Latest CAFE Statistics Show Car Manufacturers Are Making Progress

While many of us have become increasingly critical of the lack of gas friendly vehicles available to us (just check out many of the posts and comments on this site), it doesn’t mean that the major car manufacturers aren’t trying to make some progress.

Based on the latest CAFE statistics, the average gas mileage for new cars sold in the United States has actually gone up nearly 10% in the last four years.

For those of you who don’t know, CAFE is short for “Corporate Average Fuel Economy,” which is essentially a set of laws/regulations created by the United States Congress back in the 1970s to try and get car manufacturers to produce more fuel efficient vehicles. If a car manufacturer fails to meet the CAFE requirements, it must pay a penalty to the Federal Government.

Recently CAFE released its statistics to include all of the cars and light trucks (which include SUVs, vans and minivans) sold in the United States for 2007. Considering we’ve been in a “green push” for well over a year now, I wanted to see if in fact 2007 was a year of progress as far as gas mileage is concerned.

According to CAFE statistics, back in 2004 the “Total Fleet” gas mileage, which accounts for all foreign and domestic passenger cars and light trucks, was 24.6 mpg. By the end of 2007, the Total Fleet gas mileage had risen to 26.7 mpg – an increase of 8.5 percent.

While that might not seem like a very big gain, consider this: on average, Americans use over 400 million gallons of gasoline each day, so if every car on the road got 8.5% better gas mileage, we’d use 34 million less gallons of gasoline each day – or nearly 12.5 billion less gallons of gasoline each year.

Despite this very good news, there are some unnerving statistics in the latest CAFE report, namely, domestic cars continue to fall further behind their foreign counterparts when it comes to fuel economy.

Back in 2004, the average gas mileage for a domestic car (this does not include light trucks) was 29.9 MPG. By 2007, the average gas mileage had increased to 30.7 MPG – a jump of roughly 2.7%. Foreign cars on the other hand, went from 28.7 MPG in 2004 to 32.1 MPG in 2007 – a jump of nearly 12%.

I’m not sure which statistic is more eye opening; the fact that in 2004 domestic cars had a better average gas mileage than foreign cars, or that over the past four years, foreign cars have gained 12% in gas mileage while American cars have eked out a measly 3% gain.

Hopefully these numbers will continue to climb higher as more fuel efficient cars make their way to the market, and people begin to realize that they probably don’t need that huge urban assault vehicle to commute to and from work.

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