Low gas prices typically make fuel-efficient cars less attractive to consumers, and right now prices are very low indeed.

Yet President Barack Obama hopes U.S. car buyers won't clamor for gas guzzlers.

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He cautioned that cheap gas prices won’t last indefinitely, and encouraged Americans to buy more fuel-efficient cars in an interview with The Detroit News.

That interview came just ahead of Obama’s speech at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, Wednesday promoting the success of the auto-industry bailout.

2015 Ford Focus

2015 Ford Focus

The plant produces the Focus and C-Max, but it’s been idled due to low demand for those fuel-efficient vehicles.

One has to admit, that’s a bit ironic.

Obama said the current low gas prices are temporary, and that people are better off buying more-efficient cars because of long-term environmental benefits—and to avoid a rude awakening when prices eventually increase.

If prices suddenly return to $3.50 a gallon, Obama said, “you are going to not be real happy.”

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He said “folks should enjoy” low gas prices, but that it would be better to save the money rather than continue driving less-efficient vehicles.

While oil prices have dropped 40 percent since June—dropping gas prices to around $2 per gallon or below in some parts of the country—Obama said that can’t last in the face of continually-increasing demand.

He noted countries like China and India will continue to grow oil use, and that demand “will grow faster than supply” over the long term.

In the short term, though, it’s unclear whether buyers will follow Obama’s advice.

2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid

2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Trucks and SUVs outsold conventional cars in the U.S. last year, and analysts attribute this partly to low gas prices.

Most of that growth was likely in the realm of car-based crossovers that are comparably more fuel efficient than traditional, truck-based SUVs, but that still represents a move away from the most efficient cars.

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That’s possibly why the Ford plant Obama spoke at isn’t churning out Focus and C-Max models.

However, regardless of current market trends, the overall efficiency of vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing thanks to stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards confirmed late in Obama’s first term.

These require carmakers to achieve a fleet average of 54.5 mpg—the equivalent of roughly 42 mpg on the window sticker—by 2025.


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