In light of the current pain at the pumps, fuel economy is on all of our minds these days no matter what kind of car you drive. That being the case, it might not be surprising to you that the car we're buying are getting more fuel efficient. Don't believe us? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just revealed that the U.S. auto industry set a new record in overall fuel efficiency during the first half of the 2008 model year by averaging 26.8 mpg through March. That's up from an average of 26.6 mpg through the entire 2007 model year.

While this is certainly good news for both consumers and manufacturers that need to meet the government's mandated CAFE standards, the numbers used by the NHTSA aren't really representative of the real-world fuel mileage you should expect to achieve on the road. The testing standards were initially created in 1975 and automakers get certain credits for creating flex-fuel vehicles, which can artificially inflate their miles-per-gallon numbers. Additionally, automakers earn credits for surpassing the CAFE requirements and can carry these credits forward for up to three years. Still, the numbers are somewhat worthwhile when comparing the current model-year with those of the past. Expect to see the year-end numbers set another new record as consumers continue choosing smaller and more fuel efficient models over larger, gas-guzzling choices.

[Source: The Detroit News]