The average fuel economy of a new U.S. vehicle purchased last month fell about two percent from November and was down slightly from a year earlier, reflecting what may be the public's reaction to fuel prices that have steadily fallen since eclipsing the $4 threshold in May.

The average new light-duty vehicle had achieved 22.2 miles per gallon, down from 22.7 mpg in November and from 22.3 mpg in December 2010, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) reported. New-vehicle fuel economy reached a recent high of 23 mpg in March 2011.

Overall, new car fuel economy has steadily risen in recent years as gas prices have gone up, hybrid-electric vehicles have gone more mainstream and automakers have found ways to make gas-powered engines more efficient. Four years ago, UMTRI recorded new-vehicle fuel economy in the 20 to 20.5 mpg range. Meanwhile, U.S. fleetwide fuel economy rose in 2010, the most recent year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tracked such figures and the fifth consecutive annual increase. The average 2010 model year car across all makes got 22.5 miles per gallon, up slightly from the 22.4 average for the 2009 model year and about 17 percent higher than the 2004 model year average, the EPA said in November 2010.

Still, the recent decline may reflect how more Americans may be returning to larger-engined vehicles and SUVs amid the steady decline in gas prices. Fuel prices averaged about $3.33 a gallon as of Jannuary 1, down from about $3.60 a gallon in early September and from about $4 a gallon in May, according to AAA.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 47 Comments
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      Almost all the studies I have looked at show oil prices rising greatly in the next few years, with only a depression catastrophic enough so that most can't afford to drive anyway likely to reduce this. Crossover point for an electric car to be economically better is with petrol at something like $4-4.50 US gallon. For this reason and because they do not have the lemon laws which apparently restrict the ability to lease rather than sell the batteries in the US it seems likely to me that Europe and East Asia, excluding for the time being it seems China, are likely to lead the charge to electrification.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        The USA has some advantages for electrification. For example, instead of big apartment buildings and flats with street parking, there is more single family homes with garages in the USA. Thus, it is easier for an American household with a garage to add an over-night charger than it is for someone living in a big apartment building or who uses street parking. It is that over-night charging infrastructure than matters, not random scattered public chargers at malls. $4 to $4.50 is not high enough to move people to electric. It gets them interested but to really get people moving you'll need higher gas prices (or cheaper EVs).
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          The higher ratio of people with garages might help in the later stages of electrification, but for the early stages where market penetration is relatively low there are plenty of people with garages in Europe. Induction charging would help for on-street parking a lot. I was estimating the cross-over point of costs for BEV vehicles vs combustion engine cars, not when or if they will decide to switch. Some people will switch even if in economic terms it does not make sense, others be resistant long after it is an open and shut case. it is different in Europe though, as so long as there is no extra tax to equalise the revenue lost on petrol sales the electric car is far cheaper than our $7-8 petrol.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          DaveMart Good point in that will matter more in the later stages. Hmm. I think other factors are that Europe has a much better public transport system that people use and they already have very fuel efficient small cars so the savings with an EV is not as great. There is this European EV enigma . . . if they have $8/gallon petrol prices then why haven't they adopted EVs already? I guess no good EVs have been available until now. I also think they use cars for weekend trips more and use public transport for day to day commuting.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          If there is high congestion, then by definition all those people that are sitting in cars making up that congestion are driving. Certainly they would be the folks who would buy the EV's, not the folks who gave up on the congestion and took mass transit?
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          PR: Good point. However the distinctions I was trying to make was between commuting and 'other uses', as our streets can get very crowded with minimal commuting in the US sense. Apart from buses, there are people who have to use their vehicle during the day, builders going to work, delivery vehicles, taxis, and then a splattering of true commuters who however usually drop the vehicles off in the park and ride to complete their journey. The reason the distinction is worth sometimes making is that for a lot of these people the flexibility of a hybrid, perhaps a plug in, is needed, as they can do a high mileage using the vehicle throughout the day. Of course for some, such as the park and ride crowd, a BEV would work fine. This is an interesting discussion in any case, guys!
