Motor Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

Fuel Economy Standards Increase Efficiency of the Fastest Growing Vehicle Segment – SUVs and Crossovers

Washington, D.C. — Today’s fuel economy trends release by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows automakers are fully capable of meeting fuel economy standards on a per vehicle basis. While the fuel economy of the entire U.S. fleet increased by only 0.1 MPG in 2016 over the previous year to a record 24.7 MPG, the individual size classes saw much greater increases in fuel economy. “SUV’s and crossovers, which are the fastest growing vehicle segment, are also seeing the most rapid gains in fuel economy,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Director of Public Affairs and author of The Car Book.   Small 2WD SUV’s and crossovers saw an increase of 1.1 MPG, and larger traditional SUV’s and crossovers increased by 0.3 MPG. “The good news, thanks to the standards, is that the most popular vehicles have significantly increased their fuel efficiency.  This simply would not have happened without the current fuel efficiency requirements,” added Gillis.

“This release of CAFE numbers demonstrates exactly why the current CAFE standards are working.  By offering the manufacturers size flexibility in compliance, they encourage improvements across the board,” said Gillis. “What is particularly remarkable about the standards is that a class of vehicles once called ‘gas guzzlers’ are now achieving fuel efficiency ratings roughly similar to the sedans of 10 years ago,” added Gillis.  Automakers don’t need to sell only subcompacts to meet targets, they simply have to make the vehicles they sell, and that consumers want to buy, increasingly more fuel efficient. “In fact, increases in fuel efficiency are one reason why SUVs and crossovers are becoming more popular.   The last thing the American auto industry needs is a rollback of the standards that are making their vehicles popular and increasing their global attractiveness,” said Gillis. In addition, a report done by CFA last year shows SUVs, crossovers and pickups with high MPG percent increases sell better than their lower MPG increase counterparts.

The failure of automakers to meet the 2016 fuel economy standards on a fleet wide basis while noteworthy, needs to be put into perspective.  In addition to increased sales of SUVs and crossovers, the 2016 standards were going to be tough to meet for two key reasons:  the standards themselves saw a significant increase in stringency for 2016 and there was a notable lack of “all-new” vehicles released. Automakers are most able to increase the fuel economy of vehicles when they bring totally redesigned models on line with the latest technology.  Most models have a life of about five years where they stay essentially the same. Uncharacteristically, the 2016 model year had only one vehicle (the Honda Civic) in the top 10 bestsellers that was “all-new”.  CFA is confident that CAFE numbers for subsequent years are expected to jump up as auto manufacturers introduce higher numbers of new, high-tech models. These vehicles include several new technologies from start/stop, to turbos, lightweight materials, multi speed transmissions and cylinder deactivation.

Contact: Jack Gillis, 202-737-0766