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WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 26, 2012 – The first half of 2012 set the record for the highest-ever fuel efficiency for new passenger vehicles entering the U.S. market, according to industry analysts Baum & Associates.
The country reached this record mile per gallon (MPG) level without relying on higher small car sales – a significant shift from a pattern going back to the 1973 Arab oil embargo where similar gains were achieved only when consumers moved to smaller vehicles in the face of higher gas prices.
From January to June of 2012, the average fuel efficiency of new passenger vehicles was 23.8 MPG, improving by 1.1 MPG the record of 22.7 MPG set over the same six months in 2011. Baum & Associates calculated the average fuel efficiency using monthly fuel economy data from the University of Michigan and sales data from Wards Automotive.
Importantly, the projected new auto sales figure for 2012 is 14.2 million units, up a strong 1.5 million vehicles over 2011.
“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,” said Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates. “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 pointed to three key factors accounting for these trends that fly in the face of past experience during periods of high gas prices:
“Simply put, the fuel efficiency standards are working and in fact, are exceeding our expectations,” said Luke Tonachel, vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “These standards are doing exactly what they are supposed to do: delivering the fuel-efficient cars that consumers clearly want. We look forward to the continued improvements and more fuel-efficient choices that the 54.5 mpg standards will bring.”
Based on the year-to-date sales data from model year 2012 (October 2011 to June 2012) as tracked by the University of Michigan, the U.S. fleet fuel efficiency average is poised to exceed government regulators’ predictions of a fleet wide average of 23.4 mpg for model year 2012.
A recording of the press conference call on this analysis can be found here.