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UMTRI: fuel economy improvements are present throughout the sales-weighted distributions of same MY vehicles

Building on research that shows average fuel economy has improved 4.5 mpg between model years 2008 and 2014, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle have documented sales-weighted distributions for the same model year vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, vans and SUVs). The analysis shows that fuel economy improvements are present throughout the distributions of vehicle fuel economy. In 2008, half of new-car buyers in the US bought vehicles that were rated at less than 20 mpg. Today, just over a quarter do so.

Distributions of vehicle fuel economy in 1-mpg steps for model years 2008 and 2014. Source: Sivak and Schoettle, UMTRI. Click to enlarge.

About 24% of consumers bought new 2008 vehicles with fuel economy between 11 mpg and 17 mpg, and 26% purchased vehicles with mpg between 17 and 20. Six years later, less than 9% of car buyers bought a new 2014 model with fuel economy less than 17 mpg. Another 19% drove new cars that averaged between 17 mpg and 20 mpg.

While about 35% of new vehicles sold in 2008 had average fuel economy between 20 mpg and 26 mpg, compared to roughly 31% for model year 2014, huge improvements were made in the sales of fuel-efficient cars, the researchers say.

Nearly 41% of new-car buyers bought 2014 vehicles with mpg of at least 26, including 27% who purchased vehicles averaging at least 30 mpg. In 2008, the corresponding figures were 15% and 5%, respectively.

Overall, average fuel economy for light-duty vehicles improved from 20.8 mpg for model year 2008 to 25.3 mpg for model year 2014.


  • Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle “Fuel-Economy Distributions of Purchased New Vehicles in the U.S.: Model Years 2008 and 2014” (UMTRI-2015-4)


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