The government has decided to mandate a fuel economy increase of 40% by 2016. While this is feasible, it's going to rapidly change what we are able to buy. The revived Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger are going to have to trim down, while we completely reverse the horsepower trend we saw throughout the 90s. My 298 hp V-6 G-35 will not survive, nor will any of the high performance vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, and Infiniti. Here's what I see happening:
The first thing that carmakers will do is decrease the engine size in cars. That's a cheap and easy way to increase fuel economy, even though it negatively impacts consumers. We won't be able to buy a BMW 335i anymore, instead we'll see a return to the BMW 318i, which would almost halve the size of the engine. Likewise, all of the performance cars will lose some weight and lose a lot of engine. Because engine size is a very good match to fuel burn, we'll have to see a lot more 4-cylendar engines replacing the V-6s and V-8s that we've been used to.
We could see an uptick in sales as cars are redesigned. If I want an M3, I'd better buy it immediately, because it's not going to be nearly the car it is now in 5 years. We'll see a decrease in vehicle size as fewer land yacht-sedans like the Grand Marquis and Cadillac DTS are produced. We'll also see cars get more expensive as car companies use exotic materials like aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber to keep their mandated rigidity and safety but lose weight so that their engines don't have to work as hard to move the car forward. We'll also see gas prices stay relatively low because gas demand will decrease. That's not to say that we won't see spikes here and there, but we won't see a super spike that then stays high. We will also see a lot of modern classics, just like we had at the end of the 70s. These modern day muscle cars will be loved and revered for generations to come. We may also see the return of the Citation, which would be just amazing.