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Old 01-12-2004, 11:16 PM   #1
Jon [in CT]
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Default 2005 US Outbacks to be Classified as Light Trucks to Sidestep CAFE fines?

This is from tomorrow's NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/13/ar...efe0eb62ec6c14:
Quote:
To Avoid Fuel Limits, Subaru Is Turning a Sedan Into a Truck

By DANNY HAKIM

Published: January 13, 2004

DETROIT, Jan. 12 The Subaru Outback sedan looks like any other midsize car, with a trunk and comfortable seating for four adults.

But Subaru is tweaking some parts of the Outback sedan and wagon this year to meet the specifications of a light truck, the same regulatory category used by pickups and sport utilities. Why? Largely to avoid tougher fuel economy and air pollution standards for cars.

It is the first time an automaker plans to make changes in a sedan like raising its ground clearance by about an inch and a half so it can qualify as a light truck. But it is hardly the first time an automaker has taken advantage of the nation's complex fuel regulations, which divide each manufacturer's annual vehicle fleet into two categories. Light trucks will have to average only 21.2 miles a gallon in the 2005 model year. By contrast, each automaker's full fleet of passenger cars must average 27.5 miles a gallon.

The move will let Subaru sell more vehicles with turbochargers, which pep up performance but hurt mileage and increase pollution. "It was difficult to achieve emissions performance with the turbos," said Fred D. Adcock, executive vice president of Subaru of America. They also made it hard to meet fleetwide fuel economy standards for cars.

Subaru's strategy highlights what environmentalists, consumer groups and some politicians say is a loophole in the fuel economy regulations that has undermined the government's ability to actually cut gas consumption. The average fuel economy for new vehicles is lower now than it was two decades ago, despite advances in fuel-saving technology.

"This is a new low for the auto industry, and it would make George Orwell proud," said Daniel Becker, a global warming expert at the Sierra Club.

It is particularly striking that Subaru wants to call the Outback a light truck because many of its owners see the wagon version as a rugged alternative to a sport utility, and the Outback sells best in those parts of the country, like college towns, where many people think it unfashionable to own an S.U.V.

"I probably can't count my friends with Outbacks on one hand I'd have to use feet and toes," said Elizabeth Ike, 29, a fund-raiser at Sweet Briar College, which is an hour south of Charlottesville, Va. She said "the Outback might as well be Charlottesville's official car," adding that the town "likes to think of itself as an island that is more globally aware than the rest of the state."

"I don't want to speak for my friends, but I think they probably don't want to be that person in the Excursion," she said, referring to Ford's largest sport utility.


Elizabeth Ike, from Albemarle
County, Va, with her new Subaru
Outback.


Subaru, a unit of Fuji Heavy Industries, says the new Outback, which will make its debut next month at the Chicago auto show and go on sale this spring, will retain its not-an-S.U.V. image because the changes being made are technical in nature. What customers will notice will be the new Outback's glossier look, executives said. Further, the base model will be more fuel efficient than the current version.

They said that calling the Outback a light truck will also let them offer the option of a tinted rear window not allowed on passenger cars.

Subaru executives noted that the sedan version of the Outback accounts for only about 8 percent of the model's sales, or about 3,500 vehicles a year; the rest are wagons. But critics say the actual numbers are less important than the precedent that the reclassification would set.

"If they can do it with a sedan, then anyone can do it with a sedan," said John DeCicco, a senior fellow and fuel economy expert at Environmental Defense. "It's almost like anything goes at this point."

Federal regulations originally set less-stringent fuel economy and emissions requirements for light trucks to avoid penalizing builders, farmers and other working people who relied on pickups. But the exemption opened the way for automakers to replace sedans and station wagons with vehicles that fit the definition of a light truck, notably sport utility vehicles and minivans.

Light trucks now account for more than half of all passenger vehicles sold in the country, up from about a fifth in the late 1970's.

The Transportation Department oversees corporate average fuel economy regulations and fines companies that do not comply with the rules.

