Why new-car fuel economy numbers are so depressing

Sulu

Admirer
Messages
544
Reactions
778
I believe that this is a good thesis on North Americans' poor choice in the vehicles they choose to drive. I am noticing more and more giant and luxurious crew cab pickup trucks with loud, rumbling engines (and those trucks are getting larger every year), driven by just a single driver with no passengers. The more of this type of driver I see, the more I want to drive a smaller car. If Lexus offered an electrified sedan (or wagon) somewhat smaller than the ES, I would seriously consider it.


But what have we, the consuming public, done with all this newfound efficiency?

Why, we’ve pretty much wasted it all by buying bigger, more powerful, and less aerodynamic vehicles as fast as we can. It’s no mystery that we’re buying more pickups and SUVs than ever before.

...you have fully two thirds of the market dominated by vehicles inherently less fuel-efficient than the smaller, lighter, and more aerodynamic sedans they are replacing. In other words, we’re taking all that newfound efficiency and using it as an excuse to buy bigger vehicles.

...the average vehicle sold in the U.S. only increased its fuel economy by 0.4 miles per US gallon between 2008 and 2019. It’s also why Ford and GM were two of only three major manufacturers to see a decrease in fleet fuel economy between 2014 and 2019 and why, Ford, GM and Stellantis remain mired at the bottom of the EPA’s fuel economy and CO2 charts.

Since 2004, the EPA says, power is up some 16 per cent on average across the entire American fleet. As I said, much of the efficiency that turbocharging and direct injection have wrought has been directed either toward performance or compensating for the greater weight of vehicles instead of reduced fuel consumption and emissions.

I agree with this final argument, that the reason that we are driving such large vehicles with such large engines is because it is too easy to do so. If fuel prices were to increase to the point that driving such a wasteful vehicle became prohibitively expensive, we North Americans would all be driving smaller, more efficient vehicles.

The other thing worth noting is that the only time consumers make worthwhile changes is when it affects our pocketbooks. Yes, studies continually remind us buyers say they want to reduce their impact on the environment, but, as dispiriting as it is to say, the truth is that the average consumer only changes their habits when they are hit hard — make that very hard — in the wallet. Trying to marry the studies that claim the environment is the most important thing on Canadians’ minds with the number of people decrying carbon pricing suggests a hypocrisy we all should be ashamed of. Purchase decisions always speak much louder than focus groups, and right now the cars we’re buying say we don’t give a damn about the environment.
 
Messages
2,186
Reactions
2,582
The author here seems angry that people buy larger vehicles, negating much of the in-segment advances in fuel economy by buyers upgrading to larger vehicle segments. In other words, the same old "SUVs are terrible, stop letting people have freedom of choice!" garbage as always. Many cars get better MPG than before, but most people will not choose an option that is best for everyone. "F the planet, F clean air, I got muh large truck."
 

Sulu

Admirer
Messages
544
Reactions
778
The expectation was that with more efficient engines, overall fuel use would drop but instead, fuel use (fleet fuel consumption) is staying the same because we are using the increase in efficiency to buy larger, heavier, less aerodynamic vehicles. If we had stuck with the same size of vehicles, overall fuel use would drop.
 
Messages
2,186
Reactions
2,582
The expectation was that with more efficient engines, overall fuel use would drop but instead, fuel use (fleet fuel consumption) is staying the same because we are using the increase in efficiency to buy larger, heavier, less aerodynamic vehicles. If we had stuck with the same size of vehicles, overall fuel use would drop.
Blame the boomers
1617085180206.png
 

mmcartalk

Expert
Messages
3,908
Reactions
2,513
1617085180206.png


With all due respect, Tragic, that chart is misleading. Vehicles than can be considered "SUVs" range from tiny three-cylinder models (EcoSport, Escape, Trailblazer, Encore GX, etc...) that can really stretch a gallon of gas to the traditional big gas-guzzling V8/truck-based models like Tahoe/Suburban, Expedition/Navigator, etc....

Another factor to take into consideration is that, on that 1% yellow-slice share, young people that age often lack the money to buy any new vehicle, SUV or not, unless they have rich and indulging parents.
 
Last edited:
Messages
2,186
Reactions
2,582
Don't know if this can be directly correlated, but trends that we see as to why crossovers and SUVs are so popular over cars
 

Lexucator

Fan
Messages
46
Reactions
114
It’s interesting to watch this market and its impact on the auto industry, especially since the global market collapse of 2008 when we saw the cost of crude oil-based products skyrocket. Immediately, auto manufacturers, especially those based out of the U.S., scrambled to react to the then new reality. Look at the auto industry more than a decade since the collapse, especially here in the U.S. We seem to be buying larger vehicles now more than ever. I see them everywhere around me. The question is when will the next change in the market occur that will force fuel prices to again increase?

As we claw our way out of this pandemic and life begins to return to normal we should continue to see an increase in fuel demand, which will likely impact the oil industry and the price of gas at the pump. I don’t expect it to have a large impact, but it will have an impact, nevertheless. 🤷🏼‍♂️
 

Sulu

Admirer
Messages
544
Reactions
778
Oil prices are volatile and dependent upon how much the big players pump out of the ground, and that seems to be driven by politics as much as anything else. A year ago, at the start of the pandemic, Russia and Saudi Arabia got into a price war, with oil prices even negative at one point. From the highs of the 2008 Great Recession, oil prices have been dropping. Consequently, pump prices are now so low that there is little disincentive to drive large, heavy pickup trucks as single-driver daily commuter vehicles.

The strength of the American Big 3 has long been their pickup trucks. That is what got them into trouble in the lead-up to the recsssion of 2008. With few smaller vehicles in their lineups, let's hope that history does not repeat itself when Russia and Saudi Arabia start looking for greater oil profits.
 

