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Fuel Economy Drops For New Cars In April

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On: Wed, May 9, 2012 at 4:12PM | By: Chris Weiss

Fuel Economy Drops For New Cars In April

Last month, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported that the average fuel economy for new cars had broken 24 MPG for the first time. The 24 MPG figure didn't last long, though, as April's average dropped right back down to the same level as it was in February.

Despite the fact that some key hybrids increased twofold from April 2010, overall fuel economy still dipped to 23.9 MPG from 24.1 MPG in March. UMTRI cites a reprieve in gas-price increases in late April as a possible explanation. Prior to April, fuel economy had been on the rise all year - from 23.6 MPG in January to 23.9 MPG in February to 24.1 MPG in March.

The idea that fuel economy is decreasing while gas prices still threaten to exceed all-time levels seems counterintuitive, even in light of the brief period of decreasing prices (we know that's not lasting). We'd be interested to see a more in-depth analysis into some of the factors that might have contributed to the slight change from March to April.

Winter 2012 was a record warm winter, so I'm wondering if mild temperatures and early spring/summer weather inspired a few more buyers to get outdoor-centric (and not so fuel efficient) models like camper-hauling trucks and SUVs. Of course, that's just one random theory from a guy that happens to be in tune with winter-spring weather patterns. I'm sure there could be innumerable other explanations.

One thing seems certain - the small March-April blip probably won't reverse the greater trend toward more efficient cars. Since the study began in October 2007, fuel economy has risen about 4 MPGs in new car purchases. Gas prices seem unlikely to relent all that much, and automakers continue to work toward more efficient fleets, so fuel economy should continue to rise.


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