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XL1 False Rumor


10 August 2014

Back in April 2014 we reported on the conspiracy rumor that Volkswagen's new "300 MPG car" (i.e., the XL1, more accurately described a 235 MPG plug-in diesel-electric hybrid) is "not allowed in America" (i.e., cannot legally be sold in the U.S. due to prohibitive federal regulations) because "it is too efficient" (i.e., would greatly lessen the demand for gasoline and thereby greatly lessen profits for Big Oil). As we noted in our article on that topic, everything about the rumor was false: The reason Volkswagen's XL1 plug-in diesel-electric hybrid isn't available in the U.S. is because at this point it's still a concept car for which Volkswagen is currently testing the market — they have produced the XL1 in very small quantities (just a few hundred) for retail sale, all of those vehicles to be sold in Europe via a lottery process for a whopping $160,000 each. And these supposed restrictive government regulations haven't kept cars that use no gasoline at all, such as the all-electric Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf, off the U.S. market.

Nonetheless, we still receive mail from readers who are buying into the Big Government/Big Oil collusion conspiracy to keep highly fuel-efficient cars out of the U.S., such as the following:

Please update this after reading the Consumer Reports article dealing with hybrids, and how dealers actively discourage people from buying or leasing them. And next time be more cautious when throwing around the word "conspiracy" in a derogatory manner. After all, when three or more gas stations get together to set the price of gas in an area at thirty cents more than gas costs less than 50 miles away, that IS a conspiracy, and discussing the meeting that took place, even if you get them to admit what was said, is a "conspiracy theory".
 

Comments such as these highlight the importance of actually reading and understanding material rather than simply skimming and accepting anything that sounds like it might confirm what one is already inclined to believe.

The Consumer Reports article referenced in the above-quoted comment involved that consumer publication's sending secret shoppers to several dozen automobile dealerships in order to survey how their salespeople dealt with customers expressing interest in plug-in
electric vehicles (EVs). What they found was that salespeople at dealerships sometimes discouraged the sale of plug-in models, steered customers towards gasoline-powered models, and couldn't give accurate or specific answers to basic questions about electric cars.

However, what readers such as the author of the above-quoted comment have failed to grasp is that the cited Consumer Reports article has virtually nothing to do with the facts outlined in our article, other than that they both generally involve the subject of hybrid/electric vehicles. The Consumer Reports article deals with an occasional reluctance on the part of auto salespeople to push EVs, not a federal regulation prohibiting the U.S. sale of such vehicles; Consumer Reports found such reluctance generally stemmed from salespeople's unfamiliarity with plug-in models rather than a plot to maintain oil company profits; and Consumer Reports also found that "in the end, most salespeople seemed to have the consumer’s interest at heart" rather than a desire to serve some other master (i.e., Big Oil) to the detriment of car buyers. Nothing in that article dealt with a conspiracy between government and Big Oil to keep high-mileage vehicles out of the U.S. market, as was (falsely) claimed of the XL1 vehicle we wrote about.

And of course the correspondent's chiding coda about a supposed "conspiracy" by service station operators to set the retail price of gasoline in their area is irrelevant as it has nothing to do with either regulations barring the sales of high-mileage vehicles nor with a conspiracy to inflate oil company profits. (In any case, gas station operators, like most all retailers, set their prices at whatever they've determined the market will bear, depending upon factors such as supply, demand, wholesale prices, and competition.)

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