This post is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard blog.
There’s a great story in Bloomberg News about how the new fuel-efficient Dodge Dart is bringing 6,000 jobs to Belvidere, IL. However, a key point missing from the story is the basic fact that the Dart returns Chrysler back to competitiveness in the all-important fuel efficient compact car segment. Yes, it’s fuel efficiency that is driving increased demand for cars among American consumers, as recent sales figures and consumer surveys have shown.
But first, let’s review the positive news out of Belvidere:
Chrysler, under the control of Italy’s Fiat SpA (F), has surged back to health since its 2009 bankruptcy and government bailout, and it’s bringing Belvidere along for the ride. The factory completes hiring for a third crew this month, which will bring it to 4,500 workers cranking out vehicles 120 hours a week. It employed as few as 200 people three years ago… Chrysler's investment will bring total employment by the automaker and its suppliers in the region to 6,000, according to the area's economic development group.
The surge of hiring in Belvidere is a direct result of Chrysler’s expectations of major sales growth in fuel-efficient compact cars. The Dodge Dart represents Chrysler’s opening bid to capture market share in this hotly-contested segment. With an EPA-rated maximum of 39 miles per gallon highway (including an expected 41 MPG for the optional Aero package) the Dart ranks with the mileage leaders in the compact, or C segment.
Consumers have clearly expressed their desire for fuel efficient cars, with a recentConsumer Reports survey showing that consumers rank fuel efficiency as their #1 priority when purchasing a new vehicle. A shift in priorities is taking place among American car buyers, and automakers are responding with ever-more fuel efficient products to meet that demand.
This new bumper crop of fuel-efficient cars and surging consumers for fuel sippers clearly demonstrates the wisdom of setting long-term fuel efficiency standards. Model year 2012 is the first year of the new carbon pollution and fuel-efficiency standard program that was originally agreed to in 2009 and requires the average fuel efficiency to gradually increase until it hits 35.5 mpg in 2016.
These new standards are doing exactly what they are supposed to do: deliver the fuel-efficient cars that consumers clearly want. The fuel-efficiency product pipeline will continue because this August, the Obama Administration is expected to finalize the second phase of the rule that will double the fuel efficiency of today’s car to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg.
With a heated competition among auto manufacturers to claim the “most efficient” title in the compact car segment underway, consumers and manufacturers alike benefit, and our nation can look forward to more win-win job creation stories like this one out of Belvidere.