available cars of its time, with 0-60 mph acceleration in 13.2 seconds and a top speed of 100 mph.

    The 1981 Volkswagen Auto 2000 obtained 63 mpg city, 71 mpg highway, boasting a 0.25 drag coefficient, 53 horsepower diesel engine, and 1,716 lb curb weight.

    Volkswagen’s E80 diesel concept obtained even better fuel economy. Using a 51 horsepower supercharged 3-cylinder turbo diesel, the 1,540 lb Volkswagen E80 managed to obtain 74 mpg city and 99 mpg highway. It had a 0.35 drag coefficient.

    In 1983, Volvo was able to demonstrate that fuel efficiency, safety, practicality, and performance were possible in a production-ready car with its LCP 2000. First and foremost, the car was designed for maximum safety; not only were the rear seats facing backward so that the center of the car could be designed for added structural rigidity and increased resistance against side impacts, but the car passed a head-on passenger-crash survival test at 35 mph, which exceeded the 30 mph requirement of the time. Performance was excellent for the time period and is still comparable to the entry level compact cars sold today, with 0-60 mph acceleration in 11 seconds and a top speed of 110 mph. Fuel economy was rated at 56 mpg city, 81 mpg highway, and 65 mpg combined. The car weighed a mere 1,555 lbs, had a 0.25 drag coefficient, and was powered by an 88 horsepower diesel engine. In volume of 20,000 cars per year, the cost penalty would have been effectively zero over comparable production cars for the period.

    The 1982 GM TPC managed an astounding 61 mpg city, 74 mpg highway, using a lightweight aluminum body and engine; the curb weight was light at only 1,040 lbs, but the drag coefficient was an unremarkable 0.31. It used a 3-cylinder gasoline engine which only produced 38 horsepower.

    In 1983, GM had upgraded its Lean Machine concept to obtain up to 200 mpg. To obtain such stunning efficiency, the vehicle needed to be as light and as aerodynamic as possible, weighing in at only 400 lbs and having a 0.15 drag coefficient. A 38 horsepower, 2-cylinder Otto cycle engine was able to rocket this machine from 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds. Top speed was 80 mph.

    Not wishing to be surpassed by the American and European automakers, Toyota began experimenting with its AXV series of concept cars in the late 1980s.

    The first Toyota AXV was powered by a 56 horsepower direct-injection diesel engine; this combined with a low curb weighed of under 1,500 lbs, a 0.26 drag coefficient, and a continuously variable transmission allowed the AXV to achieve 89 mpg city, 110 mpg highway, and 98 mpg combined.

    Later incarnations of the AVX were not as fuel-efficient.

    In 1991, Honda developed the EPX, a tandem two-seater concept car that used a 1 liter lean-burn engine, weighed under 1,400 lbs, and supposedly returned a fuel economy of 100 mpg. Currently, the car isn’t in running condition.

    Continuing a trend of fuel efficient concepts, the Honda JVX was unveiled in 1997; using a 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor with a capacitor bank, it was able to manage 67 mpg. Designed for safety, the passenger and driver seat belts are configured to inflate during a crash to help protect the occupants from injuries normally caused by seat belts.

    The Big 3 U.S. automakers also demonstrated some interesting prototypes in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    In 1992, the GM Ultralite demonstrated that it was possible for a four-seater sedan to get an EPA-rated 88 mpg, and obtain 100 mpg at a steady 50 mph. It could also do 0-60 mph in under 8 seconds and top out at 135 mph using a 111 horsepower 1.5L 3-cylinder engine. It had a drag coefficient of 0.19 and weighed in at 1,400 lbs.

    GM, Ford, and Dodge were each given taxpayer funds as part of the Project for a New Generation of vehicles to develop midsized sedans capable of triple the fuel economy of the existing offerings.

    In 1999 GM developed the Precept, a midsized sedan capable of seating 5. It weighed 2600 lbs and had a 0.16 drag coefficient. It was capable of 82 mpg city, 103 mpg highway. Using a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain composed of a 1.3L 54 horsepower Isuzu turbodiesel and a 10 kW 3-phase AC motor, it could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 12.2 seconds and was governed at 85 mph.

    The 1999 Ford Prodigy had a drag coefficient of 0.2, weighed 2,400 lbs, and got 72 mpg. It also had a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain with a 1.2L 74 horsepower turbodiesel and a 46 horsepower electric drive system, and was capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 11 seconds.

    Dodge built the ESX concepts, lightweight, all three of them streamlined midsized sedans. In the year 2000, this effort culminated in the ESX3 prototype. Using a 1.5L 74 horsepower direct injection diesel engine and a 20 horsepower electric drive system, it could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds. Drag coefficient was 0.22, weight was 2,250 lbs, and combined fuel economy was 72 mpg.

    Frustrated that the automakers seemed to be dragging their feet on improving fuel economy, Greenpeace re-designed the 1996 Renault Twingo. Their version was called the Renault Twingo SMILE. They were able to double the fuel economy over the stock Twingo by downsizing the engine to a 3-cylinder 360cc design running a 10:1 compression ratio making 55 horsepower, cutting the drag coefficient of the car to 0.25, reducing mass to 650 kg, and some gearing changes. The result was 69 mpg US, a reduction of fuel consumption by 50% versus the stock Twingo. Performance also improved, with a 0-62 mph time of 10 seconds and a top speed of 107 mph.

    In the early 2000s, Audi and Volkswagen sold two subcompact cars outside of the U.S. that were never available here. They both got excellent fuel economy.

