Gas prices always go up, eventually. But it looks like a few folks had a hard time believing that in February, and plunked down some money on SUVs and pickups. As a result, average new-vehicle fuel economy went down last month after a January uptick.

New light-duty vehicles sold in the US averaged 25.2 miles per gallon last month, down from 25.4 mpg in January, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). Collective new-vehicle fuel economy peaked at 25.8 mpg in August, and it did have a good little bump in January, so there's no telling when we'll get back there. Still, with gas prices up about 34 cents in the past month to $2.45, according to AAA, maybe more people will start taking a closer look at cars of the fuel-sipping variety.

Fear not, though, as last year was likely a record year when it came to average new-car fuel economy. And new cars are getting about a 20-percent better fuel-efficiency rating than they were six years ago, SUVs or not. "Overall, vehicle fuel economy is up 5.1 mpg since October 2007, the first month of our monitoring," said Michael Sivak, the director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at UMTRI in a statement. In fact, last year, there were about five times the number of new cars that got at least 32 mpg as there were cars that got less than 16 mpg.

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