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Spec: Yep, for many of us in cities commuting to work by car is pretty much out of the question due to congestion, the price of parking and so on. So except for those in rural areas, road warriors etc a lot of the miles we log are more or less voluntary, as even groceries can be home delivered for minimal cost and basic shopping for bread, milk, vegetables and meat etc can be done on foot, let alone by bus. This means that paying extra for an electric vehicle is not worth it for many. In my own use for instance essential mileage is zero, but I can go away for a trip at weekends, the sort of use for which a BEV is least practical. Still, in my view the high cost of petrol here combined with good taxation policies, in France a bonus/malus system which maintains overall revenue from cars but moves the cost from the best vehicles and only the least efficient and highest carbon emitting ones, means that a move in large part to electric will in my judgement be relatively swift. The Renault battery leasing system is of course critical to this.
      PR
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is why CAFE standards are so important. It takes 20 years to cycle through the majority of the US passenger car fleet. Even longer for heavy trucks. But gasoline prices can cycle up and down within just a few years (or even months!). Without CAFE and relying just upon gas prices, short-sighted poor car purchasing choices can take decades to undo.
      harlanx6
      • 3 Years Ago
      Really? You mean to say the laws of supply and demand actually work? Do you really think that if fuel prices were much lower, people would actually drive larger more confortable cars? What do you suppose the agenda of that post really is?
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        "Do you really think that if fuel prices were much lower, people would actually drive larger more confortable cars?" Do you really question that? We've run that experiment already . . . and yes, in the 60s & 70s people drove heavy unaerodynamic V8 beasts. Why not? Gas was dirt cheap.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        But here is the problem . . . fuel prices dropped in the past few months, so people go ahead and make a 15 year investment based on the fuel price dropping in the last couple months. That is not wise decision making. I know . . . people will say that they'll sell those gas guzzlers if fuel prices rise . . . well who are they going to sell them to? The resale value of the gas guzzlers will plummet.
        PR
        • 3 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Harlanx6 Do the rules of free market supply and demand work? It depends upon what you mean by "Work". If you give a mouse a free choice between a pellet of food, and a hit of heroin or cocaine, the free market "Works" in the sense that the mouse will express it's free will to choose the drugs until it dies of starvation. You are correct that the same thing "Works" with our addiction to oil. That's what addiction means. People make choices that are bad for them, and bad for everyone around them. If that's what you mean by "Works", then yes indeed, not having regulations like CAFE fuel requirements will "Work" us right into our own destruction. I'll state my agenda outright. My agenda, along with the agenda of most of the folks on this site, is to break our addiction to oil and move to greener automobiles. Thus the "green" part of AutoBlogGreen. What's your agenda? Because by the number of pro-oil posts we've been getting around here these days, the agenda seems to be more of the agenda of the Pusher than anything else.
      Smith Jim
      • 3 Years Ago
      This supports my opinion that it's consumers (myself included) that are the problem, not the automakers.
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        Yes. Although...with the c-max, c-max energi, the new fusions, the Prius C....the average will quickly improve as these cars move into production. Especially the Prius c since they will sell 10 billion a year (don't doubt me - 10,000,200,000).
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          People need to buy them though. That is his point. I do sympathize with the buyers though . . . they are not good at math and they don't know what is going to hit them.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          @spec True, but, the choices are getting really good though. Toyota will have nearly an entire lineup soon, and people are already buying the Prius, so I would expect the others to sell well. Ford will also have nearly a complete lineup of hybrids, plug ins, etc., (and both will have small and mid size ICE's that will get 30's combined. Look at it like this - with a smallish car, the Prius was about it (insight being disappointing). The difference in price between a Prius and the others was still considerable. The fusion and Camry hybrids were good, but again, a good price jump. Now, a Prius C at $19,000? That opens up a huge market to Toyota. Things, truly are looking up.
        PR
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        Smith -- It's a co-dependent relationship.
        brotherkenny4
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smith Jim
        GM has stated lately that they don't know if there will be any interest in the Volt. They said they would back off production if they aren't selling well by June. Recently when the crash testing was done on the Volt, and they had a "fire" (probably just a little smoke) they didn't even defend the safety of the vehicle. It sounds to me like they want it to fail. Remember when they sold garbage by repeating "baseball, hotdog, apple pie and chevrolet". They are perfectly capable of manipulating the masses into buying any kind of junk, but not in the case of the volt.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @brotherkenny4
          The volt failing would suck, however, with everything from Toyota, Nissan, and Ford coming out (and tesla), the volt isn't quite as important now. When the ev1 died, there was nothing else. Ford's sales have been disappointing to date, however, the Prius sells well, with no asterisk at all. Nothing like, 'for a hybrid.'. It just sells well, period. Speaking of the Volt, they need to make up their mind on the caddy version, and just build it. That would certainly justify the cost and add a second market segment as well.
