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Consumers Want Fuel Economy They Can't Find
New Quarterly Report Shows Rising Gas Prices Not Enough to Suppress Oil Consumption
Published on Apr 21, 2008
Consumers Union



Washington, D.C., April 21, 2008 - Today, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released its first quarterly report tracking U.S. gasoline consumption, expenditures, oil imports and consumer attitudes as part of the organization's ongoing effort to decrease the nation's consumption of oil. The report finds that in the face of rapidly rising gasoline prices, decade-long trends of rising gasoline consumption, expenditures and oil imports have moderated but consumers want and need more fuel-efficient choices which automakers have been slow to supply.

As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) prepares this week to release its first incremental rule to meet the 35 mile-per-gallon (mpg) fleetwide standard by 2020 recently set by Congress, CFA calls for an ever-increasing fuel economy standard to send a strong and consistent signal that prevents a lag in supply of fuel-efficient vehicles.

In a new CFA survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC), the percentage of respondents who express "great concern" about gas prices over the next five years increased dramatically, rising from 46 percent in October 2006 to 73 percent in April 2008. At the same time, many more respondents perceive the national security risks of oil dependency, with the percentage of respondents who express "great concern" about U.S dependency on Mid-Eastern oil increasing from 48 percent (October 2006) to 60 percent (April 2008).

"We have had three price spikes since 1973, but the only spike that caused a clear and sustained shift in gasoline consumption occurred after Congress mandated more fuel-efficient vehicles," said Mark Cooper, CFA Research Director. "Without a strong public policy requiring automakers to continue to increase the fuel economy of their fleets, consumers can do little to moderate their gasoline consumption, even as the price skyrockets."

In the first quarter of 2008 alone, households spent almost $600 more on gasoline than they did six years ago," Cooper added, "and yet gasoline consumption has barely inched downward."

When comparing the fuel economy of vehicles made by General Motors and Toyota in 2002 and 2006, the analysis revealed Toyota's mileage improved significantly, both because consumers shifted their purchases to more fuel-efficient categories of vehicles, and Toyota, on average, offered significantly more fuel efficient models. GM, on the other hand, improved its average fuel economy only slightly because consumers shifted their purchases between categories, but GM did not offer, on average, a significantly more fuel efficient slate of vehicles.

"Clearly the automaker with the most fuel-efficient vehicles wins," said automotive expert Jack Gillis, CFA Director of Public Affairs.

"High gasoline prices only go so far in reducing our nation's oil addiction," said Cooper. "Automakers must increase the supply of fuel-efficient vehicles, and consumers must continue to demand them. The only way to ensure that happens is to continue to increase CAFE standards and implement them aggressively."

The report analyzes historical trends of consumer response to gasoline price spikes. After the 1973 Arab oil embargo, prices spiked but consumption decreased only slightly. In 1975, Congress passed the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards requiring a doubling of car fuel economy in ten years. In 1979, prices spiked after the Iranian revolution, and gasoline consumption dropped sharply by historical standards. More importantly, the growth of gasoline consumption slowed in the 1980s, even though prices declined after the 1979 spike, because fuel economy standards were raised.

The increase of gasoline prices since 2002 rivals the price shock following the Iranian Revolution, but in the absence of higher CAFE standards, consumers have not had fuel-efficient alternatives, according to the report. The recent passage of increased fuel economy standards (35 mpg by 2020) might help ameliorate the situation if NHTSA is vigilant in setting strong incremental rules and doesn't bow to industry pressure, according to CFA. The first NHTSA ruling is expected to be released April 28th.

SOURCE: http://yubanet.com/usa/Consumers-Want-Fuel-Economy-They-Can-t-Find.php

 

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People say one thing and do another. I've seen no trend in people slowing down on the highways. Always seem to have to go 5-10 mph over the limit. I have to conclude most people don't really care about fuel consumption.
 

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People say one thing and do another. I've seen no trend in people slowing down on the highways. Always seem to have to go 5-10 mph over the limit. I have to conclude most people don't really care about fuel consumption.
Absolutely. I see Priuses, Camry Hybrids, and Civic Hybrids speeding along at 80mph daily, not to mention idling in winter outside our daycare while dropping their kids off. People will bitch all day long about high gas prices and how someone should do something, but they'll do nothing to diminish their own wasteful behavior. Welcome to America, it's always somebody else's responsibility.
 

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People say one thing and do another. I have to conclude most people don't really care about fuel consumption.
It's all in how you ask the question. I'm willing to bet that there isn't one person in the world (with the exception of possible the oil executives) that wouldn't like better fuel economy. But, if they have to choose between mileage, cost, and convenience, fuel eceonomy will lose out. They want it all, which isn't possible. People want the vehicle that they want to get 100mpg and not cost any more than the regular one.

I'd sure like a 40 mpg Suburban, but I'm not willing to pay 100k for it. So I'll take the 20 mpg version.
 

