By on April 12, 2012

“Gas prices are nearing $4 per gallon nationwide and consumers are getting reluctant to pay any additional money at the pump when buying a new vehicle,” said Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.  This changes buying pattern, and it might influence election results. Important as the topic may be, foreign carmakers continue to give you the most mileage. American carmakers lag.

Average TrueMPG Average Car TrueMPG Average Truck TrueMPG
Manufacturer 12-Mar 11-Mar YoY 12-Mar 11-Mar YOY 12-Mar 11-Mar YoY
Hyundai/Kia 28.1 26 8.1% 29.7 27.4 8.4% 23.7 23.5 0.9%
Honda 25.4 24.1 5.4% 28.6 27.1 5.5% 22.8 21.2 7.5%
Toyota 25.4 23.4 8.5% 30.9 28.2 9.6% 19.5 18.8 3.7%
Nissan 23.9 23.3 2.6% 26.5 25.5 3.9% 20.4 20.2 1.0%
Ford 22.4 21 6.7% 26.8 25.2 6.3% 19.7 18.7 5.3%
GM 21.6 20.9 3.3% 25.3 24.2 4.5% 19 18.7 1.6%
Chrysler 19.7 18.8 4.8% 22.8 21.5 6.0% 18.1 18 0.6%
Industry 23.4 22 6.4% 27.1 25 8.4% 19.7 19.2 2.6%

TrueCar’s monthly sales-weighted look at the fuel economy of new cars  sees Hyundai in the lead, and Detroit at the bottom. Ford’s green drive definitely results in results: Ford gets the best sales-weighted mileage of the Detroit Three, but still is solidly trounced by the Koreans and Japanese.

What’s more, the makers in the lead continue to improve. The sales weighted mileage of Hyundai and Toyota is more than 8 percent better than a year ago. Ford again shows good improvement, whereas GM and Chrysler are below average.

These are the new March data. When we published the February numbers a month ago, some commenters demanded that the data are broken pout by cars and trucks. Voila, done. As you can see, it does not change the big picture.

If you want your data broken out by nameplate, segment et al, head over to TrueCar, and they will oblige.

This story most likely will trigger howls of protests. Truth hurts. If you don’t like these lists, talk to the bad boys.


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49 Comments on “The Cars You Get The Most Mileage Out Are Not American...”

  • avatar

    Lesson of the day: If most of your vehicles are small, you’ll rank higher in MPG charts concocted by TrueCar’s PR department.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. This is a terrible analysis. What it is really saying is that you sell more cars with good mileage than you do with poor mileage.

      Averaging the mileage of each vehicle without the sales weighting would more accurately show which manufacturer is more interested in offering fuel efficient vehicles. This analysis just says that people buy more Accents than Equissises.

      • 0 avatar

        But the increase, almost across the board, is remarkable. This would seem to be the confluence of product lines that offer better fuel economy and customers selecting for it.

  • avatar

    no doubt truecars definition of a hyundai/kia truck is a small unibody CUV.

  • avatar
    M.S. Smith

    Isn’t this is due to the fact the Detroit 3 make a lot of money in things other than…cars?

  • avatar

    I don’t think it’s fair to have Chrysler on this list because they are making high volume selling cars with V8 ENGINES and alot of trucks/Jeeps that get less than 18 city.

    If you compared only their Pentastar V6 cars with the rest, you’d get mileage closer to the top 5.

    Not to mention that Hyundai, Honda and toyota put 4-cylinder engines in small cars EVEN IF THEY ARE TOO HEAVY. Look how slow the Veloster is without the Turbo engine.

    This is the reason I don’t even look anymore at gas mileage because it’s highly subjective. I spend $4.30 a gallon on Super Premium unleaded here in NYC for both my cars and I get less than 10mpg in one while I get less than 15mpg in the other. Thing is, later in my life, I’m not gonna be on my deathbed thinking “DAMN – I wish I’d saved more on gas when I was a kid”…I’ll be thinking about all those times I defied speed limits and my supercharger left Acuras, BMWs and Lexuses eating DUST.

