Keen observers of the auto industry will remember that as part of its deal with the US government, Fiat agreed to introduce a US built vehicle that delivered 40 unadjusted mpg.
The Dodge Dart, which will be introduced at next week's Detroit Auto Show, is evidently that car. This is an important vehicle for Chrysler and not just because it fulfills a commitment made to our government.
Early reports are that the vehicle is a credible entrant into what is an increasingly crowded segment. But I have to take issue with many of the reports now circulating.
The problem is that the terms of the government agreement referenced an unadjusted 40 mpg. Presumably, this is the mpg used to calculate CAFE performance. It is certainly not the number consumers will find on the EPA window sticker. Our calculations suggest the final number will be closer to 30 mpg combined.
My issue is not really with Chrysler who is just repeating the terms of the agreement. It is the way that the agreement was worded that is the problem. Or at least part of the problem. The larger portion of the problem is that we have so many mpg's being calculated now that confusion is inevitable.
The recently proposed new CAFE standards take this situation and only make it worse. Start with the headline grabbing 54.5 mpg, which is actually a calculated number driven based on CO2 emissions, then add in credits and offsets and it seems clear that CAFÉ performance will exist on paper, but not be anything consumers can expect to see in the real world.
But back to Chrysler. Here are some examples of how the mpg for the Dart is being misreported:
From Torque News: "The 2013 Dodge Dart hits 40mpg, earns Fiat 5% more Chrysler"
From Motor Authority: "2013 Dodge Dart Achieves 40 MPG Combined In Testing?"
And here's the Chrysler release that triggered these reports.