Americans Get Most Mileage Out Of Foreign Cars

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
americans get most mileage out of foreign cars

When April sales data came out, a lot of noise was made of the shift towards gasoline-sipping small cars. Shrill voices feted sales of electric cars, which look like a rounding error, as a win in the war on terror. As so often, the truth is different. The new cars that hit the road in April get, on average, slightly less mileage (23.3 mpg) than those sold in March (23.4 mpg). If the war on terror would honestly be waged on dealer lots, then the true heroes would be foreign mercenaries, with Americans occupying rear echelon slots.

“In April, we saw a slight increase in sales of trucks and SUVs, which factored into the decrease in the actual fuel economy of cars sold” said Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Market Intelligence at Each month, the Santa Monica, CA, company compiles the actual fuel economy numbers of then light vehicles sold in that month on a sales-weighted basis. TrueCar calls this number TrueMPG.

Average MPGManufacturerApr ’12Apr ’11YoYHyundai27.626.01.6Volkswagen26.825.21.6Toyota25.523.71.8Honda25.224.21.0Nissan23.422.60.8Industry23.322.21.1Ford22.121.11.0GM21.521.20.3Chrysler20.018.41.6

Compared to April 2011 (22.2 mpg), the average of all cars sold is up by more than a gallon, reflecting changes in technology and buying patterns. The leaders of the list improved more than the laggards. Again, as measured by what is actually bought and sold, America’s most fuel efficient cars are not American. The Detroit 3 rank below industry average. Chrysler has the worst showing. GM has the most measly increase in MPG. Ford is reaping the results of its fuel economy focus.

Average Car MPGManufacturerApr ’12Apr ’11YoYToyota31.028.62.4Hyundai29.327.02.3Honda27.927.40.5Volkswagen27.626.70.9Industry27.025.51.5Nissan26.524.91.6Ford26.325.40.9GM25.124.40.7Chrysler22.821.61.2

TrueCar breaks out is TrueMPG in a multitude of ways. Looking at the data by car and by truck does not change the overall picture much. In the car category, Toyota moves to the top.

Average Truck MPGManufacturerApr ’12Apr ’11YoYHyundai22.822.50.3Honda22.420.71.7Volkswagen21.820.51.3Toyota19.519.50Industry19.318.40.9Nissan19.218.50.7GM19.118.80.3Ford18.816.62.2Chrysler17.617.7-0.1

Measured by (all types of) trucks alone, Hyundai reigns supreme, whereas Chrysler sells the most fuelly oinkers.

Average Small Car MPGManufacturerApr ’12Apr ’11YoYToyota35.733.12.5Ford32.228.63.6Honda32.229.82.0Industry31.929.22.7Volkswagen31.329.42.1Nissan30.728.51.9Hyundai30.429.81.3GM30.327.72.5Mazda29.726.03.7Subaru28.322.26.1Mitsubishi25.326.1-0.8Chrysler25.024.50.7

An even thinner slicing of the data even further, finally brings respect to a Detroit maker. Ford is above average in the Small Car discipline, which is led by Toyota.

Average Midsize Car MPGManufacturerApr ’12Apr ’11YoYVolkswagen29.324.64.7Toyota28.724.44.3Hyundai27.726.31.4Ford26.825.51.3Industry26.425.11.3Honda26.025.90.1GM25.825.50.3Nissan25.123.51.6Suzuki25.124.90.2Mazda24.723.80.9Mitsubishi24.324.30.0Subaru24.324.10.2Chrysler24.023.90.1

The midsize car category is in the hands of Germans, Japanese, and Koreans, with Ford in place four.

Average Large Truck MPGManufacturerApr ’12Apr ’11YoYFord17.416.21.2Honda17.216.90.3GM17.117.7-0.6Industry16.816.40.4Chrysler15.816.2-0.4Toyota15.415.6-0.2Nissan14.314.20.1

At last, two Detroit makers above average, in the discipline that usually delivers abysmal mileage: Ford sells the most large trucks with the best mileage. GM, which had led this discipline a year ago, loses 0.6 miles and falls back to place three.

If you miss your favorite data view, go over to TrueCar, which gives you a few more.

TrueCars measures its TrueMPG using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratings based on monthly automotive sales-weighted data. Calculations start at the trim level, taking into account EPA fuel economy data including engine size and drivetrain that affect a vehicle’s MPG ratings; the sales share from each trim level is then calculated to create an average for each model. Brand level data is calculated by the sales share of each model and the manufacturer data is then based on the share of each brand.

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3 of 39 comments
  • Daveainchina Daveainchina on May 06, 2012

    Thank you for slicing that down. I'm curious why is BMW and Mercedes not on the list? Especially given the passion (BMW especially) these brands garner. Also is the VW, is that VW only or does that include Audi? Any chance of breaking these down by brands.. ie instead of GM, how about Chevy/Buick/Cadillac. Dodge/Chrysler/Ram. VW/Audi? etc. Still thank for the further breakdown. Seems to me that GM and Chrysler need to get their act together and start going on a fuel diet.

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on May 06, 2012

    I like data, but this information is lost on Americans because we are not collectivists. Nobody gives a hoot which mfr has the most MPG, or how their CAFE number is going. We only care about the car we're driving, or shopping for. Making those numbers change is somebody else's problem, not mine.

    • Redav Redav on May 07, 2012

      Been said many times, many places. Apparently no one cares.

  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.
  • Master Baiter "I like the Earth."The idea that modern combustion engines are incompatible with the ongoing survival of the Earth, or of humanity, is breathtakingly stupid. Climate alarmism is akin to a religion--one to which I do not subscribe.
  • Skippity Key takeaways.Toyota is run by competent businessmen.Art doesn’t like Toyota.
  • MaintenanceCosts Audi has been a full player in the German luxury club for 20 years. It started to get there with the first A4, which was a 500-foot home run, and then achieved full recognition with the spectacular D3 A8.