The Problem with Averages in Rating CAFE Fuel Standards

The next time you wonder why a major automaker touts a ‘limited run’ production car that gets 80+ miles to the gallon, that few will consider and fewer will buy; remember the law of averages.  Automakers are required to get their fleet average MPG up to 35.5 by 2016 and 54.5 in 2024.  Yet their best selling vehicles (pick-up trucks) have worse average fuel economy than they did in the 1980s. By having these cars in their fleets, they are counted equally towards the government formula that raises their fleets average MPG in-order to meet the increasing CAFE standards. 

The EPA released its annual report last week that tracks average fuel economy that touted an all-time high and largest increase in fuel economy year over year. “The report shows that model year 2012 vehicles achieved an all-time high fuel economy of 23.6 miles per gallon (mpg). This represents a 1.2 mpg increase over the previous year, making it the second largest annual increase in the last 30 years.” 

Yet, the top three of the top ten selling vehicles through June in the United States are pick-up trucks who average below 18 MPG.  The number one selling vehicle in the US is a Ford F-150.  The average fuel economy for a Ford pick-up trucks, per the EPA report, are 17.5MPG,  unfortunately this is worse MPG than Ford’s fleet of pick-ups in 1987.

An interesting gauge would be to see the top selling cars and what their average is per manufacturer.  Ideally unit volume would come into the gauge so that we could get a more accurate picture of fuel economy.

Not to pick on Ford, here are GM, Chrysler and Toyota

GM pick-up trucks average  17.3 for 2013 vs 17.9 in 1991 GM 2013 car SUV 24.2 combined

Toyota Pick-up 17.3 2013 vs 23.0 in 1985.  Toyota 2013 total car/suv 24.7

Chrysler 2013 17.3 vs 19.9 in 1983. Chrysler 2013 car/suv 23.3



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