21 May 2008

Toyota Corolla: 14 years of innovation

I drive a 1994 Toyota Corolla. It gives me 37 miles to the gallon freeway, which is nice with gas prices rising and all.

On the highway from Idaho Falls to Rexburg there's a billboard for a Toyota dealership.

"Toyota Corolla!" it says. "Get 37 miles per gallon!"

Um... what? Why is it that the exact same model of car got the exact same gas mileage 14 years ago as it does today?

As I told Eric in the comments of my post on gas prices earlier today, I don't buy conspiracy theories, but this is highly suspicious. A lot has changed since 1994. We don't wear neon nearly as much as we used to. We have MP3 players instead of boomboxes. We download at megabytes per second instead of bauds per second.

My point is, we've made big strides in all areas of life over the past ten years, and Toyota can't produce a car that gets more than 37 miles per gallon on gasoline?

Something is up.


Matty Gibb said...

If I can get all the stories straight, I believe the lack of innovation can be attributed to George Bush and Osama bin Laden, who are good business buddies, pressuring car companies into stifling the innovations that they could make. Forget about the fact that if one car company leaped ahead of others, it would make huge profits. They can be convinced to forbear because of "Big Oil" maneuvering in the background. Think opening scene of Zoolander. And President Bush caused Hurricane Katrina to happen so that gas prices could go up even higher. He could have prevented the hurricane, but he didn't!! Meanwhile, the government invented HIV to eliminate minorities and make money on drugs, and assassinated Kennedy right before they faked the Apollo moon landings. Also, Bill Gates watches every step you take. Have I at least touched on most of the ridiculous cover-up theories?

Brandon said...

I think so, G.

An impressive collection of insane conspiracy theories, indeed.

That said, the fact remains Toyota has done nothing to improve on its gasoline-only engine over the past decade and a half.

Matty Gibb said...

The obvious thing here if you are interested in cars is that companies have pursued technology to increase power, not economy. Pickups get the same mileage now as they did 10 years ago, but you get another 150 horsepower. Same with sedans, although the power gains are more modest.

Brandon said...

Fine and dandy, but I've never ever found myself needing more power for my Corolla. If the 2008 version is significantly more powerful, good for Toyota.

I'll bet consumers would rather they work on fuel economy when it comes to small cars that people buy for their fuel economy.

Matty Gibb said...

Yeah, consumers will send that message through their purchases. Economists have recently remarked that gasoline sales volume has not decreased until lately, probably reflecting the fact that consumers didn't think the gas price increases would be permanent until now. When you believe the prices won't go back down you really start to think about changing your behavior, from traveling less to switching to a more efficient car.

Brandon said...

What other industry intentionally stands pat, assuming that they don't need to improve their product just because it's still selling okay?

I'm sure TV sales were just fine in the 90's, but companies still developed HD technology. Same goes for computers, DVD, bicycles, shampoo... shoot, almost every product we have today.

Money comes from innovation. Can you imagine how well a Corolla that got 50 miles to the gallon would sell?

mattyanddeidre said...

The Smart fourtwo is supposed to get 40/45, and it's cheap (about 12k base). We'll see how it sells.

mattyanddeidre said...

So what you're saying is because these Corollas are getting the same mileage as before, there hasn't been any improvement. In essence, executives of car companies are fundamentally different from all other people in that they refrain from doing something that would make them lots of money, just because they can't be bothered. That theory just doesn't make sense, especially since their jobs depend on profitability just like everyone else's do.

Your '94 Corolla has these official specs:
2315 pounds
1.8 liter engine, 115 horsepower, 26 mpg city/32 highway (I assume you have the automatic). Or, 1.6 liter engine, 105 horsepower, 26 mpg city/ 29 highway.

2009 Corolla official specs:
2877 pounds
1.8 liter engine, 132 horsepower, 27 mpg city/ 35 highway with ULEV (ultra low-emissions).

So 15 years later, a heavier car with the same size of engine has more horsepower and gets better fuel economy while decreasing emissions. Smells like improvement to me.

Brandon said...

I drive a stick, thank you very much. :) And I do get 37 mpg freeway. I drove from WJ to Boise every other week a couple summers ago and I kept very exact track of my mileage.

Again, I accept that the Corolla has improved in many ways. But I maintain that people buy the Corolla for its great gas mileage, which has not improved all that significantly in 14 years.

I'd gladly give up 17 horse power for 17 more mpg.

It's a question of priorities at Toyota.

Matty Gibb said...

Look for an email because this next message is too long for a text.