Companies that change a borderline vehicle can benefit in two ways, because a big wagon that can sink an automaker's car average may improve its truck average. That, in turn, makes it possible to produce more big trucks and still meet the overall truck standard.

Since the regulatory system was put in place after the oil shocks of the 1970's, the industry has not only invented the minivan and greatly expanded the sport utility and pickup markets, but also started selling wagonlike "crossover" vehicles, like Chrysler's PT Cruiser, that blend cars and S.U.V.'s but are designed to meet the specifications of light trucks.



There are different ways to make a car meet the federal definition of a light truck, including making the rear seats removable to give a wagon a flat loading floor or raising a vehicle's ground clearance to at least 20 centimeters, or a little less than 8 inches. Subaru will raise the Outback's height from a minimum of 7.3 inches to as much as 8.7 inches next year, and will make other adjustments, like altering the position of the rear bumper, to meet light truck specifications.

Significantly raising the ride height can have a hazardous effect on a vehicle's stability. Part of the current Outback's appeal is that it performs better than S.U.V.'s on rollover tests.

"I live in the northern suburbs of New York and I saw a lot of S.U.V.'s on their backs like turtles," said Ralph Schiavone, 46, a consultant who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., explaining why he bought an Outback.

Tim Hurd, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a branch of the Transportation Department, said a vehicle either met the specific technical requirements of being a light truck, or it did not. "They aren't a judgment call," he said.

Added to the complexity of the system is the fact that tailpipe emissions of pollutants are overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has classification rules that do not match those of the Transportation Department. The E.P.A., however, has said it will phase out the distinction between cars and trucks this decade.

Congressional efforts to change fuel economy standards face entrenched opposition from some members of both political parties. But last month, the Bush administration proposed an overhaul of fuel regulations for light trucks and an altered definition to rein in classification problems.

Environmental groups and consumer advocates have generally criticized the administration's proposals as potentially making a complicated system even more prone to manipulation, though they say aspects of the plan in an early, undetailed form could be beneficial.
The Chicago Auto Show might have some interesting surprises this year.
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Last edited by Jon [in CT]; 01-13-2004 at 06:17 AM.
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Old 01-12-2004, 11:31 PM   #2
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It's sad to see the system having to be worked, but to make room for a future STi Legacy. It sure would be nice if Subaru could get hp and efficiency like some other companies.
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Old 01-12-2004, 11:31 PM   #3
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I hope nobody was planning on autocrossing a new Outback -- no 4x4 trucks allowed.
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Old 01-12-2004, 11:48 PM   #4
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It appears a key change for the 2005 US Outback will be "raising its ground clearance by about an inch and a half." I believe Subaru Australia does something very similar (jacks up ground clearance) to take advantage of the more favorable import tariffs on "work vehicles" when compared to those imposed on cars.
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Old 01-12-2004, 11:49 PM   #5
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Good move, loop hole or not, this already means turbo everything at Subaru!! I guess now we know two other things- Why the need for Subaru to produce a larger SUV and the probability of the R1e electric city car or B9 Scrambler hybrid. The regulations will eventually require every automaker selling cars in the US to produce a percentage of electric or hybrid vehicles.

This statement bothers me though- "The move will let Subaru sell more vehicles with turbochargers, which pep up performance but hurt mileage and increase pollution."

This journalist is obviously playing up the myth that more power = more pollutants. There is no solid proof that higher horsepower vehicles actually pollute more, it's a generalized statement that is aimed at appeasing tree huggers. I just wish media wouldn't throw bull out there just to get a gasp out of people.
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Old 01-12-2004, 11:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by subyfanatic
This journalist is obviously playing up the myth that more power = more pollutants. There is no solid proof that higher horsepower vehicles actually pollute more, it's a generalized statement that is aimed at appeasing tree huggers. I just wish media wouldn't throw bull out there just to get a gasp out of people.
Well, compare the California version 2005 Legacy 2.5i (PZEV, SULEV2) versus the 2005 Legacy 2.5 GT (LEV). There's a huge difference in emissions between these two engines, which are otherwise similar except one has a turbocharger.

