Stung by public perception that it made mostly low-mileage trucks, GM embarked two years ago on a marketing campaign with the tagline, "From Gas-Friendly to Gas-Free." The notion was to wrap all its green initiatives into one, easy-to-understand package.
The "Gas-Friendly" part, first of five neat little logos, rested on GM's claim that the company offered US buyers more cars with highway mileage of 30 miles per gallon and higher than any other company (20 of them for the 2009 model year).
Since then, the company has continued to make incremental improvements in mileage, particularly on the highway side. The latest evidence: Chevy says the EPA will shortly certify the redesigned 2010 Chevrolet Equinox crossover at 32 mpg on the highway, when equipped with the 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive. (City mileage is expected to be 22 mpg.)
GM contrasts the Equinox ratings of 22 city / 32 highway to the Honda CR-V (20 city / 27 highway) and Toyota RAV-4 (22 city / 28 highway). Much of the credit goes to the standard six-speed automatic, which provides power at lower engine speeds under highway cruising, cutting consumption a lot.
Using that same transmission and a V-6 engine, even the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro LS racked up a rating of 29 mpg highway. We think the Camaro is pretty irrelevant to GM's future, but for such a heavy car, 29 mpg is still pretty impressive.
The trouble with the "more 30-MPG-highway cars than anyone else" claim, though, is that many of those cars are simply different nameplates on the same basic vehicle.
With Obama's auto-industry oversight board insisting that superfluous brands--like Saturn and Pontiac--be axed, those badge-engineered models will all go away. In fact, of the 20 vehicles GM touts with highway mileage of 30 mpg or higher, more than half (12 of them) are doomed.
- G3, G5, G6 coupe, G6 Flex-Fuel coupe, G6 sedan, G6 Flex-Fuel sedan, Vibe
And from Saturn:
- Astra 3-door, Astra 5-door, Aura Hybrid, Aura, Vue Hybrid
The Chevrolet survivors (none from Cadillac or GMC) are:
- Aveo 4-door, Aveo 5-door, Cobalt Coupe, Cobalt Sedan, HHR, HHR Panel, Malibu Hybrid, Malibu
But we think it's kind of a dumb marketing claim anyway. It doesn't matter how many models you have over 30 mpg; it's how many you actually, you know, sell. With reports of Pontiac G3 and G5 models piling up on dealer lots, plus plummeting Saturn sales, we fear GM isn't doing so well there.
We await the day when GM shows it has sold more cars with highway mileage over 30 mpg than any other maker. But since Honda has been the full-line manufacturer with the highest overall Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rating for many years, we're not yet holding our breath yet.
2010 Chevrolet Equinox