Okay, Now America's Dislike of Cars is Starting to Show

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
okay em now em america s dislike of cars is starting to show

The post-recession era was an interesting one. As automakers struggled to cram every last piece of fuel-saving technology into their vehicles, gas prices shot up and grimly stayed put. Engine displacements small enough to inspire locker room bullying were suddenly the mainstream.

Naturally, both corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and sales-weighted fuel economy shot up like U.S. jobs numbers.

America’s rapidly growing lust for light trucks, crossovers and SUVs has been well documented, but until now, the trend has only served to flatline the average gas mileage of the country’s new vehicles. Well, the trend could only go so far before reaching a tipping point.

According to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, the truck-hungry month of October saw sales-weighted average fuel economy drop by 0.4 miles per gallon — the steepest drop since the oil price crash of late 2014. That puts the average fuel economy at 24.8 mpg, a full 1 mpg lower than the post-recession peak of August 2014.

Put another way, the last time collective gas mileage was this low was in July of 2013.

Of course, the landscape has changed since that long-ago time. Back then, trucks, SUVs and crossovers were only popular. Tried-and-true passenger cars made up the majority of new vehicle market share.

According to TTAC sales guru Tim Cain, passenger cars only made up 40 percent of new vehicle sales volume during the first 10 months of this year. In October? A mere 37 percent. Compare that to 2015’s YTD figure of 44 percent. So yes, 63 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. last month were some form of light truck, van, SUV or crossover.

In Canada, which the University of Michigan isn’t concerned with, that number was actually 66 percent. Traversing the barren wastes that lie outside the boundaries of Toronto requires a vehicle with rugged capability, it seems.

Expect fuel economy figures to change soon, but not because of any sudden advance in technology. The Environmental Protection Agency has changed the methodology behind its gas mileage ratings, with the new numbers appearing on 2017 model year vehicles. Supposedly, this should result in a more accurate estimate of a vehicle’s fuel economy.

Those figures will be retroactively added to historical fuel economy charts starting next month, the Transportation Research Institute claims.

[Images: General Motors; University of Michigan]

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  • Lynn Ellsworth Lynn Ellsworth on Nov 14, 2016

    "America will never have a gas tax like Europeans because": Trump is going to cut inheritance taxes, rich people's taxes, and corporate taxes and then rebuild our infrastructure. So who is going to pay for the infrastructure improvements (which we do need)? Higher gas taxes or will an enormous debt be passed on to your kids? When Trump's 4 year old type emotions feel slighted and starts a nuclear war we will really need infrastructure repairs. Side note: If that NJ guy gets any position in the new administration can you imagine the future traffic jams when his ego gets bruised?

  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Jun 13, 2017

    I see a lot more full size SUV on the roads now! My neighbor just got a new Tahoe Premier - $76K! I saving for a full size SUV too! It will be a few years but be worth it!

  • Wjtinfwb Instead of raising fines, why don't the authorities enforce the laws and write tickets, and have judges enforce the penalty or sentence of a crime. I live across the street from an Elementary School on a 4-lane divided state highway. every morning the cop sits in his car and when someone sails through the School Zone well above the 10 mph limit, he merely hits his siren to get their attention but that's it. I've never, in 5 years, seen them get out of the car and actually stop and driver and confront them about speeding. As a result, no one pays attention and when the School Zone light is not lit, traffic flies by at 50-60 mph in the 45 zone. Almost no enforcement occurs until the inevitable crash, last year some zoned out girl rolled her beater Elantra 3 times. On a dry, straight, 4 lane road with a 45 mph limit. I'm no Angel and have a heavy foot myself. I've received my share of speeding tickets, lots of them when younger. Traffic enforcement in most locales has become a joke these days, jacking prices because someone has a higher income in as asinine as our stupid tax policy and non-existent immigration enforcement.
  • Jeff S If AM went away I would listen to FM but since it is insignificant in the cost to the car and in an emergency broadcast it is good to have. I agree with some of the others its another way to collect money with a subscription. AM is most likely to go away in the future but I will use AM as long as its around.
  • BEPLA I think it's cool the way it is.If I had the money, time and space - I'd buy it, clean it up, and just do enough to get it running properly.Then take it to Cars and Coffee and park it next to all the newer Mustangs.
  • Dave M. I suppose Jethro’s farm report comes via AM, but there’s a ton of alternative ways to get that info. Move forward people. Progress is never easy.
  • BEPLA For anything but the base model, I'd rather have a pre-owned Polestar 2.