Car Shoppers Seeking Fuel Efficiency Facing More Choices This Holiday Season

Dec 10, 2010, 16:33 ET from Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

But Consumers Are Still Window-shopping

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This holiday season, it's never been easier to put a fuel-efficient auto on your shopping list.  New government data released recently shows that automakers are offering more models that run on alternative fuels and use less gasoline.

"The good news for consumers is that competition among automakers is driving progress.  Auto manufacturers are racing each other to bring fuel-efficient autos to market," said Dave McCurdy, President & CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.  "When it comes to determining the success of energy-efficient technologies, consumers are in the driver's seat.  As automakers, our job is to develop and introduce vehicles that run on alternative fuels or deploy energy saving technologies."

In the federal government's new 2011 Fuel Economy Guide, (available at www.fueleconomy.gov) more than 160 models are listed that achieve high mileage, in excess of 30 mpg (highway).  This guide offers special online search functions for "advanced technology" vehicles that run on alternative fuels, including biofuels, compressed natural gas, clean diesel and electricity.  

In addition to new types of powertrains that operate on alternative fuels, automakers are manufacturing gasoline engines with a range of fuel-sipping technologies such as start/stop systems, cylinder deactivation and 6-speed automatic transmissions.  However, the government guide does not list all these technologies, so consumers should ask their dealer about options when seeking a new vehicle.  

The number of high-mileage vehicles on sale will continue to grow in coming months as automakers introduce new 2011 models.  As many as a dozen new conventional hybrids will be available to consumers, and several types of electric vehicles will enter the marketplace later in the year.

While the auto industry is offering more fuel-efficient technologies, consumer demand has not kept pace with the industry's advancements.

Year-to-date (January-November 2010), overall passenger vehicle sales have increased 11 percent, while sales of hybrid gas-electric vehicles, one of the top energy-efficient technologies on sale today, have declined 7.6 percent.  

In 2009, hybrids constituted less than 3 percent of total U.S. passenger vehicle sales (or 290,000 vehicles out of 10.3 million automobiles purchased by Americans).  Industry analysts don't expect hybrid sales to reach that level this year.

The success of automakers in selling new types of energy-efficient vehicles depends on the wide availability of alternative fuels to power them.  Clean diesel reduces CO2 and improves mileage, but it is only available at about 50 percent of service stations.  To maximize sales of these energy-efficient vehicles, clean diesel needs to be sold throughout the U.S. market.

As more autos come to market using alternative fuels and new technologies, the energy and fueling infrastructure is vital to support consumers who want to buy electric and hydrogen vehicles.  The grid will need to be adapted and extended to accommodate a large volume of electric cars, and new recharging systems must be widely available.

"Auto makers are working hard to keep the costs down on these new fuel-efficient technologies and ensure they remain affordable," said McCurdy.  "If the cost of new technology goes up too high or too fast, sticker shock will scare a lot of customers away."

In June, the National Academies of Science (NAS) issued a report stating that "New technologies can result in significant fuel savings for passenger vehicles, but at higher purchase prices for consumers."  

According to NAS estimates, "adopting the full combination of improved technologies in medium and large cars and pickup trucks with spark-ignition engines could reduce fuel consumption by 29 percent at an additional cost of $2,200 to the consumer.  Replacing spark-ignition engines with diesel engines and components would yield fuel savings of about 37 percent at an added cost of approximately $5,900 per vehicle, and replacing spark-ignition engines with hybrid engines and components would reduce fuel consumption by 43 percent at an increase of $6,000 per vehicle."

(Copies of Assessment of Fuel Economy Technologies for Light-Duty Vehicles are available from the National Academies Press; 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or at http://www.nap.edu.)

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade association of 12 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota ,Volkswagen and Volvo. Visit www.autoalliance.org for more information.

CONTACT: Gloria Bergquist (202) 326-5596

SOURCE Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers



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