This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 19, 2006

U.S. Fuel Economy for Cars and Light Trucks Holds Steady in 2006

As automakers prepare to release their model year 2007 cars and light trucks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that this year's cars and trucks averaged 21.0 miles per gallon (mpg), unchanged from the year before. Average fuel economies hit their peak at 22.1 mpg in model year 1987, then slid over the following five years. According to the EPA, a trend toward faster and heavier vehicles is balancing out gains in fuel efficiency, and since 1992, the average fuel economy of new U.S. cars and light trucks has remained relatively constant. Recent technology developments, such as hybrid-electric vehicles, clean diesel technology, improved transmission designs, and engines equipped with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, hold promise for stable or improving fuel economy in the future, depending on whether light trucks maintain their popularity. EPA estimates the average fuel economy based on sales projections from automakers, which are expecting light trucks (vans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks) to account for half the vehicle sales for the current model year. See the EPA press release or go directly to the report.

Recent trends in vehicle sales show decreasing sales of light trucks and increasing sales of cars, including subcompacts and hybrids. With the year half over, light truck sales have dropped by 6.3 percent compared to last year, according to Motor Intelligence, an online automotive data source. Passenger car sales have gained 2.5 percent over last year's sales, but light trucks are still outselling passenger cars. Passenger cars made up 47.5 percent of sales for the first half of this year, compared to 45.3 percent of sales for the first half of 2005. See the "New Vehicle Sales" report on the Motor Intelligence Web site.

Photo of the Honda Fit.

A shift toward cars and subcompacts, like the new Honda Fit, might yield improvements in U.S. fuel economy in coming years.
Credit: Honda

Meanwhile, American Honda Motor Company is reporting strong sales of its Civic Hybrid and new Fit subcompact, while Toyota Motor Sales is reporting strong sales of its Prius, Camry Hybrid, and Yaris subcompact. Ford Motor Company's results are representative of domestic automakers, with a 7 percent increase in car sales and a 14 percent decrease in light truck sales, compared to last year. Ford blames high gasoline prices, and notes that although truck-based SUVs have seen declining sales over the past four years, a decline in large pickup sales occurred relatively recently. See the press releases from Honda, Toyota, and Ford.