GM, why can't you be straight with us?

General Motors is at it again. This time it’s their Chevrolet division playing it sly with the numbers. Their current television ad says:

If Toyota gets credit for having the most fuel efficient cars in Canada, how do you explain this?

And while the announcer reads the copy, we see Chevrolet and Toyota cars paired up with their fuel economy ratings.

  • Malibu: 48 mpg
  • Camry: 46 mpg
  • Cobalt: 52 mpg
  • Corolla: 50 mpg
  • Silverado: 31 mpg
  • Tundra: 29 mpg
  • Equinox: 46 mpg
  • RAV 4: 41 mpg

It looks pretty impressive for Chevrolet. Right off the bat however, I noticed two things.

First, these ratings are miles per UK gallon, not US gallon. I know this because there’s no way a Cobalt gets 52 miles per US gallon. I consider this a bit of a dodge because if you want to quote fuel efficiency in Canada, you do it with litres per 100 kilometres. If you quote miles per gallon, it’s US gallons. The only reason to use UK gallons is to make the number look larger. We get US television stations in Canada and we see US car ads that advertise miles per US gallons. UK gallons are larger so the miles per UK gallon figures will seem far more impressive. But since they started it, I’m going to continue to use UK gallons in this posting.

Second, as stated in the commercial, these are all highway ratings. When I went to look for a car two years ago, the domestic car makers did well with highway fuel economy, but their city ratings were uniformly poor. And where do we drive most often? The city. At least most of us do.

So I did some checking. Let me share a more the complete picture with you.

  • Malibu: 30/48 mpg (city/highway)
  • Camry: 30/46 mpg (city/highway)

With the city ratings being the same, a 4% better highway rating doesn’t exactly bring the house down in favour of the Malibu. Unless you’re a heavy highway driver, the Malibu has only a slight advantage.

  • Cobalt: 35/52 mpg (city/highway)
  • Corolla: 38/50 mpg (city/highway)

If most of your mileage is in the city, giving up 2 mpg highway for 3 mpg city is a no-brainer. It still doesn’t make a huge difference. The Corolla does win this one, though. The Cobalt numbers are for the base model. It’s got a 5-speed manual transmission, taller gears, and harder tires … not to mention no options.

  • Silverado: 19/29 mpg (city/highway)
  • Tundra: 20/29 mpg (city/highway)

You’ll notice I changed the Silverado’s highway mileage from 31 to 29 mpg. Why? Because the 31 mpg figure is for the hybrid. The best highway fuel economy for a pure gasoline engine is 29 mpg for the 5.3 litre V8. Nice try, Chevrolet. With the city figures being almost the same, I declare the Tundra the winner for not trying to slip in a hybrid, and hoping no one notices. Jeez Louise.

If that’s an acceptable substitution, let’s put the Prius (76/71 mpg) up against the Cobalt (35/52 mpg) and see who wins that one. Yea, I didn’t think so.

  • Equinox: 31/46 mpg (city/highway)
  • RAV 4: 30/41 mpg (city/highway)

Well, look at that. Chevrolet finally actually wins one after three attempts to claim they won what were actually ties. Even their grand claims are only impressive when you take into account how much they’ve improved over the last five or ten years. They really have come a very long way. I laugh at their claim that they beat Toyota at the fuel efficiency game now, but they’re in the ballpark. Now if they continue to improve, they’ll have something to talk about. At this point however, they’ve jumped the gun with this ad.

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One Comment

  1. Shawn
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 11:45 | Permalink

    it’s even worse than that. I read 2 weeks ago, the Equinox is getting far worse than advertised. So much so that even the typical crap in these numbers can’t cover it. Did you really thin the new GM would be any different than the old GM? Only difference is we own more of them now. They will never change their ways. Same old crap no matter what the marketing dept. spins.

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