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Fuel-Economy Increasing, Study Shows

In 2008, half of new-car buyers in the U.S. bought vehicles that were rated at less than 20 mpg. Today, just over a quarter do so.

A new report by University of Michigan researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle found that improvements are present throughout the distributions of vehicle fuel economy which increased 4.5 mpg between model years 2008 and 2014.

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 percent drove new cars that averaged between 17 mpg and 20 mpg.

The researchers say 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.

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.

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