By on February 11, 2014

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior

According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the fleetwide fuel economy in the United States increased for the second consecutive month to 24.9 mpg during the month of January 2014.

Though the average peaked at 25 mpg late last year, the current figure is up 1.2 percent over the 24.6 mpg average gained at the same time last year, while already ahead of the overall 2013 average of 24.7 mpg. The gain is in spite of falling green-car sales in the same month, where 14 percent less hybrids and EVs left the showroom floor than had done so in 2013.

The cause? The Toyota Prius, whose four variants on the same theme lost 23 percent of what was sold at the same time last year to more three- and four-pot models such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Spark, whose application of fuel economy technology differs greatly from EV and hybrid offerings while also capable of pulling customers away from the truck lots.

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27 Comments on “U.S. Average Fuel Economy Increases In January...”

  • avatar

    Maybe its because almost no company makes a V8 anymore, almost all of these cars have 6 -9 speed transmissions and most vehicles on the road are gutless econoboxes that barely seat 4 “Murican\'” sized adults?

  • avatar

    People have short memories…today’s four-cylinder Accords and Camrys can blow away many “performance” cars from 20 years ago.

    The reason people don’t place an emphasis on quarter-mile times or 0-60 times is that they don’t have to worry about them…virtually every car sold today is “fast” by historical standards.

    Try merging on to a highway from a dead stop with an early 1980s Escort or Civic. THAT was truly scary even when the speed limit was supposedly set at 55 mph (okay, nobody obeyed it, but that’s a story for another time).

    • 0 avatar

      I never found it even remotely scary, even when driving my 54hp Peugeot 504D. You simply used ALL of the available horsepower, as opposed to today when most Americans can’t find full throttle with a GPS.

      • 0 avatar

        Even using all of the available horsepower, I’m sure you had to leave yourself plenty of room.

        Here in Pennsylvania, we still have entrance ramps with very little, or no, room to get a “running” start for merging.

        • 0 avatar

          VW Microbus:

          “…Indeed, Road & Track clocked its 1956 Micro Bus at a sleep-inducing 75 seconds 0-60 mph. That in fact was the test vehicle’s top speed, and it actually took less time, 27 seconds, to cover a standing-start quarter-mile.

          Curiously, VW placed a sticker on the dashboard that read, “The allowable top speed of this vehicle is 50 miles per hour,” though R&T noted that with a tailwind, a Micro Bus was perfectly capable of cruising at 70 mph on a level highway.

          The 1956 model was rated at 36 horsepower at 3700 rpm and 56 pounds/feet of torque at 2000. The one tested by R&T weighed 2,300 pounds…”

          I remember reading that the sport Karmann Ghia was slower than the Bug, because it used the same engine but was heavier.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it depends on driving skills and the quality of the on-ramp. In Germany the Autobahn has very long on-ramp (actually called acceleration strip = Beschleunigungsstreifen). Even with my 26 hp Trabant or 45 hp opel corsa i ever felt intimidated to get on. Even with many cars truly at autobahn speed.

      The issue in the US is the on/off ramp are under designed, soemtimes not even existent and you have to go from 20 or oeven 0 to 60 in almost no time. That is the real problem.

    • 0 avatar

      Horsepower and torque are important for merging at an intersection near my office in Ann Arbor. To go east on M-14 from Barton Drive there is first a stop sign, then about 20 feet of ramp, and you have to go straight up a large hill (okay by Midwest standards). The speed limit on M-14 is 70 with the on-coming traffic having built up speed as they have just come down the large hill.
      That intersection and the nearby Main Street exit is just a major cluster.

    • 0 avatar

      Many highways in Western PA were built in earlier times (late 50’s), and the cloverleafs, on-ramps, etc were built around existing terrain, communities, rivers, etc. — well before “eminent domain” laws were enacted to give more right-of-way to highway construction. Thus, many of these roads have short on-ramps, tight curves, narrow lanes, and so on. I have no doubt that many visitors to Pittsburgh drive the Parkway and say “THIS is an INTERSTATE?”.

      Try lane-crossing on the Fort Pitt bridge to get to the tunnels, and (with modern levels of traffic) you’ll appreciate the sub-10 second 0-60 times of most modern cars.

  • avatar

    I’ve never felt particularly unsafe, in the sense that I couldn’t achieve freeway speed in a reasonable distance, in any car I’ve driven save a friend’s Neon (the Neon having been weighed down with around 1,000 pounds of passenger – that was scary).

    The least powerful car I’ve had was my 93 Escort LXi with something like 92hp and the most powerful was my 06 Grand Prix with 201hp. I don’t think I used anywhere near the total amount of power in either. I never understand the need for stupid amounts of power, and find the lowly 4-cylinders more than adequate for my needs.

    • 0 avatar

      Anytime you have to wind up a little squirrel engine to get to merging speed, that blows your fuel economy and mpg all to hell.

