Thursday, 07 February 2008
As regulations for automakers get tougher, it appears that GM is considering killing off their V8 engines permanently. While the switch may not occur for the next couple years, it is expected that in order to maintain tough standards, GM will soon be making the switch to more fuel efficient engines. How this will be received, particularly for enthusiasts of big cars with a lot of muscle remains to be seen. The new regulations will require that cars have engines capable of producing around 35 mpg, a feat that big V8’s just can’t do.
The first casualty is the Northstar V8 engine. “The replacement of the Northstar, that cancellation was the direct result of the 35-mpg fuel legislation.” GM chairman Rick Wagoner says when the new V-8 family program began, “there was more optimism than we have today.” Lutz also commented that V6’s with special tuning will eventually completely replace their V8 engines.
“So we’re going to see a lot of engine downsizing,” Lutz stated. “What has been V-8 will become V-6, and what was V-6 will become four. That is a relatively inexpensive [$1500 to $2000] solution.” Even with the investment, “it will not get you from 25 mpg to 35 mpg. It will get you part way there. I would predict pickup trucks in the future, and full-size SUVs, will have a lot of diesel engines, and unquestionably the mix will shift to V-6 engines in full-size sport-utilities. You can make a small V-6 behave just like a V-8. All it takes is money.”
Even if the industry ever decides to make the switch to all ethanol vehicles, it would still see the same mix as cars today according to Lutz. He feels that by forcing automakers to get 35 mpg out of their larger engines, more expensive powertrains will have to be used. This will trend towards much more expensive cars, diesels and fuel cell vehicles. He concluded, “Without a shift in fuel, there is going to be a change in the complexion of vehicles offered by the auto industry in the future.”
There has also been talk of the company importing the much more efficient Australian Holden into America in an effort to meet standards, but if this is done, it will not go under the GM moniker according to Lutz. However, it may be used to reintroduce the old El Camino type that was popular in the 1980’s. GM still seems to be up in the air as to the solutions they are going to have to implement in order to meet these new regulations, but Lutz remained pretty close lipped on what the automaker has in store.
Although it is clear that concessions will have to made in order for car makers to meet standards set by the government, what doesn’t remain clear is whether or not consumers will welcome the switch. Although better fuel economy is always welcomed, it may not be embraced as readily if prices skyrocket thanks to more expensive powertrains and other components.