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New-Car Buyers Want Higher Gas Mileage (It Pays For Itself Too)

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How much do you spend on gasoline each year?

If you happen to live in the average U.S. household, the total is more than $2,850 every year--roughly $240 a month, or $60 each week.

So when the Consumer Federation of America surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults in May on their attitudes toward fuel efficiency, they all wanted to spend less on gasoline.

And on average, they expected their next car would be more fuel-efficient by about 7 miles per gallon.

(Because MPG is not a linear measure, that could mean anything from a truck that's 50 percent more efficient--if their old pickup gets 14 mpg--to a new compact car that's just 20 percent more efficient than today's 35-mpg version.)

But the findings have some interesting nuances, including a strong tie to U.S. energy security.

The CFA survey results included the following findings:

  • Consumer expectations match the adopted fuel-efficiency standards; drivers who expect to buy a new car in five years or more expect it to get 34.5 mpg, which matches the 2016 standard of 35 mpg.
  • Drivers who already have fuel-efficient vehicles are more strongly interested in fuel economy, so as mileage standards increase through 2016, that overall support will rise.
  • Consumers surveyed thought the U.S. should reduce oil consumption (they likely love their moms and like apple pie, too).
  • The more important a respondent thought it was to cut oil use, the higher the expectation of gas-mileage levels in future vehicles.
  • Three-quarters of respondents said they thought a 55-mpg standard for motor vehicles in 2025 was a good idea.
  • More importantly, two-thirds think it's a good idea even if it costs more.

And that's where the survey responses get most interesting.

A CFA analysis of the costs and benefits of the new fuel economy rules--those in place through 2016, plus those proposed for 2017 through 2025--show a payback period of just three years on the car-price increase to get that higher mileage.

Better yet, buyers who take out an average auto loan immediately benefit.

That is, the savings in their monthly gas bill more than outweigh the increase in their monthly loan payment associated with the price rise to achieve them.

The full study is titled, "A Key Step to Ending America's Oil Addiction: Policymakers, Consumers, and Automakers Are Shifting New Vehicles to Higher Fuel Economy."

It can be read or downloaded from the CFA website.

The EPA and NHTSA are scheduled to finalize fuel efficiency standards for 2017-2025 this summer.

CFA's research director, Mark Cooper, called the new standards "one of the most important consumer protection measures to be adopted in decades,” noting that fuel economy in new cars had not risen at this rate "since the oil-price shocks of the 1970s."

Established in 1968, the CFA is an association of almost 300 nonprofit consumer organizations. Its mission, it says, is "to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education."

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Comments (4)
  1. Well, the consumer may be interested in higher fuel efficiency, and be willing to pay more, but if it looks like a Prius, maybe not. What else could explain the relatively low market penetration of the Prius.

    Ah market studies. What a joy. But perhaps there are a 1000 more people now thinking about fuel economy and that is a good thing.
     
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  2. Though at the same time, the Prius accounts for 50%+ of all hybrid cars on the road today, and every single year the Prius has repeatedly destroyed the sales of Honda's normal-looking Civic Hybrid.

    Personally, I think looks isn't the main thing holding back overall hybrid sales. Aside from the higher cost, I would guess the public just isn't well-educated on hybrid cars-- The thing I hear most often when people ask about my hybrid car was, "didn't you have to replace the battery every 3 years for $5000?" :-P
     
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  3. I paid a premium for my Volt to save gas. But since I got 0% 72 month loan on my Volt, the premium saved is no brainer...
     
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  4. How much are you saving when I also get the same 0% for 60-72 months on a Cruze or Focus at a sticker price of $10k less than the Volt? $10k is a lot to make up when the Cruze and Focus get over 30 city/hwy mpg. Plus, both those vehicles are more practical in terms of functionality than the Volt, more trunk room and bigger back seats. Bring the price of the Volt down $10k and it's a winner, at this price point, it's financially a bad move.
     
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