According to this years EPA report on fuel economy, the 2006 model cars attained 21 mpg. Which isn't bad, until you realize the fuel economy of last years cars was 21 mpg.
Honda had the best rating at 24.2 mpg, while Toyota trailed at 23.8 mpg. Volkswagen AG and Hyundai tied at 23.5 mpg. GM managed to get 20.5, Ford moved up to 19.7 mpg and DaimlerChrysler AG fell to the bottom at 19.1 mpg.
But before you get too upset about our lack of progress, you have to read the rest of the report. According to the EPA, this year's cars were faster, heavier and more powerful than any other year the EPA has tested. Environmentalists complain that carmakers are making cars that go faster or tow more at the expense of improving fuel efficiency.
I say they have it wrong. We're getting more for less every year. Even the poorest cars on the road today can outrun and out-tow the cars of yesterday. And they are doing it while keeping the same fuel economy.
Todays cars are a lot safer than they used to be, too. Those 'experimental' cars you see in the news everyday that get one, two or even three hundred mpg are not built for everyday driving and aren't required to have all the safety features that are part and parcel of every car that comes off an assembly line. Which means they are heavier than those cars that come from the universities. That's where they are getting most of their mileage gains from. If carmakers could strip out all the safety equipment, they could provide cars that would double or triple todays mileage.
All we need to do as consumers is tell the carmakers these cars are fast enough. They tow enough now, thank you. We don't all have to go out and buy hybrids, we just need to keep buying the cars that are more fuel efficient in each category. If, in your decision making process, you come down to two or three cars, just take the car that gets better mileage. If more buyers do this, the automakers will start to make more fuel efficient cars, not faster cars.
Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents many of the automakers, said the industry is building more vehicles with fuel-saving technology, but consumers are still buying heavier, faster vehicles in large numbers.
“The fuel efficient models are out there, we just need to sell more,” she said. “We are trying very hard.”