Will1991

Moderator
Messages
1,116
Reactions
2,254
@Lexucator , I’m already seeing it here in Portugal.

We’re currently paying more than 7 USD/Gallon for regular (diesel isn’t far behind) and we are seeing a steady change from a C/D segment sedan to B/C SUV’s. People want to jump into a SUV, but due do high fuel prices they tend to go for a lower segment SUV.
We also have some big SUV's, but it's not the norm.
 

Lexucator

Fan
Messages
46
Reactions
114
Oil prices are volatile and dependent upon how much the big players pump out of the ground, and that seems to be driven by politics as much as anything else. A year ago, at the start of the pandemic, Russia and Saudi Arabia got into a price war, with oil prices even negative at one point. From the highs of the 2008 Great Recession, oil prices have been dropping. Consequently, pump prices are now so low that there is little disincentive to drive large, heavy pickup trucks as single-driver daily commuter vehicles.

The strength of the American Big 3 has long been their pickup trucks. That is what got them into trouble in the lead-up to the recsssion of 2008. With few smaller vehicles in their lineups, let's hope that history does not repeat itself when Russia and Saudi Arabia start looking for greater oil profits.
Great points. I had almost forgotten about the oil price wars between Russia and Saudi Arabia and you’re spot on in regards to the Big 3 strength being in their pickups. I will also add to that their larger SUVs. Unfortunately for the Big 3, they no longer have a portfolio that contains smaller, fuel efficient automobiles to rely on should oil prices trend upward. They have eliminated most of their automobile models. Although they have invested in smaller, more fuel efficient crossovers, I don’t think these vehicles will be enough to save them should oil prices drastically increase.
 

Lexucator

Fan
Messages
46
Reactions
114
@Lexucator , I’m already seeing it here in Portugal.

We’re currently paying more than 7 USD/Gallon for regular (diesel isn’t far behind) and we are seeing a steady change from a C/D segment sedan to B/C SUV’s. People want to jump into a SUV, but due do high fuel prices they tend to go for a lower segment SUV.
We also have some big SUV's, but it's not the norm.
Over 7 USD for a gallon of gas is insane, through my lens. How does this compare to what one would typically pay for a gallon of gas in Portugal?

In some respects, I see the lure of the modern SUV or crossover; they often possess more cargo space than the typical automobile and they are easier to enter and exit. The trade off, of course, is the decline in fuel efficiency.
 

Levi

Expert
Messages
1,515
Reactions
1,841
"SUVs are terrible, stop letting people have freedom of choice!"
i agree the author could be angry, but I'd rephrase it as "SUVs are terrible, they stop letting people have freedom of choice".

wagons are replaced by not as well handling and not much more practical CUVs. ground clearance of cars is extremely low, when they have standard clearance, they get added plastic bits. cars grow in size without end, security/safety is not the reason. hatchbacks are also replaced by CUVs with even worse handling and practicality, being obese.

it is just that when the main product shifts, the other product simply disappears, and is not even niche worthy because it is not a high-end product.

no new Lexus CT is a huge problem for me, personally (in Europe). and no the, UX is out question.
 
Messages
2,186
Reactions
2,582
i agree the author could be angry, but I'd rephrase it as "SUVs are terrible, they stop letting people have freedom of choice".

wagons are replaced by not as well handling and not much more practical CUVs. ground clearance of cars is extremely low, when they have standard clearance, they get added plastic bits. cars grow in size without end, security/safety is not the reason. hatchbacks are also replaced by CUVs with even worse handling and practicality, being obese.
Then the problem is the consumer because if you try to sell wagons that the public doesn't want, you aren't profitable.
 

Levi

Expert
Messages
1,515
Reactions
1,841
Then the problem is the consumer because if you try to sell wagons that the public doesn't want, you aren't profitable.
Yes the problem has always been the consumer, because the consumer is ignorant, easily influenced and lied too. But the marketeers abuse their position of power, so they too are responsible.
 
Messages
2,186
Reactions
2,582
Yes the problem has always been the consumer, because the consumer is ignorant, easily influenced and lied too. But the marketeers abuse their position of power, so they too are responsible.
Yeah, marketeers do so much, but when it comes down to it, consumers will buy what they want. And when you blame the consumer, you might tear into factors beyond the vehicles themselves and it becomes a slippery slope IMO. For Americans trucks are very cultural; that last link from Ford themselves.

 

mmcartalk

Expert
Messages
3,908
Reactions
2,513
With gas skyrocketing I am wondering will consumer tastes shift again.

They have been shifting to BEVs for some time now, particularly with Teslas in my area. The number of Teslas has simply exploded. Unfortunately, is it impractical for some people (including myself) to own them because of a lack of charging-outlets in some apartments and condos.
 

Sulu

Admirer
Messages
544
Reactions
778
With gas skyrocketing I am wondering will consumer tastes shift again.
I wonder if I will actually start to see more vehicles parked in driveways and along the streets in my neighbourhood as people start buying and driving smaller vehicles, and leaving those big trucks they bought as personal vehicles in the driveways.

One family had actually done that long before the gas prices dropped last year (when gas prices were still high). They used to drive big his-and-hers GM SUVs, one BOF model and the other one of the Lambda triplet crossover models (like the previous-generation Chevy Traverse). They sold the Lambda and replace it with 2 (much) smaller cars, leaving the BOF truck in the driveway and only driving it very occasionally (I suspect that the more fuel-efficient crossover was worth more on the used car market than the gas-guzzling truck). So where there used to be 2 vehicles in front of the house, there are now 3.
 
Messages
7
Reactions
2
I wonder as more and more EVs hit the road if we will start to see an increase in the mpg in gasoline engines? We have the technology.