A print advertisement in the March 1976 National Geographic Magazine shows two 1976 Honda Civics, hatchbacks of somewhat putrid brown and goldish tones.
The headline of the ad says, “Highest mileage or lowest price. The 1976 Honda Civics.”
A chart in the ad says that the average sedan or hatchback with a manual 4- or 5-speed transmission (costing only $2,729) reached EPA estimates of 43 miles per gallon on the highway, 32 in the city and 36 mpg combined.
And where are we today? What has happened in 32 years of American “progress,” “advancements in technology” and “economic growth” (well, until these last several years)?
Comparing Today’s Honda with Yesterday’s
I have a 2008 Honda Civic, and its mileage ratings when I bought it earlier this year were: 36 highway, 25 city and 29 combined.
To be fair in making comparisons, the EPA has relatively recently shifted its procedures for establishing mileage estimates. They are now supposed to be set by taking into account realistic day-to-day driving habits — e.g. air conditioner turned on, imperfect conditions, etc.
As the Honda salesman told us when we bought our Civic, today’s estimates are absolutely achievable and even surpassable, depending on how the driver handles the car. (As I blogged about previously — St. Louis to Chicago: Putting a 55-MPH Drive to the Weekend Road Trip Test — it turned out he was right.)
In the past, perhaps when the 1976 Civics came out, those numbers of 43-32-36 were a bit out of reach. I couldn’t say. I was a bit shy of driving age at the time.
In the September 1977 National Geographic Magazine, a Toyota Trucks ad boasted half-ton pickups getting 34 mpg on the highway and 24 in the city. And it even followed the claim with a bit of candid humility:
“These mileage figures are estimates. The actual mileage you get will vary depending on your driving habits and your truck’s condition and equipment.”
It seems refreshing to read such honesty in advertising.
But it shouldn’t seem shocking or dismaying to read that 30-plus years ago, auto manufacturers were further ahead in providing quality and economy to consumers than where they — and we — are today.
Gas Hole Lays Out the Whys and Why Nots of Oil Dependence
If Gas Hole — an independent documentary film that is touring the U.S. under the wing of two avowed Republicans who show the history of oil dependence has been manipulated — is correct, then there has been much collusion between the U.S. government, the oil industry and the auto industry to keep fuel economy stagnated.
Triple-digit gas mileage has been achievable for decades. Not only do auto manufacturers surely know this, but the occasional mechanic in nowhere corners of the U.S. has figured it out and proved it on a number of occasions.
In the so-called mightiest and freedom-lovingest and most-advanced nation on Earth, why does my brand new Honda Civic get lower gas mileage than the Honda Civic that was created more than 30 years ago?
I’ve got my hunches. What are yours?