Motor Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

Poll Finds Trump Voters Support MPG Targets

Detroit Auto Show Indicates Auto Lobby Proved Wrong by Record Sales and Renewed Focus on Fuel Efficiency

Washington, D.C. – As the latest cars, trucks and SUVs are unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, a Consumer Federation of America (CFA) poll has found bi-partisan consumer support for fuel-economy standards, expected to be re-affirmed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in coming weeks. The national phone survey, conducted in December, found two-thirds of Donald Trump voters support strong fuel economy standards, which were also supported by four-fifths of Hillary Clinton voters.

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“It’s no surprise that consumers across the board want fuel efficient vehicles–they save money,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Director of Public Affairs and author of The Car Book. “Ford’s just-announced aggressive investment plan to hybridize and electrify their vehicles is a powerful example of the benefits of a standard. BMW’s commitment to provide electric alternatives to all of its models shows how a flexible and sensible standard fosters competition. There’s plenty of evidence at the Detroit Auto Show that car makers, especially the recently innovative U.S. companies, believe that increased fuel efficiency is the way of the future.”

“The biggest beneficiaries of fuel efficiency standards are low and middle-class consumers, who spend a higher percentage of their income at the gas station,” said Mark Cooper, CFA’s Director of Research. “After this contentious election, it would be tone-deaf to increase the cost of driving for Americans who depend on their vehicles for work and family transportation.”

Two-thirds of Republicans expressed support for strong fuel-efficiency standards in the survey, as did two-thirds of independents who lean Republican.

“In more than a dozen public opinion polls over the past decade, we have consistently found that about three-quarters of Americans support strong fuel economy standards,” said Cooper. “It’s a no brainer; making cars more efficient means more money in consumers’ pocketbooks.”

According to CFA’s calculations, the average household spends about $1,500 a year on gasoline. Fuel efficiency standards save a significant amount of that expenditure.

“Looking at all of the new vehicles on display in Detroit, it’s important to remember that fuel efficiency isn’t free,” said Cooper. “To meet consumer demand and MPG targets, carmakers are investing in innovative technologies, engineers and advanced manufacturing facilities. Protecting fuel efficiency standards protects these investments that have created jobs and boosted local economies across the country.”

Despite the immense progress automakers have made on fuel economy since the 1970s, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the auto industry’s main lobbying group in Washington, is trying to roll them back.

American automakers logged record sales in 2016 all while meeting fuel efficiency targets,” said Gillis. “It’s difficult to take auto lobbyists seriously when they claim the standards are bad for business. And let’s not forget, they’ve cried wolf before, fighting catalytic converters, crash testing and airbags.”

“Tampering with fuel economy standards amounts to a ‘give away’ to the oil companies, just as we are making great progress on reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Gillis.

According to CFA, recent analyses from the Alliance have overestimated compliance costs by assuming that automotive technology won’t advance past a 2014 benchmark. The Alliance also regularly confuses the issue by failing to note that cars, trucks and SUVs all have different mileage targets, freeing automakers to sell – and consumers to buy – whatever type of vehicle they like.

“Despite lobbyists’ complaints, car makers are predicted to meet or exceed today’s targets,” said Gillis. ““In fact, of the over 1,100 2017 models with EPA ratings, the number of gas-guzzlers under 16 mpg has shrunk to about 1 percent.”

“America’s automotive engineers and autoworkers have proven the lobbyists wrong every time,” said Cooper. “These technology neutral, pro-competitive, ‘command but not control’ standards keep our automakers competitive in the world market while growing the economy.”

Cooper and Gillis are both following the Detroit Auto Show and agency announcements closely and are available for comment.

Contact: Jack Gillis, 202-737-0766; Christina Heartquist, 415-453-0430


The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.