Last edited by Jon [in CT]; 01-13-2004 at 12:08 AM.
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Old 01-13-2004, 12:03 AM   #7
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I still wouldn't mind a 250hp turbo GT that got 32-35mpg for trips. Too bad we can't have two fuel map modes, one for power, the other for economy. Now that would be the ticket!
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Old 01-13-2004, 12:07 AM   #8
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Gaming the DOT regulations was once a hallmark of Subaru of America. The very first model it sold here, the 360, was imported under safety standards meant for motorcycles (i.e. vehicles weighing less than 1000 lbs).
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Old 01-13-2004, 12:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jon [in CT]
Well, compare the 2005 Legacy 2.5i (PZEV, SULEV2) versus the 2005 Legacy 2.5 GT (LEV). There's a huge difference in emissions between these two engines, which are otherwise similar except one has a turbocharger.
There's definitely a difference but this guy writes it up like it blows black smoke out the exhaust. The 2.5GT is still a LEV, no?

And in regards to Gaming the DOT regulations- remember the BRAT.
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Old 01-13-2004, 02:32 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by SUBE555
I still wouldn't mind a 250hp turbo GT that got 32-35mpg for trips. Too bad we can't have two fuel map modes, one for power, the other for economy. Now that would be the ticket!
Hehe yeah, we'll have to see if Cobb comes out with an accessport for the Legacy.
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Old 01-13-2004, 02:42 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jon [in CT]
It appears a key change for the 2005 US Outback will be "raising its ground clearance by about an inch and a half." I believe Subaru Australia does something very similar (jacks up ground clearance) to take advantage of the more favorable import tariffs on "work vehicles" when compared to those imposed on cars.
The current Outback VDC's ground clearance is 7.9"... If it were to be raised another inch and a half, that would mean 9.4"... That would be a lot of ground clearance even for a full-size SUV.
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Old 01-13-2004, 03:48 AM   #12
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Here's the handy graphic that accompanied the article:

Outback graphic

Sorry, it's a 2004 Outback sedan, not the '05.
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Old 01-13-2004, 03:51 AM   #13
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I agree Phoenix!

ilara72, I agree. Would be better though stock, but I won't complain if it came from that company.

(Don't think I can say Cobb on here anymore without warning points.)
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Old 01-13-2004, 11:07 AM   #14
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Wow, I knew the GM/Fuji link would payoff eventually, and here it is!

(if im not mistaken, GM has missed its CAFE average for the last few years, but has not been disiplined because of 'past credits')
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Old 01-13-2004, 01:38 PM   #15
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Here's the story the AP just sent over the wires:
Quote:

Subaru modifies Outback to make a truck



The Associated Press
1/13/2004, 11:44 a.m. ET



DETROIT (AP) Subaru is modifying its Outback sedan and wagon to meet the specifications of a light truck, a classification with less stringent fuel and emissions standards than for cars.

Mike Whelan, a spokesman for Subaru of America Inc., said Tuesday that the changes for the 2005 model year are in response to feedback from Outback owners who requested features only allowed in trucks, such as higher ground clearance and tinted side-rear windows.

Federal regulations on fuel economy and emissions divide companies' fleets into two categories cars and light trucks. An automaker's car fleet must have an average fuel economy of 27.5 miles per gallon for the 2005 model year, while trucks must average 21 miles. By pushing a borderline vehicle into the truck fleet, a company gains more flexibility for that vehicle and can also boost its truck-fleet average.

Emissions standards for trucks are also less stringent than those for cars.

Whelan acknowledged that the Outback switch, initially reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, will subject it to lower fuel economy and environmental standards, but emphasized that the main reason was to provide the features customers want.

"One thing to keep in mind is that our vehicles do get good fuel economy across the board," he said.

Whelan said fuel economy figures for the 2005 Outback, which is to be introduced at the Chicago Auto Show next month, were not yet available.
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Old 01-13-2004, 01:39 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by SUBE555
(Don't think I can say Cobb on here anymore without warning points.)


