Now with Less Hyperbole: Average Fuel Economy Rose in 2012!

By Jason Davis | February 07, 2012
Yes, it's true: Average vehicle fuel economy rose again. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, current model year vehicles are 14 percent more fuel efficient than 2008 model-year vehicles, including less efficient vans and trucks. For all on sale 2012-year vehicles, the average mpg is 21.5. This compares favorably to 18.9 mpg average for 2008 model-year vehicles. Better yet, for actually purchased vehicles, the average fuel economy for 2012 models is 22.5 mpg--better than the average of all vehicles. "This implies that consumers tend to choose vehicle models with better fuel economy than the average of all vehicles available," said Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "The recent economic downturn, coupled with rising gas prices, has led to an increased interest in purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles."
There you have it: Manufacturers are slowly achieving their fuel economy goals, and consumers prefer the more fuel efficient models statistically greater than their less fuel efficient counterparts. But what's the breakdown? Fortunately for us, Schoettle and colleague, Michael Sivak, broke it down thusly:
  • Cars are 2.8 mpg more fuel efficient than 2008; lights trucks (including vans, trucks, and SUV's) are 1.6 mpg more fuel efficient than in 2008
  • New cars average 23.4 mpg; new light trucks average 18.6 mpg
  • At 4.1 mpg, wagons saw the largest increase (26 mpg); the smallest increase was 0.2 mpg for full-size vans (13.4 mpg)
  • Transmission wars: Auto's increased by 2.5 mpg, while manual transmissions increased by 2.8 mpg
  • Engine wars: 4-cylinders are 2.3 mpg more fuel efficient; 6-cylinders are 1.4 mpg more fuel efficient
  • Drivetrain wars: front-wheel drive vehicles are 3.4 mpg better than in 2008, and 4- or all-wheel drive vehicles are 2.0 mpg more fuel efficient
  • Type: Diesel engines are a whopping 9.8 mpg more efficient than in 2008, and conventional gasoline engines are just 2.6 mpg more efficient; hybrids, interestingly, are 3.0 mpg less fuel efficient than they were in 2008
  • Conspicuously missing? 8-cylinder engines, and rear-wheel drive.
Source: University of Michigan, Ford