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair, if you die because you didn’t save enough for retirement, and hence were not able to afford the necessities of life after your body prevented you from working any longer, you may very well think that. Never is a a long time.

      Is a Non-Turbo Veloster not able to achieve 65 mph? Because that is the fastest you can drive in New York State.

    • 0 avatar

      The Veloster’s curb weight is under 2700lbs. A 4 should be able to move that with decent performance.

      And do these too-heavy, underpowered cars sell? Plenty of Camrys with 4’s sell… it’s something like 75% of all Camrys.

      If Chrysler wants to put V8’s in their cars I guess that’s their business but, looking down the road, I’d say it would serve them well to build up some small-car, high-mpg credibility.

      “I’ll be thinking about all those times I defied speed limits and my supercharger left Acuras, BMWs and Lexuses eating DUST.”

      I remember racing my 283 Malibu against a guy in a black Fleetwood on I-495. And my Honda CB400F against a Yamaha RD350D on two-lanes in the mountains (not a fair fight, those two-stroke Yamahas had both the power and weight advantage).

      Something happened since then… I grew up. Looking back on it, I’m almost surprised that I had the chance to grow up.

      Your priorities are your own but most of the car business has become transportation. Look at the Gen Y article… performance cars are not exciting the kids. A notable percentage (50% of my own children) would rather live where they can simply walk to tihngs.

      • 0 avatar

        My retirement funds are automatically taken care of. Money comes out of my checks and goes to two different retirement plans – not to mention I save some for myself in a high-interest earning account and invest in stocks on Scottrade. I’m not worried about that but, I do see your point.

        Thing is, if everyone is spending $4 on gas, but, I’m spending 50 cents more (for example), it’s not that big a difference. In fact, I don’t drive that much.

        A car with a 4 cylinder simply takes longer to get to 65. In some places with heavy traffic entering/exiting highways, more thrust is necessary.

      • 0 avatar

        Are we going to have another discussion about the ‘fact’ that if you’re driving a car, that takes longer than 10 seconds to get to 60 mph, you’re driving a death trap? Let’s face it, most people don’t care about prevailing speed when entering the freeway and enter at 45 mph anyway. The people on the freeway are forced to either slow down or move over.

        My car is a little over 2700 pounds, has a 2.0, and gets out of its own way just fine. Wind the sucker out and move on, no sweat.

    • 0 avatar

      So do I in my 240DL. All those BMWs Acuras and Lexuses can go only so fast in that left-hander from Bruckner onto Triboro Bridge while popping prescription pills and checking their emails. So your point about your supercharged car is lost on me. Chrysler’s display of black V8-weilding cars at NY show was pointless, surrounded by the Staten Island contingent. Then again, Honda’s display was likewise empty, but for completely different reasons.

      Looking forward to doing the same passing of expensive leased vehicles when my wife gets a fuel efficient Prius Camry Insight or something.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m averaging 38 MPG over my last ten fill-ups in the Veloster. Not bad for such a “heavy” car. Just about everything negative said about the car is true. But what I bought it for is true, too. Vacation for two with ease and comfortable, economical commuting: check and check.

  • avatar

    Sales weighting makes sense to understand the effect of vehicles in operation on fuel consumption, but not so much for evaluating the progress that companies make per model/technology.

    Another way to look at the info is to compare like models within segment regardless of sales. Would the story be the same?

    • 0 avatar

      I still like the idea of plotting all vehicles’ mpg compared to their weight or cargo/passenger volume. Those companies that are above the industry average curve are doing more to save fuel; give them praise.