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You're making the case for the CFA's argument in this article, K-1. You're saying the only effort consumers make is to buy a vehicle that's supposed to do the gas savings for them (Prius drivers going 80).

You're saying that, if left to their own driving habits, Americans will not change their wasteful behavior. So, logically, the CFA argues that the Government needs to step in and enforce fuel savings by changing the types of vehicles the automakers sell through tougher restrictions.
 

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People say one thing and do another. I've seen no trend in people slowing down on the highways. Always seem to have to go 5-10 mph over the limit. I have to conclude most people don't really care about fuel consumption.
Absolutely agree. That slight drop in speed makes a huge increase in fuel efficiency which most people either don't understand, or don't care about. A lot of people drive stupid too like accelerating to red lights when they would be just as well to coast there, or flying down the highway in the rightmost lane only to `SURPISE` come upon a slow vehicle (that's what the right lane is for) so they lay on the brakes. Practices like these make extreme mileage differences and really, you're driving the same vehicle so it has nothing to do with the equipment. I bet that as a nation we could reduce our consumption by 5% just by learning how to drive more efficiently.
 

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Americans say one thing and do another.

They say they want better economy, but don't put the effort to drive efficiently, to plan trips, and to do things in their own driving styles that would save money without spending a dime.

Of course, Americans will complain about this economy and may end up electing a candidate who has never advanced one piece of significant legislation on the economy in the Senate, never authored any, never stood up and demanded it, and has no experience in the private sector.

America's talk the talk. But they are too lazy.

I'm glad gas prices are high and are going higher. I can adapt and have changed my habits. Those whining the most are the laziest and I hope they pay through the nose for their laziness - both in gas and in what they get in November.
 

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Absolutely agree. That slight drop in speed makes a huge increase in fuel efficiency which most people either don't understand, or don't care about. A lot of people drive stupid too like accelerating to red lights when they would be just as well to coast there, or flying down the highway in the rightmost lane only to `SURPISE` come upon a slow vehicle (that's what the right lane is for) so they lay on the brakes. Practices like these make extreme mileage differences and really, you're driving the same vehicle so it has nothing to do with the equipment. I bet that as a nation we could reduce our consumption by 5% just by learning how to drive more efficiently.
70 is too slow for some areas though. Most people drive 80 b/c they need to get somewhere and 70 is just to slow for them. There will also be those gearheads who always try and speed even if the speed limit was 100, but thats not everyone.

You cannot tell someone how to drive if they are obeying and are within the bounds of the law.

I can't stand how this article blasts GM as if they haven't done ANYthing yet Toyota has 'it right':rolleyes:. So many Chevrolet vehicles get better fuel economy than their toyota counterparts from Cobalt to Malibu to Silvy to Tahoe to Impala to HHR it isn't even funny. Way to use not up to date statistics reinforcing old stereotypes. The GM of 02 and of 06 is NOT the same one of 08.

CobaltSS
 

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You're making the case for the CFA's argument in this article, K-1. You're saying the only effort consumers make is to buy a vehicle that's supposed to do the gas savings for them (Prius drivers going 80).

You're saying that, if left to their own driving habits, Americans will not change their wasteful behavior. So, logically, the CFA argues that the Government needs to step in and enforce fuel savings by changing the types of vehicles the automakers sell through tougher restrictions.
Nope. I'm saying that no matter what the CFA/Gov't does, people aren't going to change their ways. There is no effort on behalf of consumers. They talk a good talk, but when it comes time for action, they expect someone else to take up arms (arms, of course, being an expensive high-mileage vehicle driven specifically to decrease consumption).

Even if the Gov't somehow manages to force consumers to buy efficient vehicles, they won't be driven efficiently, which makes CAFE entirely moot. Aside from severely increasing gas prices (try $10-15/gal), there is no personal incentive to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle and forsake comfort, utility, safety, and affordability.
 

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People in fuel efficient vehicles drive too fast, people in non-fuel efficient vehicles drive too fast. That's pretty well a fact and balances out for discussion purposes.

That means it comes down to the vehicles people buy. I have no idea what the number is, but we all know that a good chunk of people who buy trucks and SUVs don't need them. That means that they CHOOSE to buy a less efficient vehicle than they need because they want to. I'd say the market's working just fine. People who want efficiency have choices (hybrids, diesels, small cars), and people who want more room and comfort and utility and status and whatever else have choices too.
 

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In the first quarter of 2008 alone, households spent almost $600 more on gasoline than they did six years ago," Cooper added, "and yet gasoline consumption has barely inched downward."
Well, duh... most people aren't stupid enough to take the hit and dump a perfectly good car to save gas.
Sorry, but it will take many years for todays vehicles to cycle through.
 

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People say one thing and do another. I've seen no trend in people slowing down on the highways. Always seem to have to go 5-10 mph over the limit. I have to conclude most people don't really care about fuel consumption.
I don't think this is completely the case, a lot of people don't think about that. My mother for one would like to buy less gas, but she has go correlation between slowing down and gaining mileage. She knows not to accelerate fast, but not that traveling 100 kmh will be better than going 110.