Cobb, Cobb, Cobb, Cobb, Cobb, Cobb.
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Old 01-13-2004, 02:05 PM   #17
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Well I guess baja = plan A, sedan truck = plan B?
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Old 01-13-2004, 02:33 PM   #18
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Hmm, maybe a 6MT would help their CAFE over any "reinforced" 5MT.

Or, they could make 'WRC Rally' editions of *all* the cars (increased height, bumpers, etc) and make a whole line of Impreza "trucks" and Legacy "trucks" etc etc to compliment the Baja "truck" (Legacy platform) and F-XT SUV/truck (Impreza platform).

Go Suabru, work those loopholes!
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Old 01-13-2004, 02:39 PM   #19
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How about using the 3.900 FDR and accompanying ratios, I don't see why the 4.444 is needed in the FXT with the amount of torque it outputs.
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Old 01-13-2004, 02:55 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by bemani
Well I guess baja = plan A, sedan truck = plan B?

Step 1. Baja
Step 2. Sedan Truck
Step 3.
Step 4. Profit!


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Old 01-13-2004, 03:19 PM   #21
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I have a question for the thread.I am a salesperson at a Subaru dealership.We got a call today from a customer that had read this article in the paper today and he was furious that Subaru would do this.Does anyone else see this as some huge negative move by Subaru?I was stunned that someone would react the way this customer did so just curious.The tone of this thread has not seemed all that negative so far so maybe this guy was just off his rocker,not sure.Thanks for your time gang!

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Old 01-13-2004, 03:54 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally posted by secorsubaru
I have a question for the thread.I am a salesperson at a Subaru dealership.We got a call today from a customer that had read this article in the paper today and he was furious that Subaru would do this.Does anyone else see this as some huge negative move by Subaru?I was stunned that someone would react the way this customer did so just curious.The tone of this thread has not seemed all that negative so far so maybe this guy was just off his rocker,not sure.Thanks for your time gang!
I can see where the guy is coming from.

I don't know that I am "furious", but seeing a company that markets itself as "anti-SUV" trying to hide its marginal fuel economy behind the "light truck" loophole--a primary example of oil/auto industry and government corruption for many people--is not a positive thing.
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Old 01-13-2004, 03:59 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by secorsubaru
I have a question for the thread.I am a salesperson at a Subaru dealership.We got a call today from a customer that had read this article in the paper today and he was furious that Subaru would do this.Does anyone else see this as some huge negative move by Subaru?
This board is largely Subaru performance enthusiasts, so it may not be representative of typical Subaru buyers. While I like performance, I also like the fact that Subaru's are efficient and practical, and eco-friendly. The move to using the light truck rules to allow less fuel efficiency in the Subaru fleet I see as a big negative. I'm not quite "furious" but I am very unhappy to see this kind of move.
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Old 01-13-2004, 04:46 PM   #24
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I really do not feel that Subaru will go away from trying to make fuel effiecent cars,with the price of gas going the way it is that would be suicide,but this move does allow more perfomance vehicles to come into the fold.Without this move I believe that Subaru would be at there limit in this country in regards to performance vehicles.Lets face it,our beloved AWD adds weight and effects fuel economy.
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Old 01-13-2004, 04:47 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by secorsubaru
I have a question for the thread.I am a salesperson at a Subaru dealership.We got a call today from a customer that had read this article in the paper today and he was furious that Subaru would do this.Does anyone else see this as some huge negative move by Subaru?I was stunned that someone would react the way this customer did so just curious.The tone of this thread has not seemed all that negative so far so maybe this guy was just off his rocker,not sure.Thanks for your time gang!
I consider myself to be a little more representative of the historical Subaru community than most people on this board (Read: since the pre-Impreza/Legacy days). Although that's my opinion so take it for what it's worth.
I can't say the annoncement makes me furious either, as I'm well aware that most of the rest of the industry does it as well. However I do find it dissapointing from a company that has been trying to portray itself as "green" in recent years.

So, a HUGE negative? No.
A negative at all? Yes, definitely.
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