High-mileage vehicles will continue racing ahead in 2013
= December 20, 2012 3:30PM
Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following this year’s clean vehicle advances, fuel efficiency is on a fast track for drivers in the new year.
According to industry analyst Alan L. Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, and Luke Tonachel, Natural Resources Defense Council senior vehicles analyst, U.S. consumers will be the big winners in 2013 as a result of strong growth in sales of electric and hybrid cars. There will be a wide range of available fuel-efficient midsize vehicles and pickups, lower prices for a number of vehicles with the highest mpg ratings and a greater emphasis on diesel-powered vehicles and affordable new technology. In addition, Baum and Tonachel say the auto industry will remain on track to meet higher federal fuel-efficiency standards.
“All signs point to another robust year for America’s most highly fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Baum, an auto industry analyst. “The options for consumers will continue to grow in the new year with full-year production of many products launched this year and a variety of new products. These products will be a combination of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines powered by gas or diesel, stop/start technologies, hybrids [both mild and full], plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.”
“Next year is shaping up as another record year on several fronts for highly fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Tonachel, vehicle expert at NRDC. “Across all major automakers, across a variety of technologies, across all major vehicle segments, fuel economy is increasing and will continue to do so in 2013. Consumers are the major beneficiaries, with more choices available to meet their needs.”
Key trends for 2013 identified by Baum and Tonachel include the following:
• Electric vehicle sales will double in the coming year and hybrid sales are set to jump by a quarter. The Accord soon will be offered as both a plug-in hybrid and regular hybrid. The Fusion hybrid is now available and a plug-in version will be offered soon and the Altima will appear as a hybrid next year. In addition, the volume of the Nissan LEAF will increase in the coming year as production is available from Tennessee. At least six new hybrid models will be launched next year and eight plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will also appear. While many of these initially will be offered in modest volumes, the sales of plug-in hybrid/battery electric vehicles will more than double in the coming year. Hybrid vehicle sales are expected to increase by more than 25 percent.
• Midsize vehicles and pickups are likely to be a big driver of mpg gains in 2013. A wave of higher mpg midsize vehicles, many launched this year, will be available for the entire year, including the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Chevy Malibu. The market for higher mpg pickups also offers opportunity, with a new Dodge Ram available now and an improved Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra coming in the spring.
• Rising demand and increased production will mean lower prices for consumers. The launch of domestic production of the Leaf is being accompanied by a new lower-cost model as well as new marketing programs in order to generate demand for the higher volume that will be available. This will no doubt generate responses from other manufacturers. Price clearly matters to consumers, as recent incentives offered on the Chevy Volt have resulted in higher sales volumes.
• More emphasis on diesel and new technology will mean better fuel efficiency in 2013. Diesel engines are coming to the Chevy Cruze in the spring. Diesels deliver strong levels of fuel economy; Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW have had great success with these engines. Stop/start technology is growing across a range of automakers, with the Ford Fusion offering this system at low cost ($295) in order to improve fuel economy.
• The industry is likely to remain on track to meet higher federal 2016 fuel economy standards. The process is gradual and long term, but the continuing increase of more vehicles with a variety of technologies will enable the continuation of the process. In 2011 the average fuel economy level increased by 0.5 miles per gallon, with the increase over 1 mile per gallon in 2012. Things are likely to continue trending in that direction. The standards require somewhat less than 1 mile per gallon improvement for model year 2013 and 2014. (Model year 2014 begins in October 2013.)
For the text of the full discussion by Baum and Tonachel, go to
A related blog post from Tonachel can be found at
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