It’s Not About “Saving You Money”

  • November 20, 2023

The federal government – which somehow got into the business of micromanaging how much gas the car you want to buy is allowed to use – says it is telling the car companies how much gas the cars they are allowed to sell are allowed to use will save you money.


Well, let’s see how much money we’re “saving” – by examining a case-in-point.

As readers of this column already know, Toyota recently announced that it will cease offering its popular Camry sedan with a V6 – or without a hybrid drivetrain. The reason why – for both – is because federal fuel economy mandatory minimums are about to rise to just shy of 50 MPG and neither the Camry’s currently available V6 nor its standard four could come close to averaging just shy of 50 MPG, as the regs require.

It isn’t a suggestion; if a car company fails to meet the requirements, the government has the power – how it got this power is itself an interesting question – to punish the offending car company for having the temerity to build vehicles wanted by those who buy them as opposed to the ones the government wants to – effectively – force them to buy.

So, both had to go.

And we’ll be paying for it.

The current (2023) Camry stickers for $26,320. It comes standard with a 2.5 liter four cylinder engine that averages 32 MPG – which is exceptionally good mileage for a mid-sized family sedan. It is so good that about 300,000 people buy Camrys each year.

But it’s not good enough for the government.

Nothing is ever good enough for the government – because if good enough were ever achieved (as by defining it) then the government would no longer have the justification it needs to continue micromanaging everything we’re allowed to do – including what we’re allowed to buy.

The model here is “Zero COVID.”

As in “Zero Emissions” – and just as unattainable, thus providing the justification for micromanagement ad infinitum. This will, by the way, eventually include so-called “Zero Emissions” electric vehicles, which are no such thing. It’s merely that for now, they are allowed a kind of grace because they are serving a purpose.

At any rate, both the Camry’s standard four and its optional V6 have been replaced by a newly standard hybrid drivetrain. Which -interestingly – Toyota already offers.

Let that sink in.

The government says it must micromanage the car companies – ordering them (effectively, via regulations) to build only cars that return “better” gas mileage in order to “save people money,” because if not the car companies would only sell “gas hogs.”


Then how to explain the availability of a hybrid Camry?

It has been available for years, too. People who want one have been free to buy one. But that is not good enough for the government. The government demands – effectively – that every Camry be a hybrid Camry.

And you’ll be paying for that.

We can get a sense of how much you won’t be saving by considering the cost of the current (2023) Camry hybrid, which stickers for $28,655. The pending hybrid-only Camry will cost at least that much – and almost certainly  more, because it will also come standard with all-wheel-drive (electrically driven) as part of the package.

As part of the necessity.

The current hybrid Camry is what’s considered a “mild” hybrid – meaning the gas engine does most of the work of actually moving the car. The electric motor is mainly there to provide an assist (as during forceful acceleration) and to move the car at a creep, when the car is hardly moving. The battery pack, meanwhile, powers accessories when the engine isn’t running, as when the car isn’t moving.

The pending hybrid-only Camry will have a more involved electric motor – and a larger battery – to further reduce the role the engine plays in moving the car. There’s more power – vs. the current non-hybrid Camry’s standard 2.5 liter engine. But much less power than the current Camry’s available V6 – which is another way this costs.

If the hybrid-only Camry stickers for around $32k to start – which seems about right when factoring in the extra $1,400 it costs to buy a 2023 Camry non-hybrid with AWD plus the $2,335 more you’d pay to get a current hybrid Camry vs. the standard, non-hybrid version – you’ll be “saving” something in the neighborhood of $4,000-$5,000 on your new hybrid-only 2025 Camry.

The government says, of course, that what it’s effectively forcing you to spend up front – assuming you buy what the government is pushing on you – will be recovered over time in the form of spending less on gas. And perhaps that is true – though it is an example of government-knows-best-effrontery. We are too stupid to know what’s best, in other words – and have to be forced to the trough, as the saying goes.

But it’s undeniable that fewer people will be able to spend what the government requires in order to “save money.”

Because people only have so much money available to spend.

A $32k hybrid-only Camry vs. a $26k non-hybrid Camry costs more than many people can afford to buy, in other words – irrespective of the (cough) “savings.” Also to insure – a definite cost that is almost never included when discussions of the costs imposed by the government upon car buyers come up. (Air bags, for instance – which have added hugely to the cost of insuring cars so equipped because of the cost of replacing a car totaled by the cost of deployed air bags).

It’s a certain fact that you’ll pay considerably more to insure a $32k car than a $26k car for the simple reason that the $32k car will cost the insurance company more to replace if it is totaled and probably more to repair, regardless.

And there are also the property taxes applied to car owners in a number of states. The $32k car will cost you more that way, too.

This is how the government “saves you money.”

But it isn’t about saving gas. Just as “Zero COVID” was never about health. Just as “Zero emissions” isn’t about that, either.

. . .

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