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What Does Fiat Know about CNG that Honda and the American Media Want to Ignore?

May 5th 2009

Automotive - Fiat Palio

Several days ago, Italian automaker Fiat issued a rather remarkable video news release in which they extolled the benefits of methane fuel which is compressed natural gas. Watch Video here.

Not only did Fiat proclaim CNG as the most appropriate and readily-available technology for resolving pollution problems in urban areas, but they announced that all of their gasoline-powered models are now also available in CNG versions, with little or no difference in cost to the consumer (in fact, due to tax incentives, the CNG versions may actually cost less in some jurisdictions).

Among the CNG benefits highlighted by Fiat are its lower cost versus gasoline per equivalent gallon, its significantly lower polluting characteristics compared to gasoline, and the safety of driving CNG vehicles. Moreover, CNG’s abundant availability from friendly sources makes the fuel preferable as it does little to support OPEC and their terrorist regimes.

In a country and world struggling to stave off the effects of economic depression and looming environmental devastation, “There’s absolutely no reason not to (use CNG),” Fiat proclaims.

So why then do the American car companies, indeed all car companies building vehicles on U.S. soil (with the minor exception of Honda’s tokenistic 1,000 to 2,000 Civic GX units per year) ignore compressed natural gas, particularly since they all have had substantial experience with CNG in outside markets? And why hasn’t the Obama Administration already mandated a national transition to North American-produced CNG as one alt fuel of choice?

Furthermore, why haven’t main-stream media and all major automotive media outlets (with the exception of TheAutoChannel.com and The Cutting Edge news) not jumped all over the car companies and the government for their inaction on this matter? Why is CNG the clean little secret that no one wants to accept? Is it necessary to resort to claims of a global oil/gasoline conspiracy against CNG to answer these questions…unless that is the answer? If so, is the silence accomplished with money or physical intimidation?

As chronicled by investigative reporter Edwin Black in his book The Plan and at The Cutting Edge News, Honda (who was until a few days ago the major shareholder in FuelMaker Corporation, producer of the in-home CNG fueling system called PHILL) seemed to do everything in its power over the last few months to scuttle the success of the company, including bailing out of a deal to sell the company to billionaire CNG magnate, T. Boone Pickens.

In light of receiving no explanation of its actions, one must conclude that the intended result was for Honda never to achieve success selling CNG-powered vehicles. Was it, therefore, simply a publicity stunt to make it look like Honda was interested in environmental issues?

Fiat, a major player on the world automotive scene, has not enjoyed top-of-the-mind brand awareness in America since they withdrew the last of their primary brands and models from U.S. soil in the 1990’s. Perhaps this self-induced low profile is the reason why the Fiat CNG story has not captured the imagination of the media, let alone the public.

However, given the new set of circumstances revolving around Fiat’s deal with the now bankrupt Chrysler (a deal that was in the making since at least January), it would appear that Fiat might end up forcing CNG-powered vehicles on America and our pabulum-puking knee-jerk media, ironically to our own very best interest.

Coincidentally, just days ago, Honda was successful in unloading FuelMaker Corporation; to a bi-national Italian-American company, no less.

Maybe there’ll be a happy ending to this tale, with Americans driving domestically-built sexy CNG-powered Fiats, and Honda being excluded from the story.

Marc J. Rauch, co-publisher of The Auto Channel owns and drive a CNG-powered 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 Van. Rauch can be found at The Auto Channel.

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