NEWS

EPA Says Fuel Efficiency Flat in 2006

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The latest EPA report on national fuel efficiency couldn’t come at a more opportune time. The Fuel Economy Trends report has been updated for 2006 vehicles, and there’s no increase in fuel economy from 2005. Nope, none. We’re flat at 21 mpg. Yes, that includes light trucks, including popular pickups and not-so-popular-anymore SUVs.

Interestingly enough, the No. 1 automaker on the list — Honda with a 24.2 mpg average — saw a decline in economy this year, probably because the company recently introduced the Ridgeline pickup truck to its lineup. DaimlerChrysler, which had the worst mileage average at 19.1 mpg, also saw a drop, perhaps due to all those Hemis. Ford, General Motors and Toyota all saw gains.

The EPA does do its job, acknowledging that weight and horsepower have also increased across the board. Heavier and more powerful vehicles actually should get worse mileage. Why is that important? Probably because one thing not mentioned in the 30-year study is the incredible amount of added safety features that vehicles of all types must carry now, compared to even 1987 when we were at peak efficiency of 22.1 mpg. Those systems add weight. Explaining the added horsepower is a little harder, but buyers always want to drive a bit faster. Add those two factors and you can see the trade-offs that companies have been making recently at the expense of mileage.

That doesn’t mean automakers can’t do better, though, and consumer demand and higher gas prices will dictate that all car companies focus on mpg as much as mph.

[Fuel Efficiency Same as Last Year, EPA Reports, Detroit Free Press]

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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