Cars Sold in U.S. Reached Fuel Economy Record, EPA Says

Vehicles sold in the U.S. are on average the most fuel efficient they’ve ever been, averaging 23.6 miles per gallon in 2012, according to a report released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 1.2 mile-per-gallon increase in the first year of a U.S. fuel-economy regulation that applies through 2016 shows automakers are on their way to meeting a second, tougher set of standards requiring improvements through 2025, an advocate of the rules said.

“We are on track to hitting the 54.5 mpg standard for 2025,” Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, based in Washington, said in an e-mailed statement. “This is a big deal. It’s a big down payment on a better future.”

Automakers have questioned whether they can achieve fleetwide averages of 54.5 mpg by 2025, with most companies that sell cars in the U.S. agreeing to a deal that includes a review of the progress in 2018 and possible adjustment of the mandate.

The report credits technologies used to improve gasoline-powered engines such as direct-injected and turbocharged engines and more efficient transmissions for the improvement.

“Each year new technologies are coming on line to keep driving these positive trends toward greater and greater efficiency,” Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in an e-mail.

Large Manufacturers

Among the large manufacturers the EPA ranked for fuel economy, Mazda Motor Corp. was the highest with an average of 27.1 mpg in 2012. Honda Motor Co. was second and had the biggest improvement, increasing by 2.5 mpg to 26.6 mpg.

Chrysler Group LLC and parent company Fiat SpA were at the bottom with 20.1 mpg, less than a 1 mpg improvement from the previous year.

Chrysler is committed to meeting U.S. fuel-economy standards, said Eric Mayne, a company spokesman.

“Since 2009, Chrysler Group has invested $2.5 billion in powertrain programs,” Mayne said in an e-mail. “That’s 48 percent of our manufacturing outlay. Those programs included the launch of the first 8-speed automatic transmission by a domestic automaker and production of the world’s first 9-speed automatic transmission.”

‘Falling Behind’

Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, was second to last with 21.1 mpg and General Motors Co. was third to last with 21.7 mpg, a 1 mpg improvement.

“GM and Chrysler, are falling behind,” Becker said. “Even as they improve a little bit, which is good, the Asian manufacturers are pulling away because they’re using better technology. We already bailed these guys out. We don’t want to do it again.”

GM plans to meet the fuel-economy mandate and is the first U.S. automaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles in a year that get 30 mpg or better on the highway, said Heather Rosenker, a spokeswoman for the company.

“Consumers want higher fuel efficiency in their cars and trucks, and GM will continue to design and build vehicles that deliver the features and performance customers want, while saving them gallons at the pump,” she said in an e-mail.

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