Just 27 months ago, the average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S was $4.00 per gallon and many parts of the country were paying $4.50. Prices since that time dropped to $3.19 as recently as last December. This year alone we saw spikes to almost $4 per gallon this April, then a rapid fall, and more recently movement back up. The point is, it would appear spikes in gas prices appear to be a way of life.
As fuel prices peaked for the first time, back in 2008, every auto manufacturer that sells cars in the United States was scrambling to get smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to this market and was feverishly trying to achieve better fuel economy for their vehicles already on the market.
As I often say on the radio show, even with today’s technology it takes 24 to 36 months to get a car from paper to dealerships. We have seen a huge amount of more fuel-efficient cars in the last 18 months or so with many more on the horizon for the foreseeable future. We will see some strange sights in the future, with iconic names like Jaguar offering 4-cylinder cars for the first time in their history.
There are extreme cases of electric vehicles that are putting up some amazing numbers, like the new Mitsubishi i-MiEV that the government rated at 126 miles per gallon in town and 112 combined, but the reality is, electric vehicles will not be functional for many until the ranges improve.
We also have some diesels that are doing very well, like the VW Passat, which is a large car, that is rated at 43 miles per gallon highway, and the Audi A3 diesel is a luxury car rated at 42. New hybrid entries, like Toyota Prius are rated at 51 in the city, and 50 overall. The new Toyota Camry and Lexus 300h are rated at 40 combined, great mileage for cars of their size.
In more common cars that are rated at 40 miles per gallon highway, that can be bought at around $20,000 or so, we have the Hyundai Accent, Elantra, and Veloster. Kia has the Rio, Chevy has Sonic and Cruze, Ford has the Fiesta and Focus, and Mazda has the new Mazda 3. These cars and quite a few more are out there and available now.
The difference between these choices and what we had just a few years ago, is small cars that are equipped like larger cars. These new generation small cars are actually fun to drive, and I can tell you those are words this writer has never said before. The days of fuel-efficient cars being stripped down, cheaply made, and loud with plastic interiors are over. If you want to get better fuel economy without sacrificing comfort and safety, you are in luck and there will be a lot more choices as we head into the 2013 model year. These days, just about every car made in 2012 will improve in fuel efficiency for 2013.
Even trucks and SUVs are improving every year. As the automakers are grasping to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that ratchet up in 2015, we are going to see new technologies, lighter weight vehicles, transmissions with more gears, and engines that are stingy on fuel. This transformation of automobiles is going to be very interesting to watch.