If current auto-buying trends continue, the V-8's days at the top of the engine heap will soon be over - perhaps forever.
According to the Power Information Network (PIN), we Canadians just keep buying more cars with small, fuel-efficient engines. V-8 sales keep slipping, and so do sales of cars with a V-6.
This despite an overall drop in fuel prices over the past six months. The PIN people -- who track dealer sales in real time, so they know almost instantly what Canadians are buying -- say cars and light trucks with four-bangers have grabbed another 1.5 per cent of the market this year.
Six-cylinder cars have lost 1.2 per cent of market share, while V-8s have lost 0.5 per cent of the market from a year ago.
So now 83.3 per cent of all cars sold in Canada have a four-banger. That's massive. In fact, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reports that the overall market share of small, fuel-efficient vehicles (cars and light trucks combined) in Canada has grown from about 25 per cent of sales to about 60 per cent of sales over the last 25 years.
Four-banger cars sell and they sell much faster now than any car with a V-6 or a V-8. The average four-cylinder car moves off a dealer lot in 53 days now. A car with a V-6 "turns," as they say in the car business, in an average of 66 days. A V-8 takes 81 days to move.
We already buy loads and loads of fuel efficient cars in Canada. And this begs the question: How will Canada as a whole meet the fleet-wide fuel efficiency standards announced for 2016?
Remember, our federal government has said it will harmonize fuel efficiency regulations with those announced last week in the United States by President Obama.
As auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers and others have been pointing out, over the last quarter century fleet-wide fuel efficiency in Canada has improved from approximately 11 litres per 100 kilometres to 10 litres per 100 kilometres. Essentially that has been achieved by our nearly wholesale move to four-bangers.
Today, more than eight out of every 10 Canadians will buy a new car with a thrifty four-cylinder engine.
The new regulations call for fleet-wide fuel efficiency to improve by another 3.25 litres per 100 km. And this, say the regulators, shall happen in less than seven years.
It looks like one of two things - or perhaps a combination of both -- will need to transpire between now and 2016: Either Canadians will make a dramatic shift to less powerful, likely smaller engines still - downsizing from four-cylinders to three? - or the manufacturers will roll the dice with massive investments in new technologies such as plug-in electric vehicles and the like.
Count on this: manufacturers will be looking for government incentives and subsidies to offset the cost of developing and certifying new technologies, as well as to ease consumers into the brave new world of amazingly fuel-efficient vehicles.
Taxpayers, then, as a group will help pay for these regulations one way or another. Consumers are almost assured of seeing higher price tags on fuel-thrifty, lightweight, sleek cars, too.
Driving is going to keep taking more and more out of your wallet in the coming years, no question about it.