  • avatar
    George B

    Bertel, how is this relevant? I don’t buy an average of a manufacturer’s cars, I buy a specific model. If I was looking for a sedan with excellent fuel economy and room for 4 adults, the Chevrolet Cruze is competitive on fuel economy with the Honda Civic independent of Silverado sales volume. Similarly, if I want a big sedan that runs on 87 octane gasoline, the cost-reduced Volkswagen Passat with the base 5 cylinder motor is a step behind it’s competition even though the Volkswagen corporate average is pretty good.

    • 0 avatar

      This is entirely relevant, because many buy on fuel economy alone, and they buy Kias because they’re cheap AND get good mpgs. Win-win for those folks, but I don’t ever plan on buying a Kia or Hyundai because they just don’t hold any attraction for me, I just get stuck with them at the rental counter.

      • 0 avatar

        Zack, I think your missing George’s point. The fact that GM builds some large vehicles that get poor mileage should have no bearing as to how their smaller vehicles compare to Kia/Hyundai’s offerings. But TrueCar–and apparently, Bertel–are implying it does. Saying “Chevies get worse mileage than Kias” is pointless, because nobody cross-shops a Rio and Corvette. When you look comparable vehicles, Ford and GM are very close to Honda and Kia. But you wouldn’t know that based on the headline and data presented here.

    • 0 avatar

      This list does not attempt to tell you what car to buy. It helps you assess the performance of a company.

      If you want help with a car purchase, then the EPA sticker and your calculator may help you figure out what you will save or not.

      If you want to know whether the green claims of a company are true or smoke, then this list may help. A fuel sipping car can only affect the environment when it gets bought.

      I am aware that there are people who don’t like these lists. Tough. The list will be here every month.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s the point of reposting this data every month? Fleet average fuel economy isn’t nearly as dynamic as sales data, so it’s not really necessary to keep reposting it, unless perhaps your goal is to use a misleading metric to try to smear companies you have some sort of issue with?

      • 0 avatar

        “It helps you assess the performance of a company.”

        It tells you what customers are choosing to purchase. It’s not a measure of what the companies are offering for sale.

        It’s a sales measure, not a performance measure. If a given consumer opts to buy a Lexus GS instead of a Toyota Corolla, that decision would reduce the average fleet fuel economy, but it doesn’t do a thing to increase the fuel consumption of the Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        How about a little more truth in “The Truth About Cars”? The headline says, “The Cars You Get the Most Mileage Out of Are Not American.” The implication of the statement is that the company that builds the highest mileage car is not an American company (whatever that means these days), but the story is just another regurgitation of vehicle fleet mileage data, albeit from a different source. Or possibly, as some of the other complainers read it, that one can’t buy a “high-mileage” car from an American manufacturer (and obvious falsehood).

        If you’re going to do a story about fleet average fuel economy, then please top it with a headline that has some relationship to the story.

        And, I might add, this is hardly news, since gasoline is cheaper in the United States than in just about any country outside of the Persian Gulf. A manufacturer who sells primarily in the U.S. market has less of an incentive to not sell “low-mileage” vehicles which bring down its average fleet mileage.

      • 0 avatar

        The list doesn’t pertain at all though, Bertel, to the green claims of a company. As you say in the article, this list is based on the sales numbers of the companies vehicles. That means this list shows simply the green cred of the consumers, not the corporations.

        GM, Ford and Chrysler would be lower on this list due to how you have based the list on sales numbers. So you are showing consumers green credentials, NOT the corporation’s.

        If you truly wanted to be objective about this, you would post a list NOT based on sales numbers but a list based just on the average fuel economy of the vehicles the manufacturer builds. Any company could be the greenest around, but that doesn’t mean the buying public can be forced to buy those vehicles.

        Also with the list being this way, the Detroit 3 will always be lower due to the fact that they are the only true builders of trucks that sell in volume in the industry. So again, to be objective you need to take out sales numbers and base the list on the average fuel efficiency for each category of vehicle the manufacturer builds.

