NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Carmakers Do Away with Spare Tire to Increase Fuel Efficiency

July 1, 2011

The Department of Transportation is floating 62 miles per gallon (mpg) as a possible fuel efficiency standard for 2025, more than double the current 27.5 mpg standard.  How the industry can meet that target, and at what cost, is anyone's guess.  A new study in mid-June by the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research put the tab at about $10,000 extra per new vehicle, while admitting that even this estimate might be far too low, says Sam Kazman, general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

And that's not the only bad news; in the past few weeks there have been two other unwelcome developments.  First, General Motors announced that several versions of its compact Chevy Cruze would no longer have spare tires; instead, they'll have vehicle-powered sealant repair kits.  This is a major jump in the trend toward eliminating spare tires, a trend due largely to corporate average fuel economy's (CAFE) drive to shed every possible ounce of car weight.

  • Some argue that spare tires are unnecessary given the growing presence of run-flat tires, tire pressure monitors and roadside assistance systems.
  • But the fact that spares are being eliminated in the name of fuel economy, rather than market demand, demolishes one of the chief claims of CAFE's advocates.
  • For several decades, the need to reduce vehicle size and weight in order to raise mileage has been CAFE's Achilles' heel.
  • Smaller, lighter cars not only hold fewer passengers and less baggage; they're also less crashworthy.
  • CAFE-induced downsizing causes several thousand additional traffic deaths per year.

Getting rid of spare tires alone won't be nearly enough to meet the more stringent mandates that are looming, says Kazman.

Source: Sam Kazman, "Why Your New Car Doesn't Have a Spare Tire," Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2011.

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