We recently covered the Competitive Enterprise Institute's claim that the new CAFE standards will lead to more highway fatalities as a result of lighter cars being built. That post spurred some animated discussion as to whether or not lighter cars are less safe, with the majority of commenters agreeing that safety is largely a question of design, not weight. As one commenter aptly pointed out, Formula 1 cars are extremely light AND extremely safe, thanks to their unique design. Now Autoblog.com is reporting that Nissan has plans to "lower the average weight of its vehicles by 15-percent in the next seven years when compared to its 2005 lineup."
Doing so will not only increase efficiency, it will also make for some "compelling driving dynamics" as the power-to-weight ratios are improved. Clearly, Nissan's car will still be required to pass government safety standards, rendering even more moot the argument that a light car is dangerous. Furthermore, as all automakers strive to wring more miles out of a gallon of dino-juice, they will be forced to incorporate innovative, strong, lightweight and aerodynamic materials into their cars and trucks. As Nissan purchases more of these materials, they will steadily drive down their cost. Lastly, Nissan's goal is to "get suppliers in on the action by setting efficiency targets for the parts they produce."
Taken together, these targets represent real initiatives with the potential to change the way cars are made and how they perform on the road.