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New Car Buyers Pushing for Better Fuel Economy

Report shows federal mandate, consumer demand drives improvement.

by on Jun.23, 2014

Trucks are hot sellers these days, in some measure because they are getting better gas mileage than ever.

With new cars and trucks getting better gas mileage than ever and new vehicle sales hitting record highs, it’s no surprise that consumers expect their new purchases to continue to be more fuel efficient.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released the results of its annual report today, which found that new vehicles are not only more economical, but also consumers are in favor of the fuel-efficiency rules helping to usher these vehicles to the market.

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“Consumers want and expect the vehicles they intend to purchase to get significantly higher fuel economy,” said Mark Cooper, CFA’s director of research. “Many Americans struggle to live within their budgets, and a large majority are troubled about future gasoline prices.”

In a recent survey, 80% of those surveyed said that “in thinking about the next five years,” they were “concerned” about gasoline prices with 64% indicating “great” concern.

The biggest obstacle facing automakers is the federal mandate requiring automakers corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) to be 54.5 mpg. Currently, the 14 major automakers in the U.S. are averaging 25.6 mpg for the 2014 model year. That is up 20% since the CFA began tracking the information for its first report in 2008, when it reported the average was 21 mpg.

The improvement has a tangible benefit to consumers: they’ve save $300 annually on fuel costs during that time, even though gas was cheaper in 2008 than it is today, Cooper said, adding that consumers expected a similar improvement in the next six years.

While the primary impetus for improving fuel economy may have been spurred by federal mandate, the approval for the push cuts across party lines: 76% of Republicans, 83% of Independents and 89% of Democrats favor the standards, the report stated.

Helping the makers along is increase in the number of hybrids available in the market place and a growing acceptance on the part of consumers of more powerful four cylinder engines, Cooper said.

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“Ten years ago the Prius was a rare niche product,” he said. “Nowadays hybrids are a mainline product.”

In part because of prevalence of these new factors, it appears the 2025 mandate is within reach.

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“Car manufacturers are well on their way to meet the 2025 fuel economy standards,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s director of public affairs. “Because the new federal standards are in line with consumer demand, carmakers understand that meeting those standards is one of the best ways to ensure market success in the future.”

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Of the 29 truly new vehicles introduced in 2014, 19 have a model that is compliant with 2014 requirements, 13 are compliant with 2016 standards and seven meet 2018 standards. Of the all-new 2014 models, three – Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Rogue and Toyota Highlander – are actually compliant with 2020 standards.

Overall, in 2014, Mazda, Subaru, and Honda stand out as having the highest percentage of models compliant with 2014 standards among manufacturers with multiple vehicle models. Eighty percent of Mazda models, 52% of Subaru models and 51% of Honda models met the 2014 requirements, the report noted.

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5 Responses to “New Car Buyers Pushing for Better Fuel Economy”

  1. Jorge says:

    If you believe the fraud spewed in this story as “fact”, you’d be interested in my prime ocean front property in AZ.

    Most people in the U.S. couldn’t tell you what their typical mpg is within 2-3 mpg if their life depended on it so to suggest they demanded or even knew about the absurd 54.5 mpg CAFE extortion decision is a complete lie. This story is just political talking heads full of bull.

  2. John says:

    Yes At,I did know about the goal of vehicles getting 54 mpg. When this was proposed it was in the news for about a month. There’s no reason why it can’t be done. If the auto manufactures and oil companies would get the greed factor out it could and would happen. They’re in bed with one another. It’s not political just every day people worrying about gas prices. If you listened to the news over the last couple days there’s one moron senator from Tennessee who wants and plans on presenting a bill to add $.12 per gal tax on gas. He will not cut tax loopholes to the filthy rich,corporations or Wall St Banks,investment firms to help bring in revenue. No he wants the everyday hard working Americans to suffer and be bridled even more. That’s the political aspect of this scenario.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      While I do agree automakers can do a lot more on the mileage front, I have to caution against suggesting oil and auto are “in bed” together. Just not so. I could type out a feature-length story contradicting that point. There is no doubt automakers want to sell what they can, with an emphasis on the most profitable products — and those that require the least risk in investment. So, if the sales of pickups, some of the industry’s most profitable models, soar, you’ll see the makers gladly punch them out. But would you suggest otherwise? Should your plumber or housing contractor be driven a Smart fortwo? To their credit, we have seen a push to use V-6s and diesels, and now are seeing Ford make an incredible gamble to adopt an aluminum body for the F-Series that could yield huge improvements in mileage. Intriguing, while consumers talk about mileage they generally don’t act on it in the U.S., as opposed to, say Europe or Japan. There’s been some downsizing, but nowhere near what could yield major savings in fuel. And with a few exceptions, electrification has short-circuited, all the hybrids, plug-ins and BEVs out there barely accounting for 4% of the market. Notably, the makers are rushing out with lots of new battery vehicles with generally little movement of that needle. (Oh, and should you be ready to point to Tesla, it is a nearly $100,000 vehicle in a luxury niche and generating less sales in a month than Ford sells F-Series trucks in 36 hours.

      I happen to disagree with some readers, including Jorge, about the 54.5 mpg target, but what is needed is a reasonable debate based on facts v political positioning.

      Paul A. Eisenstein

  3. gwnola says:

    I actually agree with bits and pieces of each comment above. There’s no reason the auto industry couldn’t produce several mainstream cars (no only hybrids) with much improved mileage–maybe not 54 mpg, but better than what we have now. A typical compact “economy” car gets an estimated 25-30 mpgs (Corolla, Civic, Focus, for example; look it up) in city driving. I find that ridiculous. Expecting 35-40 in that size vehicle is not too much.

    But as one writer above pointed out, most people couldn’t tell you their car’s estimated mpg, let alone what they actually get day to day. And most ads these days talk about highway mileage; my commute is all city driving, so I don’t care about those numbers.

    I’ve heard some outrageous figures and when I press people to figure it out, they learn their mileage is less than they thought. I’ve had lots tell me “my car gets great gas mileage,” and I look it up to discover it’s pathetic. We allow it to happen by not being more forceful as consumers, though a small segment is pushing it.

    Most people apparently don’t really care about gas mileage. Not sure why. I don’t like putting money in a gas tank repeatedly; so unless the numbers improve, my next car will be a hybrid.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Of course, Gwnola, do be aware that hybrids are the type of vehicles most likely to get less mileage than claimed using EPA results — and usually the gap is much more than with conventional gas-powered vehicles.

      Paul A. Eisenstein