      With all the oil still available and yet to be extracted, the whole fuel economy increase is a treehugging greenweenie’s farcical wet dream.

      People will still drive what they want to drive without regard to fuel economy as evidenced by pickup trucks being the best selling vehicles in America.

      • 0 avatar

        “Anytime you have to wind up a little squirrel engine to get to merging speed, that blows your fuel economy and mpg all to hell.”

        This just in: fuel consumption is highest during rapid acceleration.

      • 0 avatar

        highdesertcat: “Anytime you have to wind up a little squirrel engine to get to merging speed, that blows your fuel economy and mpg all to hell.”

        I’m going to wind up that little squirrel enging for all of 400 to 800 yards. I don’t think this problem is going to keep me awake at night and I don’t think it’s going to ruin my overall fuel economy, either.

        • 0 avatar

          Kix, my objection is to the current trend of trying to cram all of us into little pregnant roller skates with tiny squirrel engines, like those of the Europeans. All for the sake of “fuel economy.”

          We’re not Europeans. We’re Americans. I don’t care what Europeans, Canadians and Mexicans drive.

          And as an American I want comfort, ride quality and plenty of reserve power. A halfton pickup truck with a squirrelly V6 in it is not it. And neither is a Camry, Impala or Fusion with a fourbanger.

          I know plenty of people who drive their American Dream with big engines in them and get respectable gas mileage from them.

          Cylinder management and deactivation is just one route the manufacturers can go to improve gas mileage.

          I know contractors who choose to drive a Silverado (they have my condolences) and get excellent gas mileage. Ditto with F150 V8 owners.

          I know of NO Tundra 5.7 owners who p!ss and moan about fuel economy because that’s the price we pay to drive the Rolex of pickup trucks. Does anyone expect fuel economy from a Rolls, Bentley, S-Class or 7-Series? No!

          Our 1992 Towncar with the dual-exhaust 4.6 in it got pretty damn good gas mileage for a vehicle of that size and heft, as long as you didn’t floor it or otherwise put the pedal to the metal getting the hell out of Dodge (city, that is).

          My 2006 F150 5.4 got great gas mileage if I drove it sanely and kept a light foot on the go pedal. But it could suck gas with the best of them when I was towing, hauling or otherwise used it for what it was designed to do.

          Today’s vehicles with squirrel engines are all show, no go. That’s why the Corvette still has a respectable mill, along with all other purpose-built vehicles. Not everyone likes squirrel under the hood.

          A V6 like the Pentastar is probably as squirrelly as I want to go, but it does have its limitations in our 2012 Grand Cherokee.

          It does great on a flat, level road with the wind at its back, but going up a mountain that tranny is as busy as a one-armed wallpaper hanger. And the mileage suffers.

          You can blow the mpgs on any squirrel engine by just pushing it outside its test envelope. Hard acceleration, no matter how short a distance, will do just that.

          • 0 avatar

            If it’s all about what each of us wants to drive, then you can stop whining about my squirrel engine.

            Of course, it’s not that simple. Fossil fuels are a finite and, in many ways, dangerous resource. What you choose to drive to get around had effects beyond your tailpipe. The roads are shared, your behemoth is actually a greater danger to me than a smaller vehicle.

          • 0 avatar

            Kix, indeed, it is all about what each of us chooses to drive.

            I do not share the belief that fossil fuels are finite and neither do most Americans who choose to buy behemoths like the F150, Silverado, RAM and related supersized vehicles like SUVs/CUVs, when they could easily move about in tiny people movers like the Fiat 500, Yaris and Fit.

            Fossil fuels will be with us for centuries yet. And if we don’t use it, Asia and the rest of the planet will.

            But the topic is “U.S. Average Fuel Economy Increases In January” and I believe much of that can be attributed to the fact our government is forcing us into ever-smaller personal conveyances through mandates that force automakers to make smaller, cramped cars with less powerful engines.

            Personally, for me when it comes to driving, the bigger, the better. And I believe that most Americans who believe that also put their money where their mouth is by buying behemoths like the F150, Silverado, RAM, and, in my case, the Tundra.

            That is not to say that there isn’t room in my household for a 2012 Grand Cherokee and 2008 Highlander. Although midsizers in that class of vehicles, I would not label them economical by any means.

      • 0 avatar

        highdesertcat, while I’m not disagreeing with you completely this has not been my experience. Perhaps my opinion is skewed because I live in the relatively sparsely populated upper mid-west and don’t really have to thrash anything to get up to speed.

        Even in my Escort I got an easy 25-27 mpg, which, for a (then) 13 year old car, was pretty darn good.

        My current car, 2013 Focus SE, fits my needs just fine and I never feel at a loss for power. I only get in the upper reaches of the tach when I feel like it, but really never out of necessity. During the summer it regularly returned 33-37 mpg. Over the winter it’s been a bit down, but that’s to be expected in my area.

