Americans Are Buying Fuel Efficient Cars!
- 05/09/2012 |
- by Karl Brauer |
- Karl on Cars / Industry Analysis
The latest statistics in an Automotive News story say the average new car sold in March of 2012 achieved 24.1 mpg. In February that number was 23.9 mpg and in October of 2007 the average new car earned only 20.1 mpg.
For the math-challenged (like me), that's a 20 percent increase (I used a calculator) in new-car fuel efficiency in less than five years. The key statistic here isn't the fuel efficiency rating of available cars but the rating of sold cars. This means people are actually buying fuel efficient cars.
That's been the problem with CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) standards since they were first created in 1975. At that time the idea was simple - let's legislate more fuel efficient cars so we can stop being dependent on certain countries that we shouldn't be dependent on. And like all simple government solutions it didn't work. Most people blamed the creative loopholes in the CAFE standards that let trucks avoid the fuel efficient requirements. And the focus on large SUVs as profit centers for the U.S. domestic industry certainly didn't help the situation.
But the real problem was far simpler -- people didn't want fuel efficient cars. They wanted what they'd had since the automotive boom years of the 1950s and 1960s -- big, powerful cars (or SUVs during the 1990s and 2000s) that didn't compromise their driving characteristics in the name of fuel efficiency. The CAFE rules let them have their way while national fuel consumption continued to rise every year.
So what's changed since 2007? A couple things. First, people don't spend $35,000-plus on a 6,000-pound, 12-mpg vehicle as easily as they used to because of the economic climate we're in. And the last 7 years of turbulent gas prices has car shoppers giving fuel efficiency more consideration than ever before. Even more critical, however, is the technology of today that can provide the fuel efficiency standards CAFE wanted in 1975 while giving drivers the type of performance they've wanted since World War II ended. Simply put, fuel efficiency doesn't necessarily mean weak engine power (though the number of cars needing more than 10 seconds to hit 60 mph seems to be rising for the first time in memory...).
Put it all together and you have a rising trend in new car fuel efficiency.
Congratulations CAFE. It only took 37 years.