      Scorebaby
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've heard more than one SUV or truck owner paraphrase Charlton Heston by saying: " you'll have to pry the keys from my cold dead hands." You're never going to convince those customers that they should be driving a compact or hybrid or whatever. They have to learn the hard way: Let it hit them in the pocketbook.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Scorebaby
        But in the mean time they are going to drag down the entire economy by reducing their other spending (for movies, restaurants, entertainment, etc.) in order to send their money over seas for oil. Fortunately, the amount of domestic oil produced has increased in the past few years . . . but that won't last. We just don't have the reserves for that.
          Nick
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Spec Even if all the oil consumed in the US was from the US, it wouldn't make a difference as big as you think. The money would go to 3-4 giant corporations, which would keep a big chunk of it, hand a ton to Goldman Sachs, and use the remainder to buy out more competitors and make its service more efficient.
      Nick
      • 3 Years Ago
      Do people have a 5-min memory span?
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Nick
        Ignoring politics, I wonder about this myself. I make a good living, but also like to watch where money goes. Even cheap gas is not that cheap. Even saving one tank of gas a month helps. And, although I am not in the habit of hugging trees, I do like that my mid sized car is averaging 31mpg, and that my truck is rated at ULEV. With all of the options out there, be they hybrids (even Lincoln and lexus hybrids for the luxury crowd), Eco-boost trucks and SUV's, small Buicks, or full blown electrics (soon to include the model s and x), or even the econo Prius C...well, there is a full range of options. The dumb Lincoln hybrid is even priced the same as the non hybrid version.
        Ford Future
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Nick
        Politics controlling the message. When big oil has Limbaugh preaching bull about hybrids and the Volt this can happen.
      Yegor
      • 3 Years Ago
      The new stricter corporate average fuel economy standard (CAFE) kicks in 2012. I hoped that it would force automakers to sell more fuel efficient cars (including Hybrids and Electrics) but it looks like it is not going to happen :( According to a new study from University of Michigan researchers Kate Whitefoot and Steven Skerlos, automakers probably will still have incentive to churn out bigger, hulking cars. And, once again, this footprint loophole could undermine the regulation’s effectiveness. What the researchers found was that, by and large, it would be more profitable for automakers to keep building larger and larger vehicles. :( http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/cafe-loophole-could-lead-to-bigger-cars/2011/12/14/gIQA3bGLuO_blog.html
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Yegor
        Cmax, cmax energi, fusion hybrid, fusion energi, Prius c!
      Yegor
      • 3 Years Ago
      Last year lots of new fuel efficient cars appeared but Fuel-Efficiency Gains Saddled by Trend for Beefier, Faster Autos: "average fuel economy of automobiles sold in the United States rose a little more than 15 percent between 1980 and 2006. But the average curb weight of those vehicles climbed 26 percent and horsepower jumped 107 percent in the same time. " http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/01/mit-solves-the-case-of-the-missing-fuel-economy/ Stop subsidizing oil (including wars to protect oil supply) and fuel efficiency will grow. Lots of people have a problem with math - they cannot figure out that Hybrids and EVs are cheaper to own. :(
        Ford Future
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Yegor
        Who is asking for these beefier vehicles. Consumers are not in the drawing boards of the Big Three. Consumers are not asking for these high horsepower engines being dropped into SUV's, etc. This is a Corporate Decision and direction.
          Ford Future
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          Horsepower increases across the board, except for the Ford EcoBoost, and even there they sold it as a performance increase. Unless they give you a magic wand with a new high performance SUV, it's just money thrown in the sewer, as it's unusable in most driving, until 8pm at night thru 6am.
          throwback
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          So no one is buying these vehicles, they are being given away? People buy what they want.
      JeremyD
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think people just live in the moment... gas is cheaper, lets buy an SUV! Seems very shortsighted but it is what it is. BTW small and efficient is just as comfortable as large and inefficient. Not sure where Harlanx6 is going with that statement.
        paulwesterberg
        • 3 Years Ago
        @JeremyD
        It depends, small cars may not be as comfortable if you have a lot of extra junk the trunk.
