2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012Enlarge Photo
The automakers have been quite supportive in fact--perhaps knowing all along what a new analysis has discovered: That consumers want more efficient vehicles.
It's easy to get an impression otherwise when trawling the internet for comment, but a Consumer Federation of America study reveals 85 percent of those polled support the CAFE standards, and a full 54 percent "strongly support" them.
The figures are also independent of political allegiance--77 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Independents and 92 percent of Democrats are in favor.
Almost nine people from every ten said fuel efficiency would be an important factor in their next purchase, and even SUV buyers are coming around to the idea of greater efficiency: over half of respondents said they wanted their next vehicle to achieve at least 25 mpg.
Pinch of salt?
Ordinarily, we'd caution that what people say doesn't always correlate with what they're actually going to do, but real-world sales seem to back up the survey data.
We've already noted how hybrid sales grew a full 40 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, and sales of other efficient vehicles increased too.
That's partly down to the vehicles available these days. It's getting harder and harder to buy an inefficient vehicle--sub-15 mpg vehicles made up 15 percent of the market in 2009, today only 3 percent.
Vehicles getting 30 mpg or more, by way of comparison, grew from a tiny one percent to a full nine percent by this year.
Buyers are making the effort too though--the sales of sub-22 mpg vehicles have fallen from 70 to 44 percent, since 2009. In contrast, the sales of vehicles getting at least 30 mpg has risen from 4 to 12 percent.
That's still a relatively small number, but with hybrids alone growing a full percent from 2011 to 2012 and ever more vehicles capable of hitting 40 mpg and above, those percentages will shift further over the coming years.
Notably, many vehicles are already hitting the tough 2017 and 2025 rules. 12 models, or 9 percent of 2013 vehicles, already hit 2025's standards.
These are, for reference, lower on EPA stickers than the 54.5 mpg CAFE rating implies--no production non-plugin car on sale in the U.S. currently gets 54.5 mpg--though it probably won't be long until one does.
To read more statistics and data from the report, you can download the full document here (pdf file).