WASHINGTON (AP) _ New vehicles are expected to set new records
for average gas mileage in 2007, driven by improved technology and
demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, the U.S. government reported.
Vehicles from the 2007 model year are projected to average 26.4
miles per gallon overall, a gain of one mpg over the previous year
and above the previous record of 26.2 mpg in 1987.
The increases are attributed to higher demand for hybrids and
more fuel-efficient vehicles with gas prices hovering around US$3
for much of the year.
Sales of hybrid vehicles and small cars are expected to set new
sales records this year despite a sluggish U.S. auto market. Sales
of pickup trucks and SUVs have largely declined due to high gasoline
prices and the slump in homebuilding industry.
Honda Motor Co. was estimated to lead the way, averaging 39.9 mpg
for its imported vehicles and 33.7 mpg for vehicles built in the
United States. Toyota Motor Corp. is second with 38.5 mpg for
imported vehicles and 31.7 mpg for cars and trucks produced in North
The difference in mileage between continents comes from the
different models that are produced at each location.
The data, based on a Transportation Department analysis of sales
estimates released earlier this month, was first reported in
Friday's editions of the Detroit Free Press. The projections will be
updated once automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration receive sales data for 2007 vehicles.
Detroit-based automakers are all projected to make progress.
General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. improved to 29.6 mpg and
28.8 mpg, respectively, in domestic production.
DaimlerChrysler AG also showed gains. The automaker, which sold
an 80.1 per cent stake in Chrysler _ now called Chrysler LLC _ to
Cerberus Capital Management LP, climbed about three mpg to 28.6 mpg
in its domestic production.
Nissan Motor Co.'s domestically produced vehicles averaged 33.4
mpg while its imported vehicles were estimated at 25.9 mpg.
Overall, passenger cars are expected to average 31 mpg, an
increase of 1.2 mpg, while pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and
vans are expected to increase to 22.9 mpg, up 0.7 mpg from 2006.
Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile
Manufacturers, said the data reflected the industry's push to
develop more fuel-efficient models, but much of the progress was
dependent upon what consumers buy.
``While we're pleased that fuel economy has increased, we also
are well aware that shifts in the marketplace could very easily
negate those gains,'' he said.
In June, the U.S. Senate approved legislation requiring the auto
industry to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and negotiators in
the House and Senate are expected to consider the upgrades.
Under the Senate bill, the industry would need to meet fuel
economy requirements of 35 mpg by 2020, up from the current
standards of 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for SUVs and pickup
Automakers have pushed more modest standards, contending the
Senate bill would be extremely costly and limit the consumer's
choice of vehicles.
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