American motorists are getting more out of their new vehicles as the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks sold increased 6 percent and set an all-time high in 2012 as consumers responded to higher gas prices and the increased availability of attractive high-mileage products, according to a study.
University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Eco-Driving Index indicated the average fuel economy of new vehicles purchased in 2012 rose to a record 23.8 mpg, up 1.3 mpg from 2011 and up 2.9 mpg from 2008.
But whether that trend will continue, especially with the economy recovering and fuel prices falling - at least for the moment - remains to be seen. The University study found the fuel economy of vehicles purchased in December was 23.9 mpg, down 0.2 mpg from November, likely reflecting the recent reduction in the price of gasoline.
General Motors is the first U.S. automaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles in its home market in a single year that get an EPA-estimated 30 mpg or better on the highway test cycle.
Industry observers note that a variety of factors have been reshaping the U.S. auto market. While consumers have begun to downsize vehicles, the bigger trend is to switch to smaller and more fuel-efficient powertrains, including hybrids and turbocharged alternatives.
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