Oh, what is born when cultural norms and automotive stereotypes collide!
It must be carved in stone somewhere that Americans crave horsepower and torque.
Who in these United States would honestly prefer a wimpy car that can't get out of its own way, no matter how great the mileage is?
Face it. Horsepower is like sex. Once you've experienced it, you want more. And you can't imagine doing without it.
So of course most of the engine technology developed over the past two decades has been used to boost horsepower and performance, not improve fuel economy.
But there now seems to have been a permanent shift in favor of fuel economy.
Chrysler group CEO Tom LaSorda made this observation first. He would know, seeing as he's having such a hard time moving his Hemi-powered Dodge Rams, even if half the cylinders deactivate on the freeway.
Although gasoline prices have plunged recently, Americans remember the pain of paying more than $3 a gallon. We seem to have resigned ourselves to the fact that gasoline prices will climb again.
In Europe, where gasoline prices are still three times as high as they are here, automotive tastes are different. As the stereotype goes, Europeans prefer subcompact cars with smaller higher-revving, less-torquey engines and mid-sized cars with diesels.
Obviously, neither the American nor the European stereotype is accurate because of the variety of products. But just as there has been a shift toward fuel economy here, there has been a shift toward more grunt in Europe.
For example, at the Paris auto show next week, Peugeot will unveil the 908 RC supercar with a V-12 diesel that makes 700 hp.
Citroen plans to show the concept for a high-performance sedan powered by a diesel-electric hybrid.
On the tamer but more practical side, Lexus will launch the European edition of the LS 600h sedan, the brand's third gasoline-electric hybrid on European roads but its first hybrid V-8.
Shifting tastes on both sides of the Atlantic mean that engineers are seeking more ways to blend performance and fuel economy.
The fruits of their labors will be obvious in Paris.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]