Automakers losing fear of lofty future mpg targets

62 mpg? No problem!

Not exactly. But increasingly, automakers aren’t burying their heads at the idea of hitting that lofty number, which has been floated by the Obama Administration as the 2025 fuel-efficiency standard.

“I think the industry can do anything it wants to,” Mark Reuss, General Motors Co.’s president of North America, told reporters Saturday when asked whether he fears the 62 mpg number.

A similarly unflinching response recently came from James Colon, vice president of product communications for Toyota: “Whatever goal they establish, Toyota will be prepared,” he told Automotive News.

Officially, the auto industry’s lobby is opposed to 62 mpg. And dealers worry about having to sell too many small cars and in lieu of more-profitable trucks and SUVs.

But, perhaps emboldened by recent technology advances, GM and other automakers aren’t cowering. Reuss points to not only major breakthroughs like the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, but to more subtle advances too, like its e-assist technology, a stop-start system that will boost the 2012 Buick LaCrosse sedan’s mpg by 25 percent, to 37.

Reuss conceded that he’s “always worried” about fuel-efficiency regs marching ever higher. But, he said: “I have a really good feeling about that for the first time in my whole career.”

“We’ve got a whole smorgasbord or buffet of technology that can be implemented,” Reuss said, “that doesn’t’ just plan on a massive shift in consumer taste and [vehicle] size.”

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