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After following the car industry for many years now, I’ve noticed that there’s quite a juxtaposition between the types of cars sold to Americans and Europeans. Take Mercedes Benz for example. Mercedes has sold the smaller A-Class and B-Class cars all over the world, but up until now, neither have been sold in the states. Why? They’re small in comparison to many cars on the road here, and the low horsepower engines that come standard were found to be equally as “boring,” regardless of their better fuel efficiency rating. 2012 marks the first year that either model will be sold stateside, and some argue that it’s quite a gamble for the German automaker whose smallest car is on this side of the Atlantic is the C-Class.

These days, there’s more than enough reason to believe that everything is bigger in Texas, as well as the other 49 states. Looking at the best selling cars in the U.S. versus Europe, the first two slots paint an interesting picture. The Ford F-150 & Chevy Silverado mid-sized pickup trucks take the number one and two spots, respectively, on the 2011 list for the best selling American cars and trucks. The Volkswagen Golf and Polo, respectively, take the top seats for Europe. Comparing the top cars in both markets by fuel efficiency sheds light on what a luxury big cars and trucks actually are. The 2011 F-150 gets an average of 22.5 mpg, paired with Ford’s new Ecoboost technology, while the Silverado averages 18 mpg. The American version of the 2011 Volkswagen Golf posts an average of 28 mpg, while the 2011 Polo gets almost 32 mpg.

Gas pricesTo put that into perspective, if we use 14.5 gallons as the fuel load (a full tank of gas in the Golf) in this comparison, a full tank on the Golf gets almost 80 extra miles between each fill-up as compared to the F-150 with Ecoboost. That’s almost $16 extra in your pocket each time you get refill when gas prices hit $4.50 this summer. And that’s just the statistic for the American gasoline powered Golf. The popular Volkswagen diesel models in Europe of both come in at much higher fuel efficiency ratings, with some even getting over 70 mpg on average.

According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, it seems as if most Americans actually want better fuel efficiency and are willing to pay more for it, but gas guzzling pickups still remain the top sellers across the country. The survey also reported that 73% of those questioned would consider a vehicle with an alternative fuel source when looking at a new car.

So why are Americans still so keen on the idea of gas guzzling trucks and SUVs when a healthy percentage of the market doesn’t need the size? Large trucks and pickups have been iconic within the American auto industry, but it seems the culture is changing as of late. Just look at the Toyota Prius, which has sales of over 1.15 million in the U.S. alone since it’s introduction in 2000. Perhaps automakers are just starting to react to the Americans who are fed up with paying so much at the pump and offering them an alternative to gas guzzlers. Or maybe the consumer trend of downsizing to save money on gas has sparked a shift in demand towards greener cars. Whatever the cause, this transition towards a greener auto industry can only mean good things for not only the environment, but your wallet too.


Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.