Motor Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

SUVs, Crossovers and Pickups with High MPG Percent Increases Sell Better

Automaker and Congressional Efforts to Roll-Back Fuel Efficiency Standards Will Hurt Sales – Consumers Want More MPGs

Washington, D.C. – A new analysis by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) shows that SUVs, pickups and crossovers, whose MPGs (miles per gallon) increased by over 10% between 2011 to 2016, had a 59% increase in sales. On the other hand, those same vehicles with less than a 10% increase in MPGs from 2011 to 2016 only experienced a 41% increase in sales, almost 20% less. (See figure below). “This analysis completely debunks automaker claims that consumers don’t value good gas mileage,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Director of Public Affairs and author of The Car Book. “Clearly, the more improvement in MPG, the better the sales.” NOTE: 2011 was the year prior to when the current CAFE requirements went into effect.

The Toyota RAV4, which increased by 10 MPG from 2011 to 2016 and saw a sales increase of almost 220,000 or a 166% increase in annual vehicle sales. Meanwhile, the GMC Terrain which had a 1 MPG decrease saw only a 6% increase in sales from 2011 to 2016.  And even though consumers are increasingly choosing crossover models over sedans, the typical crossover now gets 10% better gas mileage than in 2011, thanks to fuel economy standards that are currently under threat of a rollback.

“In spite of their current compliance with the standards and the positive impact they’ve had on sales, the auto manufacturers want to roll-back the requirements,” said Gillis. They’ve lobbied the President to reopen the mid-term review of fuel economy standards, inviting a rollback from the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, Congress is now working on a bill (S. 1273) that will lower mileage requirements for these larger vehicles. “While the automakers may try to ‘lay the blame’ on their customers for ‘needing’ to roll back the standards, consumers are voting for the higher mileage vehicles with their dollars,” said Gillis. “This short sighted thinking by Congress and the auto companies ignores consumer demand for more fuel efficiency. As gas prices creep back up, car companies will be in the same spot they were back in 2009 when they had to be bailed out by the government, with lots filled with larger, fuel inefficient vehicles they can’t sell.”

“What’s ironic is that the current standards are not ‘one-size fits all’ and were specifically crafted to respect the vehicle mixes among manufacturers as well as consumer choice,” continued Gillis. Acknowledging the fuel efficiency challenges inherent in larger vehicles, the standard incorporates two separate calculations, one for cars and one for light trucks, SUVs, and most crossovers. Furthermore, within those calculations, a sliding scale further reduces the requirements on larger vehicles. Finally, automakers meet requirements on an average basis across their entire fleet, which means that not all of the manufacturer’s models have to meet a given year’s target. This enables automakers to produce a mix of vehicles in response to consumer demand. The result: the standards have helped create a much more efficient U.S. auto fleet while preserving both manufacturer and consumer choice on size, weight and performance.

“The bottom line is that consumers want higher fuel economy, whether they’re driving a compact or pickup, and the current MPG standards are delivering it for them,” said Gillis.

“It’s no surprise that consumers want better gas mileage since the typical household spends over $1,500 on gasoline each year, which is about as much as the they spend on electricity or telephone services,” said CFA’s Director of Research, Mark Cooper.

Contact: Jack Gillis, 202-737-0766

The Consumer Federation of America is a nonprofit association of more than 250 consumer groups that was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.