Average Fuel Efficiency of New Cars Up 6% in 2012

Updated On
2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

We may collect a share of sales from items linked to on this page. Learn more.

The Detroit Bureau, an automotive publication, is reporting that the average fuel efficiency of all new vehicles sold in the United States in 2012 was up 6% compared to 2011. Additionally, the increase, which brought the average up to 23.8-mpg from 22.5-mpg the year before, is the highest the United States has ever seen. A study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) is responsible for the numbers behind the Bureau’s report. The publication attributes the impressive increase to a combination of record high gas prices and an improved variety of fuel efficient vehicles.


Gas Prices

According to the website—GasPriceWatch.com—the average price for a gallon of gas in the United States started around $3.38 in January of 2012.  After steadily increasing through March, the average price peaked at a yearly high of just under $4.00 a gallon in April.  Declining through June, a gallon of gas averaged around $3.30-$3.60 during the summer traveling months, and then rose once again to another peak of $3.80 a gallon in mid-September. Ending 2012 with a yearly low of just under $3.25 around Christmas, AAA reports that the average gas price altogether in 2012 was $3.60 a gallon—the highest ever in American history. In comparison, 2011’s average gas price in the United States was $3.52 a gallon, 2010’s was $2.83, and 2009’s was $2.40.


Vehicle Selection

A few weeks ago General Motors issued a press release announcing that they were the first automaker to sell over 1 million vehicles in a single year that had EPA highway ratings of 30-mpg or better.  They currently offer 13 vehicles that can get 30-mpg or more.  Likewise, as the Detroit Bureau points out, Ford saw their 2012 small vehicle sales increase by almost a third from 2011. As reported by Cars.com, Ford’s 2012 Fiesta gets between 38 and 40-mpg, their Focus gets between 36 and 38-mpg, and their Fusion between 25 and 33-mpg. The Auburn Hills-based automaker also introduced hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Focus and the Fusion—plus, their new C-MAX quickly became the fastest selling hybrid in history. This is just a look at two popular automakers in the U.S., but when you take Toyota and Honda into account—it’s clear that the fuel efficient vehicle selection is greater than ever before.


The Future

The reason there are so many fuel efficient vehicle options out there at the moment, and the reason the average fuel efficiency of new cars is at its highest,  is because as gas prices soar, consumers put pressure on automakers to manufacture more fuel efficient vehicles.  Fortunately for our pocketbooks, gas prices are predicted to drop in 2013. Unfortunately for the environment, this may cause consumers to turn back to less fuel efficient vehicles in response. I never thought I’d say this, but here’s to hoping gas prices don’t drop too much in the coming year.

  • Brittany Larson

    Brittany is an environmental and automotive enthusiast based in Las Vegas, Nevada. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she currently moonlights as a law student at UNLV. You can contact her via Twitter @brittlarson10.

What do you think? Leave a comment!