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2012 Marks Highest MPG Ever For New Cars

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On: Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 1:08PM | By: Chris Weiss

2012 Marks Highest MPG Ever For New Cars

The idea that the fuel economy of new cars would reach record levels is almost intuitive. Automakers have been using new strategies and technologies to deliver higher fuel economy numbers, both to appeal to consumers and meet government regulations. With gas prices often flirting with record or near-record levels, consumers have responded by buying more efficient cars. It seems like we should be hitting record levels every year, and a new report shows that to be the case during the first half of 2012.

In March, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported that average fuel economy for new cars had topped 24 mpg for the first time. While it came down in April, consumers remain very concerned with fuel economy, and average new-vehicle fuel economy set a record during the first half of 2012. According to auto market research firm Baum & Associates, the average fuel economy for new passenger vehicles in the US between January and June was 23.8 mpg. That's more than a 1 mpg increase from the 22.7 mpg record set during the same half-year period in 2011.

While rising fuel economy may be expected, the half-year record is particularly impressive given that it wasn't fueled by an increase in small car sales. Consumers reached the record in part by purchasing higher-mpg large vehicles. Baum says this reverses a trend dating back nearly 40 years whereby similar increases in new-vehicle fuel economy were only achieved via increases in smaller vehicle sales.

"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," Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, explains in a press release. "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 & Associates point out several other reasons for the record fuel economy. There are simply more high-volume efficient vehicles on the market - more than twice as many as in 2009, in fact. The firm credits federal fuel economy mandates for motivating the increased number of efficient vehicles on the market. High gas prices earlier in the year caused more consumers to purchase cars with better fuel economy, and with more models than ever to choose from, they had an easier time selecting just the right vehicle.


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