Of all the disclaimers ever penned by a corporate lawyer, few ring as true as the phrase, "Your mileage may vary." It's bad enough that so many of us undermine years of engineering achievements and refinements by driving with a lead-foot, but with big truck sales booming and consumer tastes shifting away from gas-thirsty small and midsize cars and into SUVs, one might worry the nation's cars and trucks are again turning into gas guzzlers.
Fortunately the aforementioned engineering accomplishments are working their science-based magic to vehicles of all sizes to go farther on a tank of gas than did their predecessors. Despite the recent surge in truck and SUV sales, the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. last month was 25.3 mpg, according to the monthly Eco-Driving Index compiled by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, which is unchanged from February's figures and is 5.2% better than it was in October 2007 when the organization began keeping tabs on auto efficiency.
That's because, recent angst over Mitsubishi's admission that it cooked the books with regard to its vehicles fuel economy notwithstanding, a just-issued report conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) determined that more than half of all car and truck lines sold in the U.S. meet or beat the national fuel economy standards. For 2016, the so-called CAFE standards (it stands for corporate average fuel economy) require automakers to obtain an average rating of 35.5 mpg across all of its light-duty vehicle lines in the U.S., or at least under the convoluted methods in which mileage is computed for CAFE purposes.
"Fuel efficiency increasingly comes standard with new cars, trucks, and SUVs," says Jack Gillis, the CFA's director of public affairs author of the annual new-vehicle guide, The Car Book. "Even if you're in the market for a large pickup or SUV, you'd have to go out of your way to find a true gas guzzler."
Fortunately for automakers that can't seem to ship enough trucks to their dealers these days, the CFA's report found that SUVs and pickups, while still lagging the leaders with regard to fuel economy, are holding their own. Models rated at less than 16 mpg are down to just 4% of the nation's new-vehicle fleet, compared to nearly a third of the market in 2008 (back, we should add, when fuel was last as cheap as it remains today).