Study: Cars Are Safer and Sell Better As Fuel Efficiency Improves

Washington D.C. May 10, 2018 – A new analysis, “Fuel Economy Standards: There is No Tradeoff with Safety, Cost and Fleet Turnover,” from the Consumer Federation of America, finds that as average fleet fuel efficiency increased from 24.2 MPG in 2013 to 25.2 MPG in 2018, passenger vehicles became both safer and more popular, with more vehicles bought than retired over the same period.

“Facts don’t lie, and the data completely refute the Trump/Pruitt Administration’s latest convoluted rationale for rolling back the standards,” said Jack Gillis, incoming CFA Executive Director, and author of the report. “Safety is up, fuel economy is up and sales are up. Older, gas guzzling cars are less safe and more expensive to operate and people know it. That’s why they are being driven off the road. The truth is that today’s “all-new”[1] vehicles are the safest, most efficient, most desirable cars, trucks and SUVs in history, and consumers are responding by buying record numbers. American’s want cars that save both lives and money. ”

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Among the top findings:

  • The average fuel economy of “all-new” vehicles increased to 25.1 MPG in 2018 from 21.8 MPG in 2011 (a year before current standards were adopted).
  • 2018’s “all-new” vehicles include an average of 12.3 advanced safety features such as blind-spot detection and lane keeping assist, compared to an average of 7.4 in 2011.
  • Drivers of “all-new” vehicles introduced in 2018, compared to their 2011 models, will save an average of $2,605, which eclipses the average sticker price increase of $2,127. Not only will fuel savings cover any cost of fuel saving technology, but also all of the other costs that go into carmaker price increases such as new safety features, technology and designs.
  • Each year for the past five years, an average of 16.9 million new, safer and more fuel efficient vehicles (17 million over the last two years) have been added to the fleet, while an average of 13 million older, less safe and less fuel efficient vehicles have been retired. Along with becoming more fuel efficient, the fleet is becoming safer every year.
  • Already, 2018 is projected to be another record year in vehicle sales, with a record 4,117,766 sold in the first quarter alone. CFA projects that 2018 will see a new record for vehicle sales of 17.7 million.

“Gas prices have risen 17 percent over the past year. Rolling back the standards leaves consumer pocketbooks totally vulnerable—keeping them in place is the best protection consumers can get as gas prices go back up,” said Gillis. “And when it comes to protection for your family and fuel savings, you don’t have to choose. Fuel efficiency makes safety affordable.”

In 2012, automakers, consumers, unions, environmentalists, the government and other stakeholders agreed to fuel economy standards that increased sensibly through model year 2025. The standards are flexible with different targets for larger and smaller vehicles. This gives automakers the freedom to invest in any type of vehicle they choose, while consumers save money at the pump no matter what kind of vehicle they buy. And it means that automakers have very different requirements based on their fleet makeup.

A detailed EPA midterm review found that not only do the standards continue to be technically and economically feasible, but that compliance costs were lower than predicted. Tragically the Trump/Pruitt administration has rejected those findings, and announced plans to loosen the rules.

“To roll back fuel efficiency standards is to prioritize ideology over facts, and to honor lobbyists’ wish lists over the needs of American consumers, who want safe, attractive and efficient vehicles that go farther on a gallon of increasingly expensive gas,” said Gillis. “This report proves that the Administration is fabricating its justification for a rollback of the standards with no basis in fact.”

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.

[1] NOTE: When a car maker introduces an “all-new” model, that version of the vehicle essentially remains the same for about 5 years.  During that time, while the car maker will tweak certain aspects of the vehicle, the mechanical underpinnings generally remain the same.  As such, it is difficult to make any significant improvements in the fuel efficiency of that particular vehicle during its model series.  On the other hand, each year manufacturers introduce 25-30 truly “all-new” versions of their vehicles and that’s when they have the opportunity to incorporate the latest fuel saving technology and significantly increase the vehicle’s fuel efficiency.  For this part of the report, CFA looked at the models that were “all-new” for 2018, that is, significantly redesigned, and compared them with their pre-standard predecessors (2011 models).  There were 19 “all-new” models that had 2011 predecessors.