Cynical Synapse

Fri, 12 Jun 2009

GSA’s Green Car Buy Really Brown?

Filed under: Bailout, Business, Cars, Economy, Environment, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 4:59 pm

Brown as in bullshit brown. The Government Services Administration (GSA) placed orders for 14,105 fuel-efficient vehicles using $210 million in Recovery Act funding. That’s an average cost of $14,888 per vehicle—not a bad deal for the taxpayers.

Green car

But what does fuel-efficient mean to GSA? Case in point: Chrysler orders amount 2,933 vehicles, but their line-up doesn’t include any hybrids except the cancelled Durango/Aspen line. At a $5,000 premium over the non-hybrid model, is it really worth the 3-6 MPG benefit at a measly 20 MPG city/22 highway? The non-hybrid flex-fuel version gets 14 city/19 highway. More importantly, though, Chrysler can’t afford to run the Durango line just for the Feds. Chrysler’s cars average 21 city/30 highway and the Jeep product line is typically 21 city/25 highway.

GM has a wider variety of choices, but their so-called fuel efficient vehicles are in the ballpark with Chrysler’s. They have an average rating in the 22 city/32 highway neighborhood with hybrid versions only a couple MPG better than their non-hybrid models. GM’s big SUVs have very similar ratings to Chrysler’s; only the Saturn Vue hybrid is notable at 25 city/32 highway.

Ford, on the other hand, offers the mid-size Escape SUV with 34 city/31 highway and Fusion sedan at 41 city/36 highway, starting at $29k and $27k, respectively. At $19k, the base Fusion rates 23 city/24 highway and the base Escape costs $20.5k for 22 city/28 highway. I realize the government buys above base models, and that hybrids include a number of options as standard, but there’s a hefty surcharge for the hybrid option. Ford has 7 non-hybrid models that get 26 MPG or better on the highway. The Expedition is in synch with ratings for the other big non-hybrid SUVs.

GSA declines to identify the models, leaving questions about just how significant the buy is. The statement replacing “on a one-for-one basis” with vehicles having “a higher miles-per-gallon (MPG) rating” is open to wide speculation. Across the fleet, even a mile or two better rating is significant, but not if it’s offset by cost premiums for hybrids and such. In the Chrysler example, most Jeeps are a better deal than a Dodge Durango.

Claims of helping autoworkers and automakers may be far-fetched, as well. GM and Chrysler are in bankruptcy, with plants shuttered at least until they come out of Chapter 11. In any case, the GSA buy won’t put anyone back to work real soon since Ford, GM, and Chrysler all still have hugh backlogs of unsold vehicles.

Perhaps more telling, GSA bought 22,300 flex-fuel vehicles last year. Even if all 17k in this buy were flex fuel, it’s still behind last year. And since GSA bought 68,000 vehicles in 2008, the touted 14,105 vehicles won’t save the domestic auto industry.

1 Comment

  1. very good thanks

    Comment by kars — Sat, 13 Jun 2009 @ 3:09 am

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