Emission Law May Hinder GM Muscle Cars

December 25, 2007 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

How damaging is the new emission law to automakers? Let General Motors tell its tale…

When GM pulls the wraps off a new supercharged version of the Corvette at the Detroit auto show next month, it will unveil a performance car designed to compete the fastest and most pricey European cars.

But the Corvette’s chief engineer says the 2009 Corvette ZR1 may be the last in a long tradition of Detroit performance cars, endangered by stronger federal fuel economy regulations and limits on carbon dioxide emissions. “High-performance vehicles such as this may actually be legislated out of existence,” Tadge Juechter said at a recent showing of the ZR1, which is engineered to flaunt 620hp.

On Wednesday, President Bush signed into law legislation that will force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. The legislation also requires wider use of ethanol, calling it “a major step” toward energy independence and lessening global warming. Additionally, it requires automakers to increase fuel efficiency by 40% to an industry average 35 mpg by 2020.

But Juechter said to sell one of the Chevrolet supercars, GM would need to offset that with cars that get 45 mpg. “It could really be an endangered species,” he added.

Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst with the consulting firm Global Insight, said predicting the death of the muscle car might be premature. He said, the Corvette fuel efficient when compared with its competitors. Although fuel economy figures weren’t released for the ZR1, the current 505-horsepower Corvette ZO6 gets an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway, according to the automaker.

The ZR1, he said, gets around the same mileage as a Chevrolet pickup truck, and GM won’t be getting out of the pickup business because of gas mileage standards. “I think it’s a little over-dramatization,” Bragman told Associated Press. “GM wants to sell big, high-performance, fun cars. And typically that’s what Americans want to buy. Performance cars of the future may be powered by smaller engines or electric motors, but they won’t die.”

GM describes the ZRI:

“The ZR1 will have a top speed of more than 200 mph, driven by an all-new supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine. It has 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels and a suspension tuned to provide extraordinary cornering grip. The car has a carbon-fiber hood, fenders and roof for weight savings, and its huge carbon-ceramic brake rotors give it great stopping power.”

The 2009 Corvette ZR1 will cost around $100,000 and is set to go on sale next summer.

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