Is American gas-guzzling era finally past its peak?
The New York International Auto Show is one of the smaller global motor shows, dwarfed at present by the Geneva and Frankfurt leviathans, but it's always a good reminder of what life is like on the other side of the pond/fence.
If, as the saying goes, the grass is always greener over there, how does 32mpg for a compact SUV sound?
Pretty awful by European standards, I'll warrant, and the one thing that was clear among all the new launches is that the American market still refuses to take to diesels.
Despite some abysmal fuel economy claims by our standards, there's just no willingness to plump for the potential 15 to 20mpg more, even though American drivers are feeling the squeeze of fuel prices almost as tightly as we Brits are. Relatively speaking, of course.
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The New York show showcases the solutions that manufacturers have to offer in place of diesels. Solutions we don't need in Europe because diesels are cheaper and easier to sell en masse.
Take the Volkswagen Jetta hybrid. Since to the Americans the idea of a 1.6 TDI under the bonnet is about as welcome as a flatulent dog in a crowded lift, VW has combined the 148bhp 1.4 turbo petrol that we know and love in Europe with a 27-horsepower electric motor to increase fuel economy.
Prices haven't been confirmed but it's a safe bet that it'll be an awful lot more expensive than the aforementioned diesel would be.
Likewise Ford, which has developed a fully electric (and undoubtedly pricey) Focus to allow North American customers to continue to dodge diesel.
All this apparently pointless development does, however, provide companies with a second channel of progress that covers another base should circumstances change in one market or another.
If we decide we've had enough of the price of diesel and flock in our millions to petrol, to hybrids or to electric models, car manufacturers have got the products ready and waiting.
Another key point any casual observer couldn't fail to notice during a wander around the show is that the cars don't seem to be getting any smaller.
Everyone's boasting about improved fuel economy (not that it's generally very impressive) but few brands selling to the American market seem to be taking downsizing and downweighting very seriously.
In Europe we're seeing innovations such as Ford's fabulous 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine, and while thoroughly impressive moves like chopping 170kg out of the Mercedes SL65 AMG will make it to America by default, the car models made solely or chiefly for the US market are still relatively huge and often use big, thirsty V6s at least.
The overriding feeling in the industry, looking at the latest offerings in the American market compared with the best that Europe has, is that no one is doing more to develop clean cars than Europe. That's partially down to the EU government placing legally binding efficiency targets on car makers, but it's also down to the public's willingness to pay for the new technology, which always comes at a price.
But there are signs the gas-guzzling era in the US might be past its peak. With even American manufacturers shuffling towards electrification and getting rave reviews – take a bow, Chevrolet Volt – we could be on the verge of seeing an unparalleled level of global investment in future fuels technology. Watch this space.