          JeremyD
          • 3 Years Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          True, most Americans need to go on a damn diet... or here's an idea, exercise! I am a thin, fit guy but its not magic, I work out. OMG, NO WAY! Anyway, my Cruze provides more than enough space for me and my stuff. I found that I only really need an SUV or a truck to move something maybe once a year, if that. Been up to the slopes and the Cruze is just fine in the snow. Personally, I would have no excuse to have a big SUV or truck (though i still do like them!).
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Iran closing the strait of Hormuz would solve this problem. Gas is cheap, and America will continue to be the largest user of it, as long as we keep designing our cities in a sprawling fashion, keep driving land yachts, and ignore alternative energy :/
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Any such tangle would most likely be temporary. The main story is continued demand growth from China & other growth economies with weak (almost no) oil supply growth world-wide. It is a zero sum game creating a bidding war for the remaining oil on the market.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        2WM, Iran has done it's job by just threatening. Their is no need for action on their part. By just threatening they have milked billions out of our economy and increased billions to theirs via the increase in oil prices due to posturing.
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      All over the world, motorists are slowly moving to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. The reasons are often complex, ageing populations, high fuel prices, less driving etc. The main class of vehicle that is disappearing is the large family sedan car, and it's executive upmarket version. This reflects changing tastes, population demographics etc. SUV's haven't suffered to the extent that large saloon cars have, partly because people mistakenly see them as 'safe', and partly towing capacity. The USA, traditionally built the largest cars, conveying an image of wide streets and highways. Some readers of ABG, seem to forget that to the vast majority of motor vehicle buyers, fuel economy is only one factor when choosing a new model. The average new car buyer is unconcerned with paranoid delusions about Oil companies, weight, aerodynamics, and anorak technical minutia. They seek a vehicle that suites their requirements. These requirements include a lot of esoteric concepts, including comfort, status, image, aesthetic styling pleasure, as well as more practical considerations. Mush to the frustration of contributors to ABG, these folk want to spend 'their money' on what 'they desire', not the contemptuous rantings of puritans salivating at the prospect of 'forcing' their fellow citizens to follow ill-conceived political and philosophic dogma. PR. writes " I'll state my agenda outright. My agenda, along with the agenda of most of the folks on this site, is to break our addiction to oil and move to greener automobiles. Thus the "green" part of ABG. What's your agenda? Because by the number of pro-oil posts we've been getting around here these days, the agenda seems to be more of the agenda of the Pusher than anything else". Bravely spoken! ( that should put everyone in their place!) Or does it? Of what real value are such dogmatic statements? Now if PR was Elon Musk, it would be a different story, but he's not. PR's just a guy who won't spend an extra $1.30 a day, to practise, what he demands of others! I have spent years persuading, not demanding, a change in private transport energy supply. I salute those who have built or bought their own EV's. Each EV owner, and driver, is a real world advertisement of the value of EV technology. Lead by example! Ranting about who hates oil companies the most, or why Automakers are douche-bags because for not building some fantasy or other, only persuades the average car buyer that EV's are the vehicle of choice for a small group of crazies, pursuing fringe agenda's. My interest, in EV's is simple. The technology provides a solution to pollution and Oil depletion. As such, it presents an opportunity for 'ethical' investment. Tirades against Oil conglomerates, auto-manufactures, rabid politicians, moral/philosophic 'isms', are a waste of time. Concentrate on the positive benefits EV technology, provides the average motorist, forget the absurd ideology.
      Yegor
      • 3 Years Ago
      The new stricter corporate average fuel economy standard (CAFE) kicks in 2012. I hoped that it would force automakers to sell more fuel efficient cars (including Hybrids and Electrics) but it looks like it is not going to happen :( According to a new study from University of Michigan researchers Kate Whitefoot and Steven Skerlos, automakers probably will still have incentive to churn out bigger, hulking cars. And, once again, light truck and footprint loopholes could undermine the regulation’s effectiveness. What the researchers found was that, by and large, it would be more profitable for automakers to keep building larger and larger vehicles. :( http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/cafe-loophole-could-lead-to-bigger-cars/2011/12/14/gIQA3bGLuO_blog.html
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