When House Oversight Committee chair Darrel Issa opened his investigation into the new proposed 54.5-mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard last month, a main narrative of those testifying in opposition to the standard centered around the perceived adverse impacts the rule might have on drivers. “Up until now, consumers have been either ignored or misrepresented,” said Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl in his testimony to the committee. “At the end of the day, they are the ones who will be asked to buy and drive the vehicles our government is potentially demanding the car companies build.”
But those who take up the mantle of fighting higher fuel efficiency in the name of consumers may want to pay a little more attention to evidence of what the public actually wants from its future vehicles and less to what groups like the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers say it wants.
According to a new study from the Consumer Reports National Research Center a whopping 93 percent of car owners would like to see higher fuel economy standards. When asked if they supported current specific plans to raise fleet averages to 35 mpg by 2016 and 55 mpg by 2025, 86 percent and 80 percent said they did, respectively. And though CAFE opponents have long predicted a consumer revolt if vehicle costs rise as a result of the mandate, Consumer Reports found that 83 percent of car owners are willing to pay extra in exchange for added fuel economy.
In fact, despite the extra initial cost of most hybrids and all plug-in electric vehicles, more than half of respondents said they will to consider a hybrid or electric vehicle for their next purchase. An overwhelming 72 percent said they would consider a hybrid or plug-in if they were to become more available in the next 15 years―a likely outcome of rising CAFE standards. Sixty-four percent said that their next purchase will be more fuel-efficient, while 40 percent say their next car will get “much better gas mileage.”
Consumers want more efficient cars, and while this isn’t the first study to prove it, Consumer Reports’ findings come at a time when CAFE and other federal measures to encourage fuel economy are under attack.