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Survey: Strong Public Support for Improving Fuel Economy In New Vehicles

With gas prices remaining near historic lows and more car buyers opting for mid-size SUVs and crossovers than sedans, do consumers still value fuel economy when making car-buying decisions?  It turns out the answer is very much yes!

In fact, according to a new survey published by Consumers Union, a majority of Americans expect their fuel economy to increase with their next vehicle purchase (53%) and even larger majorities (84%) believe automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicle types.

This survey comes at an important time as federal and state regulators are engaged in a “mid-term review” of the 2022-2025 CAFE standards to determine whether to maintain or alter these standards. As officials deliberate, it’s worth noting that three out of four respondents (75%) believe that increasing fuel economy from an average of 25 MPG today to an average of 40MPG in 2025, as the CAFE standards mandate, is a worthwhile goal.

Support for increasing fuel economy is widespread, as is support for government to require automakers to continue to increase fuel efficiency across the board. As the tables below indicate, support for these positions extends across all geographic regions of the U.S. and even bridges the political divide with majorities of both Democrats and Republicans agreeing with the statements below.

FE Survey tables

When asked which attributes could be most improved in their current vehicle, more respondents selected fuel economy (32%) over several other characteristics like horsepower, comfort, connectivity, safety, and reliability among others. It was the top concern for nearly all drivers, regardless of their current vehicle size, household size, household size and region of the country.

Automakers often cite increased costs as a trade-off for developing more fuel efficient vehicles. However, 60% of respondents (and over half for every income group) stated that they were willing to pay more for a more fuel efficient vehicle if those costs could be recouped by fuel savings within 5 years. As a recent Consumers Union report found, cars and trucks that meet the upcoming 2025 fuel economy standards would actually save consumers thousands of dollars over the life of their vehicle. In fact, buyers financing with a loan could expect savings in the first year of ownership as fuel savings would be greater than the added costs of the technology required to meet the standards.

Is there a concern that mandated fuel economy standards might hurt the auto industry? Not much – two-thirds (64%) of Americans believe requiring automakers to improve fuel economy would actually strengthen the auto industry A majority of respondents in auto-making states (Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri) also believe increasing production of more fuel efficient vehicles will create jobs in their states (58%) and that the auto industry can both improve fuel efficiency and maintain healthy sales (73%).

FE Healthy Sales

The survey not only shows widespread support for more fuel efficient vehicles, it highlights a link between fuel economy and Americans’ perception of which automakers produce the “best” vehicles. Automakers identified as the offering the most fuel efficient vehicles (Honda and Toyota) also topped the list of automakers producing the “best” vehicles. Similarly, automakers believed to have the cars with the worst fuel economy were among those listed as producing the worst vehicles overall.

The takeaway: Consumers Union analyses show that fuel economy standards will save consumers money, increase vehicle options that consumers can choose from, and meet consumer demand for more fuel efficient vehicles.