U.S. Fuel Economy Sets New Record

MPG for first half of 2012 is highest ever as consumers select fuel-efficient models

The gold medal for fuel economy in 2012 goes to U.S. consumers, who are buying high-MPG cars and trucks in all vehicle sizes and classes.

Average fuel economy for newly-purchased vehicles, weighted by sales, reached an all-time high of 23.8 mpg from January to June of 2012, according to data released today by industry analysts Baum and Associates.

That’s a full 1.1 mpg higher than the previous record of 22.7 mpg, set in the first six months of 2011. The big news, says Alan Baum, principal at Baum and Associates, is that unlike previous gains in fuel economy, this one isn’t driven by a switch to smaller vehicles.

Thanks to a bumper crop of fuel efficient models in the most popular segments, consumers don’t have to choose between fuel efficiency and performance. No matter what type of vehicle you want, midsize car, minivan, SUV or pickup truck, carmakers are now upping fuel efficiency performance across the board. The new era of auto fuel efficiency is truly here.

Baum, who conducted the MPG analysis for the Natural Resources Defense Council, cites three primary reasons for the record-breaking jump in fuel economy:

  • Manufacturers offering more fuel efficient vehicle choices in all vehicle classes
  • Consumers buying more fuel-efficient models in all auto segments
  • New federal standards requiring higher MPG are taking effect ‚Äì and working effectively.

The combination of higher fuel efficiency standards, new technology from manufacturers, and changing consumer preferences is already exceeding expectations. Government regulators predicted average fuel economy of 23.4 mpg for model year 2012. Based on current data, average fuel economy for the U.S. fleet will exceed that benchmark.

Bottom line: Fuel efficiency standards are working. Consumers and manufacturers are responding to a new environment with choices that reduce our use of petroleum and emissions. That’s good news for consumers, our energy security, our economy ‚Äì and our environment.

Luke Tonachel is the New York-based Vehicles Analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.


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