    • 0 avatar

      Compare car-to-car, then. GM is at 25.3 and Toyota is at 30.9. That’s quite the gap. Where would GM be if they had something like HSD and were selling it in volume? Where would Toyota be if they didn’t have HSD and weren’t selling it in volume?

      Toyota moved aggressively to widen this gap by introducing a full 50mpg hybrid that they can sticker for $19K.

      GM has one car with mpg in the “totally awesome” range but since it sells relatively poorly, it doesn’t have much impact.

    • 0 avatar

      So what is the best way to class vehicles? Weight? HP? Number of seatbelts? HP/lb? 0-60 times?

      We are going to replace our current four cylinder daily driver with another four cylinder daily driver with the expectation that fuel will double again during the 10+ year ownership that we’ll keep it just like it has during the decade+ ownership of our current ride.

      When I looked at CUVs I see that the import CUVs are a little above 3400 lbs. The GM equivalent Equinox is about 4100 lbs. No wonder it gets such medicore mileage in town and comes equipped with a V-6.

      A V-6 is entirely unnecessary if the vehicle is built lightweight enough.

      Incidentially the CR-V is within 150lbs of it’s original 1997 AWD weight of 3300 lbs. The other imports haven’t become much heavier either. We could buy a VW JSW TDI 6MT and it weighs ~3100 lbs.

      Seems like I read that the big barge cars of the 60s and 70s were in the low one and a half tons like the CUVs of today. Correct?

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know about that. Our current sorrento came with the 4 or 6 option. We want to be able to (eventually — we keep cars a long time) tow and also be able to carry 7 passengers around. We opted for the V6. Also need to be able to do both going uphill with ease as that is where the cousins/unlces/aunts live.

    • 0 avatar

      Not only is it relevant, but it is informative as well. When you have a daily commute and money is tight, it is to your best advantage to buy a beater that gets decent gas mileage. The best ones happen to be foreign.

      But even vehicles that can pride themselves on getting great gas mileage can get pushed to where their gas mileage suffers. The Elantra is an excellent example.

      It gets great mileage but when you load it down with four chubby teenage girls, cruise at 85mph on the highway, climb over mountains on the way to your destination, you’re lucky to get half the advertised mpg. It might even be worse with a domestic brand econobox.

      I think the article has it right. The foreigners still lead the pack in efficiency, quality and overall value for the money. I also think that Fiatsler will do very well in the future once the 500 goes mainstream. I know their Pentastar V6 is one sweet engine. Best in class. Better even than Honda, Toyota or Nissan.

      Ford will do well because it is the leading innovative domestic auto manufacturer with solid leadership and fresh products. The only four-bangers better than Fords are the Hyundai DI gas engines in both naturally aspirated and forced-induction versions.

      GM is just not up to par yet, in spite of the $50B bail out and nationalization. GM doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. GM is part of the government. We, the people, own them. And like the government, GM isn’t efficient. It’s bureaucratic. As long as there is tax money flowing in, neither the government nor GM is worried.

  • avatar

    Toyota’s 9.6% improvement in cars seemed, at first, surprising unti I considered:

    Toyota is now selling the 2012 Camry which gets significantly better mileage than the 2011,
    Toyota sold 5K 40mpg 2012 Camry hybrids (normal Camry hybrid montly sales is probably well under 2K),
    Toyota sold almost 9K Prius C and V models, which were unavailable last year,
    Toyota still sold about 20K Prius Classics, as opposed to maybe 12K last March.

    Nearly a quantum jump in fleet fuel economy right in the heart of the product line.

  • avatar

    Once again I am forced to say, “No $h!t”; must be a slow auto news day.

    • 0 avatar

      “…slow news day…”

      Especially since this article was already written by Bertel about a month ago.

      EDIT: Darn it rem83 beat me to the punch. That’s what I get for only scanning so far.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    These kinds of rankings are almost meaningless when comparing specific cars or trucks against each other. People usually cross shop the same model across several manufacturers. I find the mpgs are very close to one another when you do this. Cost and features vary much more.

