When news broke Tuesday that sales of full-sized truck were surging, Fox News seized the moment to conclude that Americans don’t really care about fuel economy.
Stuart Varney of Fox Business asked if it was “time for Uncle Sam, maybe, to slam the brakes on those green car incentives.” He said recent high gas prices could push people “into fuel-efficient cars, but they’re not. They’re going for gas guzzlers.”
Varney’s guest, Marc Morano, founder of ClimateDepot.com, piled on. “Despite the best efforts of the environmentalists, of government mandates and subsidies and discounts and tax breaks, the SUV and the gas guzzlers reign supreme in the American auto market. Which just says one simple thing: The Federal government, as all powerful as it likes to think, cannot mandate consumer choice.”
There’s just one problem with this.
The average fuel-economy -- the rating on the window-sticker -- of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. reached a record high of 24.6 mpg in March. That’s up 0.2 mpg up from February and up 4.5 mpg from October 2007, according to ongoing research by University of Michigan professor Michael Sivak.
Sivak takes a comprehensive look at new vehicle sales each month and calculates a sales weighted average miles per gallon estimate for what was sold. Because the study is sales weighted -- it accounts for both number and mix of models sold -- fuel economy would certainly decrease if Americans were in fact flocking to gas guzzlers.
By contrast, Sivak’s data shows a fuel efficiency gain of more than 20% since late 2007. The data show that car shoppers are gravitating to more fuel-efficient vehicles.
“All of our studies show that fuel economy is still a top driver, if not the top driver, of consumer choices,” Ken Czubay, Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. sales chief, told reporters Tuesday in a conference call discussing March auto sales.
And while there is a $7,500 subsidy for the few thousand electric cars that sell each month, automakers sold almost 1.5 million vehicles in March. Nearly all were conventional vehicles that have no subsidy or government incentive.
The real reason behind surge in truck sales: a rebounding housing market, which is prompting contractors to purchase new work pickups. It’s certainly harder to haul construction materials in a Prius.