After Dip, New Vehicle Fuel Economy Holds Steady in October

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The average fuel economy for all new cars sold in the U.S. in October held fast at 25.3 mpg following a 0.5 mpg dip the previous month, the biggest for that period in nearly three years. The study, conducted by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, calculates the sales-weighted fuel economy through monthly sales of individual new models of light-duty vehicles, including cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks, and is based on “window-sticker value” as opposed to real-world mileage.

Related: Gas Prices Dip Below $3 a Gallon

While the nation’s fuel economy did stabilize last month, it’s also the first time mileage failed to make a month-to-month improvement between September and October in at least seven years. The October trend from 2008 to 2013 was for fuel economy to go up by an average of 0.63 mpg, with the greatest improvement by a full 1 mpg coming in 2009, and the smallest upward increment of 0.4 in 2008 and 2010; those rebounds followed an average August-to-September decline of 0.33 mpg during the six-year period.

It seems the chips of late have been stacked against improved fuel economy. Researchers have cited a recent spike in SUV and truck sales as the likely obstacle to improvement. The renewed interest in those types of vehicles has been concurrent with dramatic decreases in gas prices, which as of Nov. 6 had dropped for the 42nd straight day for a four-year national average low of $2.95 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

Still, taking a broader view of fuel economy improves the outlook considerably. Despite recent struggles, the average for the U.S. since October 2007, when tracking began, has risen by 5.2 mpg from 20.1 — a low not seen again in nearly seven years. photo by Evan Sears

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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