    The VW Lupo 3L used a 1.2L 3-cylinder TDI engine making 60 horsepower. Weighing in at 1,770 lbs, it was capable of 65 mpg city, 87 mpg highway, and 78 mpg combined. 0-60 mph was 14.5 seconds and top speed was 103 mph.

    The Audi A2 1.2 TDI used the same engine as the VW Lup 3L, but weighed 1,880 lbs and had a more slippery 0.25 drag coefficient. Fuel economy was 65 mpg city, 87 mpg highway, and 81 mpg combined. 0-60 mph was 14.9 seconds with a top speed of 104 mph.

    In 2001, Honda made a concept of a supercar called the Dualnote. It was capable of 42 mpg. It used a hybrid drive system capable of 400 combined horsepower with a 3.5L V6. 0-60 mph was 4 seconds.

    The 2001 Opel Astra ECO4 got 53 mpg, using a 1.7L 4-cylinder DTI engine making 74 horsepower. 0-60 mph was 14.5 seconds with a top speed of 110 mph. Curb weight was 2,600 lbs and drag coefficient 0.3.

    The 2001 Toyota ES3 got a combined fuel economy of 87 mpg. Its turbocharged 1.4L 4-cylinder direct-injection diesel engine made 74 horsepower. The car weighed 1,543 lbs and its drag coefficient was 0.23.

    The 2002 Opel Eco Speedster was a reinterpretation of a record-setting Opel GT streamliner from the 1970s. The Eco Speedster used a 4-cylinder 1.3L CDTI diesel engine making 112 horsepower, which was capable of accelerating it from 0-62 mph in 8.9 seconds, allowing it to top out at 160 mph. Its top speed was high thanks to its 0.20 drag coefficient. It also only weighed 1,500 lbs. This combination of factors allowed it to get 93 mpg combined.

    In 2003, Volkswagen showed its Wundercar II concept. It got 117 mpg US, was capable of 0-62 mph in 12 seconds, and had a top speed of 113 mph. Weight was 1,500 lbs. It was powered by a 1.2L TDI engine.

    The 2003 Daihatsu UFE got 129 mpg. It weighed 1,388 lbs, had a drag coefficient of 0.25, and was a parallel hybrid powered by a 660cc 3-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine assisted with an synchronous AC drive system.

    The UFE-II was shown that same year. Weight was reduced to 1,256 lbs, drag coefficient was reduced to 0.19, and fuel economy increased to 141 mpg.

    The 2005 Daihatsu UFE-III saw further economy gains by reducing its weight to 970 lbs and drag coefficient to 0.17. Fuel economy jumped to 170 mpg.

    The 2003 Honda IMAS got get 100 mpg, weighing in at 1,550 lbs and with a drag coefficient of 0.20.

    The 2003 Jetcar 2.5 prototype is said to be capable of 100 mpg, using a 11 horsepower 800cc 3-cylinder diesel engine making 41 horsepower. Weight is 1609 lbs. Top speed is 99 mph.

    In 2004, Toyota showed off its hybrid-electric supercar, the Volta. Getting 40 mpg of gasoline with its 3.3L V6 and electric drive, this AWD 2,756 lb beauty making 402 horsepower could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4 seconds and was electronically limited to 155 mph.

    The 2005 Mercedes Bionic was capable of seating 5 people and got 54.7 mpg, and 84 mpg driven at a constant 55 mph. Drag coefficient was 0.19 and weight was 2,425 lbs. Powered by a 2L 138 horsepower 4-cylinder turbodiesel, it was capable of 0-62 mph acceleration in 8.2 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 118 mph.

    In 2006, Loremo unveiled two very interesting concept cars, the LS, and the GT. The LS got 157 mpg, weighing in at 992 lbs and having a 0.2 drag coefficient. Using a 20 horsepower 2-cylinder diesel engine, it can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 20 seconds and reach 100 mph. The GT version uses a more powerful 50 horsepower 3-cylinder diesel engine, allowing a 0-60 mph time of 9 seconds and a top speed of 137 mph, while still able to get 87 mpg when driven sanely.

    There’s the 2006 VW Ecoracer, which was powered by a 136 horsepower 1.5L turbodiesel, capable of getting 70 mpg. 0-60 mpg was 6.3 seconds with a top speed of 140 mph. The car weighed 1,875 lbs.

    We all know about the Aptera by now.

    I could rant on and on and list plenty more examples. The fact is the auto industry could have gotten better than the new CAFE mandate many decades ago, if it wanted to. A lot less CO2 would have been generated and a lot less money would have been spent on burning fossil fuels. And there would be plenty of space for enthusiast vehicles in that. Technology has only improved since, and so much better is possible.


    That was a big-UN. (Those who speak Japanese might laugh at the pun)

  11. I spent the weekend removing a very poorly installed body kit from a 1993 Del Sol I recently bought. It was apparently a kit for some other, unknown car that was drilled and riveted to this poor car. Because of the rusty Northeast, I was anointed with pounds of sand and rust flakes as I removed the bits. Turns out the proper way to hold on the rear bumper cover is with a 4” chunk of pressure treated wood, a bungee cord and one 3” wood screw. I took photos of the horror and one video if David Tracy is interested in this engineering marvel.

    I also shattered my wrist in February, so I had to do all the work one handed. Fun!

  12. Holy carp, thanks for the breakdown on the CAFE thing! I’ve been seeing this story all over the automotive press and beyond, and the gnashing and wailing in the comments has been *extensive*. Nowhere, though, did anyone bother to get past the headline figures and explain why it’s actually considerably less aggressive than it looks at first glance. That really matters! Good work, keep it up!

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