Big Three Pump Up While Drivers Pay Out

Big cars and big SUVs with plenty of get-up-and-go fit the American psyche, at least as it's been conditioned by millions of advertising dollars.

Published: 21-Aug-2006

Detroit is pushing hot wheels this summer, figuring Americans want to play        NASCAR driver in new versions of vintage muscle cars. But a let's-burn-rubber message seems likely to stall in an era of $3-a-gallon-gas and more fuel-efficient foreign brands.

A few days after the pipeline to Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field shut down for emergency repairs earlier this month, General Motors announced it would revive the Camaro, a brawny V-8 favorite of the 1960s and '70s. Ford is hyping its souped-up 325-horsepower Shelby GT coupe. And DaimlerChrysler is strutting the 425-horsepower V-8 Charger SRT/8, which gets about 17 m.p.g. in combined city/highway driving, gas mileage you'd expect from a full-size pickup truck.

Yes, these are limited edition models aimed at enthusiasts. And the companies do make many other models with better gas mileage, though they make few with the very highest m.p.g. on the market. But the story they're selling with these gas guzzlers is an old one: the need for speed.

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