        Would I like something a bit larger? Yes. Is it important enough to go dump my current car? No. Hell, I’d drive a CX-5 with the base engine, slightly less powerful than mine, because I would like to sit up higher than I do currently.

        • 0 avatar

          tankinbeans, my BFF still has a 1989 Camry V6 he lets his grand daughter drive as her daily driver and that old car still gets a solid 20mpg with the 2.5 V6 running with original spark plugs and >150K miles on it.

          I’m not knocking anyone’s choice in what they buy and drive, because that is based on their financial and philosophical reasons.

          My gripe is with the reductions we, the buyers, are forced to accept because of the misbegotten and ill-advised policies of the far-left uber-liberal greenweenie tree-huggers that have shaped America’s auto-industry policy of forcing us into smaller cars with tiny, squirrel engines, to try and wean us off oil products that are in overwhelmingly abundant supply.

          I’m a political Independent, so I’ll vote for anyone who opposes CAFE and EPA mandates that harm the public, and in turn, me.

          When my kids still lived at home, I owned multiple foreign-brand used cars purchased to keep my kids independently mobile and gas mileage varied based on how each vehicle was driven, and by whom.

          Yep, my daughter got the best mileage of them all. We used to call her lightfoot, at least until she bought her own car and paid for her own gas.

          By them she had morphed into her leadfoot mother. (Now you may understand why I bought my wife a Grand Cherokee with the Pentastar instead of the 5.7 or the SRT8.)

          OTOH, when I was growing up, my dad was heavy into drag racing and his rail, and dragsters, burned through 9 gallons of gas in the quarter mile at Riverside Raceway.

          Driving on the gridlocked freeways of smoggy Southern California growing up didn’t improve my mpgs either, but at least I could drive what I wanted to drive and not be forced into buying something squirrelly the government forced me to drive.

          All this “fuel economy” is bunk and totally unnecessary. It limits the choice of what to drive, the size of the engine and its availability to only those with lots of money.

          If people can’t afford to buy fuel for their vehicle, they are free to take the bus, bicycle or walk.

          No matter where a person lives, if they are a fan, an auto enthusiast, they will have their ‘gas hog’ to satisfy their inner self. I would like mine to be something modern, up to date, technologically advanced, and with plenty of power.

          No, I cannot afford a brand new Corvette, Rolls, Aston, Ferarri, Bentley, S-Class or 7-Series.

          I can just barely afford to buy a Tundra 5.7 but you’ll never hear me complain about gas mileage and mpgs. That just comes with the territory. That magnificent 5.7-liter V8 makes up for whatever downsides it may have.

  • avatar

    For the average driver or the enthusiast that doesn’t place a premium on acceleration gobs of horsepower really isn’t a big deal but its great for selling cars since its a metric easily compared and conjures the image of progress.

  • avatar

    I think the math is wrong. since mpg is an inverse value (it should fuel per distance) averaging is wrong. they should take the inverse, average it, and inverse again to get overall mileage.
    (any nerds here can look up how to calculate thermal ressitance with R and U-values of assemblies.. similar problem)

    Try it out, a 25 mpg and 35 mpg car yield 30 mpg on average, right? No wrong. 1/((1/25+1/35)/2)) = 29.166. This becomes more obvious if you use a 10 mpg and a 50 mpg car. Instead of 30 mpg, you get 16.6666 if this is not a significant error, I don’t know what is.

    No wonder these guys still are at the university and write all the studies no one needs, all the good students got jobs.

  • avatar

    Probably has to do with the slight MPG increases in half ton trucks. When the most numerous and least efficient vehicles in the total fleet go from 16 to 18 mpg that saves a lot more fuel than the smaller numbers of vehicles that went from say 32 to 34 mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly, their math of averaging mpg is wrong and therefore rhe numbets are meaningless. This is not just wrong in a sense of preference, it is mathematically wrong. Shame on the U of M.

      If the number they show is supposed to have any indication on national fuel consumprion, they need to calculate correctly.

    • 0 avatar

      And pickup trucks still are the best selling vehicles in America but the dealers seem to push V6-powered halfton trucks everywhere you go.

      A friend of mine had to drive 246 miles to find a dealer that had a 2013 F150 XLT 4-dr V8 in stock and on the lot. And then they wanted as much as an EB V6 for the damn thing.

      Good thing he got a lot of money in trade for his 2009 F150 V8 Supercab.

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    My heart is V8 and my head is NA 4. Fortunately I am in a position now where I can have one of each. I drove malaise cars in the 80s and 90s and can attest that any modern car like a Focus or Civic is a super efficient rocket ship compared to them. Driving bad cars (i.e. 81 Mercury Cougar) really makes you appreciate any average modern car. It’s good to be alive!

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