Also, with cars at least, they are more aerodynamic than they were 10 years ago, so the difference isn't going to be as great as it used to be.
 

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People in fuel efficient vehicles drive too fast, people in non-fuel efficient vehicles drive too fast. That's pretty well a fact and balances out for discussion purposes.

That means it comes down to the vehicles people buy. I have no idea what the number is, but we all know that a good chunk of people who buy trucks and SUVs don't need them. That means that they CHOOSE to buy a less efficient vehicle than they need because they want to. I'd say the market's working just fine. People who want efficiency have choices (hybrids, diesels, small cars), and people who want more room and comfort and utility and status and whatever else have choices too.
Thank you! That's been my argument all along, and I typically drive a truck or SUV. Why? Because I want to. I don't drive it fast, and I don't go on long trips with it. I put 3,000 miles on my SUV in the last 2 years, but I bet that the hybrid-driving snob that blows past me in the fast lane thinks he's saving the planet.
 

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Well, duh... most people aren't stupid enough to take the hit and dump a perfectly good car to save gas.
Sorry, but it will take many years for todays vehicles to cycle through.
That's what I was going to say. There are only 15-16 Million new vehicles sold each year, but a total of something like 250 Million on the road (or registered). Raising the fuel-efficiency standard, even annually by 20%, on 6% of all vehicles driving, only gets you about 1% decreases in fuel used across the country. Sell an extra 1-2% new vehicle this year versus last (sales go up 150,000 overall) and voila, you get no reduction in fuel used overall.

CAFE is dumb. It penalizes the auto companies for making products people want, and it doesn't actually reduce fuel-consumption on a nation basis. Sure it helps consumers spend less, individually, in their new cars, but if that's what they wanted, they'd vote with their pocketbooks.
 

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People say one thing and do another. I've seen no trend in people slowing down on the highways. Always seem to have to go 5-10 mph over the limit. I have to conclude most people don't really care about fuel consumption.

Actually you've missed all the data from the monthly stats published here and in other places. The public has been making its voice heard and all the vehicle makers are reacting..quickly.

For the vehicle makers it's simple.... listen and react... or die.
 

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Absolutely agree. That slight drop in speed makes a huge increase in fuel efficiency which most people either don't understand, or don't care about. A lot of people drive stupid too like accelerating to red lights when they would be just as well to coast there, or flying down the highway in the rightmost lane only to `SURPISE` come upon a slow vehicle (that's what the right lane is for) so they lay on the brakes. Practices like these make extreme mileage differences and really, you're driving the same vehicle so it has nothing to do with the equipment. I bet that as a nation we could reduce our consumption by 5% just by learning how to drive more efficiently.
I seriously wonder how many people do in fact understand the substantial impact that their driving habits have on fuel consumption. I bet overall its pretty bad, meaning not enough people really understand how important it is. Another thing, just like the switch over to alternate fuel sources (PLURAL); this will not be solved with just one thing. I often wonder on my commute 28 miles, 1 hour, to and from work, how many of these people have jobs that require them to sit at a computer all day? I see it at work. So many people at the office spend their entire day at the computer and on the phone. Why not have them do that from home? Less people on the road has multiple positive impacts not just less fuel consumption. So, yes I agree. People need to take far more responsibility for their actions, but corporate America can contribute substantially as well. I can already hear the negative comments from corporate types about that little idea.:D
 

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Nope. I'm saying that no matter what the CFA/Gov't does, people aren't going to change their ways. There is no effort on behalf of consumers. They talk a good talk, but when it comes time for action, they expect someone else to take up arms (arms, of course, being an expensive high-mileage vehicle driven specifically to decrease consumption).

Even if the Gov't somehow manages to force consumers to buy efficient vehicles, they won't be driven efficiently, which makes CAFE entirely moot. Aside from severely increasing gas prices (try $10-15/gal), there is no personal incentive to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle and forsake comfort, utility, safety, and affordability.

Underlined text...

Again this is not at all accurate. You must look at what the driving public is doing before making any generalizations. You may not hear it because you're not in the business but the American public is screaming!!!!

"Give us more efficient vehicles or we will put you out of business!!!"

GM is better off than Ford which is better off than Chrysler. All three are behind the curve in offering a wide variety of fuel efficient offerings. The American public is about to put Chrysler out of business.
 

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the whole premise of the article is stupid. The argument is that automakers arent providing enough fuel efficient vehicles to satisfay demand. This is BS because at most automakers the best seller isnt a compact or subcompact. Even Toyota sells more camrys than corollas. GM sells more silverados, Sierras and Impalas than Cobalts. The Sentra and VErsa pale in comparison to the Altima at Nissan. If it were true that people are searching hard for small cars automakers would be boosting compact car production while cutting back on crossover production. That aint happening. Americans want fuel efficiency in the vehicles they want to buy but with no compromise in affordability or functionality.
 
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