  • avatar

    Hey Bertel, do you keep getting paid for reposting the same story?

    Can I look forward to reading this again next month?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. He’ll be posting updates every month. Because, you know, Honda might start building F150s or something.
      When does Ed get back? This site is going downhill fast.

  • avatar

    Based on the title of the article, looks like Ford is in the top 3 automakers where fuel economy is concerned…

    Next time, use some journalistic integrity in titling your article, since you’re talking about American Car companies, rather than cars, fuel economy #s…

  • avatar

    The analysis is still crap. Let’s see you plow a parking loat, tow a 24 foot cabin cruiser, or even tow a broken down Camry with one of Hyundai or Honda’s “trucks.”

    The analysis seems to show bigger, heavier vehicles =with bigger more powerful engines tend to get worse fuel mileage. But all new that before the analysis.

    • 0 avatar

      Dunno – I towed a broken down Accord, broken down VW Bus and a broken down Dodge Shadow with a CR-V and a tow dolly…

      I don’t own a “truck” in the traditional sense of the word b/c I never need to tow a cabin crusier, plow parking lots, etc.

      I don’t want to drive a large vehicle everyday (’cause I can’t afford a fleet special purpose vehicles) just because I occasionally need to tow something heavy.

  • avatar

    Ah, I knew I was missing something for this month. Bertel’s spin! How could I forget! Lest we all forget that Bertel dislikes anything that doesn’t fellate his auto ego in foreign lands.

  • avatar

    Bertel – I actually followed the link to TrueCar post, and it looks like you picked the one chart that best supported your case, and all but ignored the rest. While some of what you say is true (Chrysler doesn’t look good in any table, and class leaders like Toyota continue to improve), stating that “American car makers lag” is blatant spin.

    Looking at the numbers by segment helps mitigate the distortion of sales-weighted numbers pointed out by other posters, most articulately by Feds.

    Small Cars:
    In the MPG by segment chart, Ford is #3 in whatever TrueCar considers Small Cars, trailing only Toyota and Honda (and not far behind Honda). Additionally, Ford is only behind Hyundai, Toyota and VW in the Midsize segment, and that’s without the new Fusion available.

    Midsize Cars:
    Interestingly, both Ford and GM were actually ahead of Toyota in the Midsize segment in March 2011. As KixStart pointed out, Toyota made dramatic improvements based on redesigns, new models, and increased sales of hybrids. I understand this information is published monthly and the domestics will have their chance to catch up when their own new products are available, but the flip side of that coin is you shouldn’t use a snapshot of fluctuating data to state that Detroit is not competitive at making efficient cars.

    Nobody thinks of trucks when talking about fuel economy, but when you claim domestic carmakers lag in fuel economy, you have to look at those segments as well. Ford and GM are #s 1 and 2, respectively, for Average Small Truck and #s 1 and 3, respectively, for Average Large Truck. Honda beats GM by 0.2 MPG for the #2 spot in Average Large Truck, though I have no idea what large truck Honda sells. The Ridgeline?

    Also interesting is available segments by manufacturer, and how it positively impacts Hyundai’s overall average. Detroit’s strong truck sales may hurt its fleet MPG average relative to companies like Toyota and Honda, but Hyundai has the advantage of not selling any trucks. In addition, Hyundai doesn’t have any entries in the large SUV or even large cars segments. You can counter that Hyundai leads in MPG in the Average Truck segment in the chart you used, yet they have an “NA” for both the small truck and large truck categories. Hyundai’s midsize SUV is listed at 22.8 MPG (considerably behind GM by the way), so I have no idea what TrueCar is using to generate an Average Truck mileage figure for that company. In summary, big surprise that a company that sells mostly small to midsize cars leads in overall average fuel economy.

