It's sad when you think about it, and really misleading when you see advertisements touting 'new and improved' mpg. I'm not dismissing improvements to fuel economy as easy to come by, but they are there and it's high time car manufacturers push harder to move fuel economy changes into their entire fleet of vehicles.
So I did some research looking for a historical comparison to see how far they have come in the past 30 years. Answer? not far at all. this is what I found for overall stats for all light duty vehicles sold in the United States in the last 30 years. (note: light duty vehicles account for 40% of US oil consumption.)
On epa.gov you will find this information:
Since 1975, overall new light-duty vehicle fuel economy has moved through four phases:
Here are some numbers to chew on
Clearly it seems we have invested in speed and power not efficiency.
While this data averages values for cars,trucks and suv's i think thats appropriate. Yes cars have made more of a gain overall, but that doesn't really help the real "overall" picture.
Given this i find it horribly misleading when In a section of the New York Times (which was an advertisement for the 2008 new york international auto show) on March 19th 2008 there was a list of "vehicles for a greener world". How green were they? about as green as 1977. That bad.
On the list was a MazdaSpeed 3 that had a city/highway mpg of 18/26 respectively. Also listed was a Subaru WRX that had a city/highway rating of 20/25mpg, and a Volvo C30 that had a rating of 19/28mpg.
That doesn't really sound very green. It sounds like a new label pasted on a car that is barely above average in terms of fuel economy. And these are cars that should be way higher than their truck/suv counterparts.