Luxury makes might miss the mark. Porsche, Mercedes, and BMW all face sizable gaps between their expected mileage numbers and the new requirements. They might improve fuel economy some, but their customers tend to be more interested in performance than mileage—and willing to pay for it. On many luxury cars, buyers already pay a $1,500 "gas guzzler" tax for big, thirsty engines. And for the luxury automakers, paying the fines might be preferable to changing their cars—or inventing technology that provides top performance and high mileage both.
And the winners are... Guess who? Toyota and Honda are the only manufacturers whose own plans appear to be more aggressive than the new government requirements. Toyota, for instance, expects its passenger car fleet to average 34.3 miles per gallon in 2011. That's 12.2 percent higher than its target—which is one of the most demanding to start with. Honda is 7.8 percent ahead of its passenger-car target and tied with GM for the best spot on light trucks. The two Japanese automakers benefit from popular hybrids and a stable of efficient cars, many of which originated in Japan—where mileage standards are even tougher.