    Finally, the Average Truck numbers listed by TrueCar are shady at best. There is the issue of Hyundai’s leading mileage despite no entries in either the Small Truck or Large Truck segments. Honda’s trucks somehow average 22.8 MPG, using 17.2 MPG for their Large Truck and an NA for Small Truck. Nissan’s Average Truck is allegedly 20.4 MPG, yet their Large Truck is a worst-in-class 14.4 MPG and their Small Truck is only 17.0 MPG. The story continues for the domestics, with Average MPG numbers higher than what the Large Truck and Small Truck numbers indicate are possible. I know these are sales-weighted figures and you don’t just average the two numbers, but how can the Average Truck MPG be higher than the Average Small Truck MPG? Where are these numbers coming from?

    In summary, a closer look at all the numbers presented by TrueCar show it is hardly fair to say “American carmakers lag,” or that Ford is “solidly trounced by the Koreans and Japanese.” It looks to me like Ford is doing rather well for itself, with GM still competitive. Both companies have new product on the horizon that should help their cause (Fusion, Malibu ECO). Toyota probably deserves its green cred, while Hyundai gets a big boost in these charts from their sales mix. The information provided by TrueCar looks like a teaser. They actually refer to one of their charts as a “snapshot.” So you have taken a small piece of incomplete information and spun it into an editorial on Detroit’s efforts in efficiency. The information provided by TrueCar raises enough questions that it wasn’t worth using as a source for spin anyway. I know I am already kicking myself for taking the time to comment on it!

    • 0 avatar

      Apparently a CUV or SUV counts as a truck. So a Pilot is being compared to a Suburban. But he’s going to keep posting it. Over and over again. Every month. Until it becomes true.

  • avatar

    Most fuel efficient subcompact : Chevy Sonic
    Most fuel efficient Compact : Chevy Cruze
    Most fuel efficient Midsize : Toyota Camry
    Most fuel efficient compact suv : Chevy Equinox
    Most fuel efficient Midsize suv : Ford Explorer
    Most fuel efficient Large Suv : Chevy Tahoe
    Most fuel efficient Small pickup : Ford Ranger
    Most fuel efficient Large Pickup : Ford F-150
    Most fuel efficient Hybrid : Prius C
    Most fuel efficient plugin hybrid : Chevy Volt
    Most fuel efficient overall: Mitsubishi i-Miev

  • avatar

    There is no surprise that American cars lag behind the rest of the world in terms of economy, with the cheapest gas prices in the world, why would they? Unfortunately “normalizing” gas prices would most likely leave the American manufacturers and American customers flat footed. The foreigners, no real surprises here, have the advantage.
    GM with it’s access to numerous foreign brands, Ford with it’s access to a strong British / European presence and Chrysler, owned by Fiat, there really is no good excuse for them.
    Fortunately I see some good changes coming and me thinks that things will change soon.

  • avatar

    Article is all BS, period. Toyota would love to sell more big tanks. The only green automakers care about is money, Foreign business people are not ‘religious’.

  • avatar

    no doubt true cars definition of a hyundai/kia truck is a small unibody CUV.Small the size resulting in more mileage.Its fact

    Indiana Driver Safety

  • avatar

    Why does the author feel the need to include a trolling based title for the “article”? There was another article similar to this one not too long ago….”Want To Save Gas? Don’t Buy American – Announcing The True Heroes And True Villains At The Pump” that did the same.

    Why the need? Bad article and analysis as well.

  • avatar

    The big 3 are guilty of giving people what they want, relative to size, comfort and payload/towing/offroad. Yes you can tow a Suburban with a CR-V but without trailer brakes, you’re pushing your luck and that of those around you, joeaverage.

    You add cheap fuel (relative to the rest of the world), long commutes, plenty of wide open parking and yeah, who the hell wants to cram themselves into tiny shitboxes for hours a day?

    Nevermind all the commercial/industrial applications that are not excuded from this silly study.

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