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New Survey Finds Clear Consumer Demand for Improved Fuel Economy, But Little Faith in Automakers’ Efforts as Regulators Move to Roll Back Standards

Monday, July 30, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC — As auto regulators are expected to roll back fuel economy standards in the coming days, a new Consumer Reports national survey finds that consumers are clamoring for improved fuel efficiency and believe the auto industry needs to do a better job of improving mileage.

When asked to identify the feature of their vehicle in most need of improvement, fuel economy was the top response. Nearly forty percent of American car owners chose fuel economy, almost double the number of responses for purchase price and maintenance costs (22 percent each), the second most selected features in need of improvement. And an overwhelming majority (85 percent) of American adults agree that automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicle types. However, fewer than half (43 percent) think that automakers are doing a good job of actually making fuel-efficient passenger vehicles.

David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy for Consumer Reports, said, “This survey — and a plethora of others — shows that the consumer demand for improved fuel economy is undeniable and that automakers are failing to meet that demand. Automakers’ apparently successful efforts to get regulators to roll back fuel economy standards will only make the gap between what American car owners want and what automakers will deliver worse. This isn’t a partisan political issue — our survey found support for improved fuel economy cuts across party lines — and it shouldn’t be treated as one by regulators.”

The survey findings also suggest that drivers want to keep existing fuel economy standards in place, with 74% of Americans agreeing that increasing average fuel economy from 25 mpg today to 40 mpg by 2025 is a worthwhile goal. And as consumers plan to continue the shift toward larger vehicles, a strong majority (78 percent) agree that making larger vehicles such as SUVs or trucks more fuel-efficient is important.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, said, “Consumer demand for improved fuel economy is not a passing fad. Many consumers want — and are expecting — the next vehicles they buy to get better mileage. Automakers and regulators alike should take note and embrace — and enhance — the progress that has already been made in fuel economy technology, rather than abandoning this feature that car owners place  at the top of the list of room for improvement.”

fact sheet with more survey details is available here or at advocacy.consumerreports.org.

This survey was administered online from May 16 to May 30, 2018, to a nationally representative sample of 1,200 U.S. residents, 18 years of age and older, who are members of GfK’s KnowledgePanel. The 1,094 respondents who screened in to the main survey are the respondents who are currently licensed drivers and own a vehicle. KnowledgePanel members are randomly recruited through probability-based sampling to be representative of the U.S. population. Data are weighted based on demographic and geographic benchmarks established by the most recent U.S. Census Bureau’s and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey.


The margin of error for the sample of 1,200 U.S. residents is approximately +/- 3% at the 95% confidence level.