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CR: 56 mpg vehicle standard is good, 62 mpg better

June 30, 2011

Consumers Reports Says 56 Miles-Per-Gallon Vehicle Standard is Good, but 62 MPG is Better
Aggressive Fuel Economy Standard by 2025 Will Save Consumers Money and Dramatically Cut Oil Consumption

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer Reports today commented on proposed fuel economy standards for 2017-2025 currently being considered by the Obama Administration. Fuel economy or “CAFE” (corporate average fuel economy) standards for new vehicles are already slated to improve from an average of 27.3 miles per gallon today to 35.5 mpg by 2016. The White House is considering a range of improvements from 47 to 62 mpg by 2025, with news reports saying the Administration is mulling a 56-mpg standard. Moving to 62 mpg by 2025 is estimated to save consumers about $6,000 in owner costs over the life of the vehicle and cut U.S. gasoline consumption by one-third.
Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, said, “Improving fuel economy standards is one of the most effective ways to save consumers money at the pump. We believe that an aggressive standard with a long lead time for auto manufacturers will foster the development of better cars that use less gas at an affordable price.”
David Champion, the senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto test division, said, “A minimum standard of 56 miles per gallon is definitely good for consumers and currently achievable, but 62 is even better. Technologies to attain this level of improvement exist, and the automakers can incorporate them over the next 15 years,” says Champion. These advanced technologies are currently on the market today. ”In our testing, we’ve already seen highway consumption of 55 mpg in a Toyota Prius hybrid and 49 mpg in a Volkswagen Golf diesel.”
A recent Consumer Reports survey says car buyers want better fuel economy and are willing to pay for it. 62 percent of survey respondents said when they buy their next car, they expect to choose a model with better gas mileage than their current car. 58 percent said they were willing to pay extra money for a more fuel-efficient vehicle. These findings were from a Consumer Reports National Research Center poll of 1,764 adult car owners surveyed between April 28 and May 2, 2011.
While manufacturers will retain lots of flexibility in how to meet the new CAFE target, it will drive the development of a variety of options including electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, in addition to more fuel efficient conventional vehicles whether gasoline or diesel powered. Consumer interest in alternative vehicles is growing—Consumer Reports’ survey also showed that about seven out of ten consumers planning to buy a vehicle are considering an alternative power train, such as hybrid, electric, or flex fuel.
Importantly, reducing vehicle mass will be essential in improving fuel economy. Consumer Reports is confident that lighter vehicles will not necessarily compromise vehicle safety. For example, a contemporary family sedan such as the Hyundai Sonata weighs 3,210 pounds and still achieves a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. It weighs 7.5% less than its previous generation and about 6% less than the average family sedan. By contrast, a Chrysler 200 weighs 3,590 pounds (also a Top-Safety Pick) but with no performance or interior room advantage. The new Honda Civic at 2,810 pounds also received a Top Safety Pick and weighs 400 pounds less (about 9%) than the Chevrolet Cruze, a direct competitor.
David Butler, 202.462.6262