Cars that get 54 mpg will bring consumers immediate savings, despite their higher costs. That’s the message from a joint news conference held today by Consumers Union, the consumer advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, along with the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).
The Obama administration has proposed fuel economy regulations for cars and light trucks that rise to 54.5 mpg by 2025, and the government is planning a series of public hearings around the country in the next two weeks to support these new standards.
The standards are expected to save consumers about $180 a year in fuel costs compared with today’s cars, says Mark Cooper, director of research at CFA. Currently, American families are spending as much as $2,850 a year on fuel, he says, based on a nationwide average of $3.53 per gallon for the year. Over five years, Cooper says cars achieving this target mileage would net consumers $800 in savings overall and up to $3,000 over 10 years.
Even without savings, the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 80 percent of consumers say they want to buy cars with better fuel economy. At 83 percent, more said they would be willing to pay extra to buy a car with better fuel economy. Younger drivers especially expressed willingness to pay more to make fuel economy a priority.
But the CFA study shows they won’t have to. Even though adding fuel economy technology to the cars is expected to add $2,100 to the price of the car on average, fuel savings will more than make up the difference in monthly ownership cost right from the first month, Cooper says.
While some critics have taken aim at the standards from a safety standpoint, David Champion, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports says he doesn’t expect the standards to decrease safety. Partly that’s because the new standards require better fuel economy in all types and sizes of cars and trucks, so large cars and trucks aren’t discriminated against. And partly it’s because safety technology is continuing to advance. “We strongly support fuel economy standards for consumers and for the American economy,” Champion says. “I don’t believe any consumers believe fuel prices will come down any time soon.”
Cooper adds, “People love their SUVs, and they’re going to love them even more when they get 40 mpg than they do when they get 25 mpg.”
Public hearings on the new standards, which would phase in starting in 2017, are scheduled for Jan. 17 in Detroit, Jan. 19 in Philadelphia, and Jan. 24 in San Francisco.
See our guide to fuel economy for tips on how to save gasoline with your current car.