Consumer Federation of America Notes People Want Better MPG Trucks, SUVs, and Crossovers

Consumers want good fuel economy even in crossovers, SUVs, and pickups, and a new study indicates this affects the kinds of vehicles people buy.

Recently Consumer Federation of America analyzed U.S. sales and mileage data between 2011 and 2016 to find that light-duty trucks with mpg increases over 10 percent saw a surge of 59 percent in sales during that five-year period.

Vehicles with less than a 10-percent increase had a gain of 41 percent in sales during that time.

The report sees a clear example of consumer preferences being the Toyota RAV4 increasing in mpg by 10 percent in that five-year window – with a nearly 220,000 unit increase, a 166-percent gain, in annual vehicle sales. It wasn’t as good for the GMC Terrain, which had a 1 mpg decrease but only a 6-percent sales increase during those five years.

CFA sees national fuel economy increases adopted in 2012 as the heart of the matter. Even though consumers are going for crossovers over cars, the typical crossover gets 10-percent better fuel economy now than in 2011 due to the fuel economy standards that are facing a rollback under the Trump administration.

“This analysis completely debunks automaker claims that consumers don’t value good gas mileage,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s director of public affairs. “Clearly, the more improvement in MPG, the better the sales.”

Cars made up 2,682,955 of the new light vehicles sold in the U.S. during the first five months of this year, according to Motor Intelligence by Autodata. Light-duty trucks – pickups, SUVs, crossover, and vans – saw 4,295,134 units sold in the U.S. during that same time.

That means light-duty trucks make up 61.5 percent of U.S. new light-duty vehicle sales. A few years ago, they were split at about 50 percent each between cars and trucks. Low gasoline prices and growing popularity of crossovers and SUVs have been cited as reasons for this sales trend.

Automakers would like to see pushback from the Trump administration on the fuel economy standards, CFA said. They’ve been lobbying for a reopening of the mid-term review that would rollback the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to support the standards as the Obama administration exited office.

CFA also warned that Congress is now working on a bill (S. 1273) that would lower mpg rules for larger vehicles.

“This short sighted thinking by Congress and the auto companies ignores consumer demand for more fuel efficiency. As gas prices creep back up, car companies will be in the same spot they were back in 2009 when they had to be bailed out by the government, with lots filled with larger, fuel inefficient vehicles they can’t sell,” Gillis said.

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CFA’s analysis factored in two separate calculations – one for cars and one for light trucks – that were built into the federal rules. A sliding scale was built into the calculations reducing some of the requirements on large vehicles. Another flexible standard in favor of automakers is that the requirements spread averaged across their entire fleet – not all the vehicles sold have to meet the target each year, the federation said.

Looking at the total cost of fuel helps put the issue into perspective for average consumer households.

“It’s no surprise that consumers want better gas mileage since the typical household spends over $1,500 on gasoline each year, which is about as much as the they spend on electricity or telephone services,” said CFA’s director of research Mark Cooper.

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