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Surveys say that seven years ago (2000 for those of you who didn’t pass Math class), fuel economy ranked as the 29th most important attribute when buying a car in the United States. If you recall Y2K, gas was cheap.

Surveys say that in 2007 (that would be the here and now) fuel economy ranks as the 22nd most important attribute for American car buyers. Huh? Gas is $3.25 a gallon below the 49th. What do car buyers consider to be more important? Stereos and other convenience features amongst other things.

CNN reports that taxes on gasoline in Europe and Japan add $4 and $3.25 to each gallon, but only 40 cents in the USofA. Not much wonder people consider fuel economy to be of little importance in the States, and a BIG priority in Europe/Japan. Not much wonder people in Europe drive 36MPG vehicles, Japanese drive 31MPG vehicles, and Americans drive 21MPG vehicles – on average. Not much wonder AutoNation‘s Mike Jackson says, “Customers will trade five miles per gallon to get fancy cupholders.”

NOT MUCH WONDER asking GM, Ford, Chrysler, and other importers to increase efficiency has little effect on gallons guzzled and greenhouse gases gushed. NOT MUCH WONDER Americans, in general, have little desire to conserve gasoline. Gas is cheap in the United States, so the 21MPG car Bush would have you drive nets you $100 versus the 20MPG car over 10,000miles. Nobody cares.

Encouraging conservation only works when people feel burdened to conserve. Do I want higher gas prices when I vacation in the States? No. But being The Good Car Guy, I am utterly and totally willing to recognize some fuel efficient vehicles as good cars. And I am awfully willing to recognize that higher fuel prices encourage me to do the following:

  • Maintain the tire pressure that the vehicle manufacturer recommended. Muy importante
  • Avoid excess weight in the trunk (such as winter tires and hockey gear)
  • Use cruise control whenever possible on the highway to avoid unfocused acceleration
  • See stoplights turn red up ahead? Start coasting now or otherwise use energy that will only be absorbed when braking
  • Accelerate gradually (unless you see the punk in his ’92 Civic with 18-inch wheels and a 4″ exhaust tip