ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The average fuel economy for new cars sold in May climbed to 25.5 mpg, according to researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The May average is up 0.3 mpg from April and an improvement of 5.4 mpg from October 2007, when the researchers first began compiling data.
To arrive at its figures, UMTRI calculates average sales-weighted fuel economy from the monthly sales of light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVs, vans and pickups) and the combined city/highway fuel economy ratings that appear in the EPA Fuel Economy Guide and on vehicle window stickers.
According to UMTRI, "this improvement likely reflects the increased price of gasoline in May."
As previously reported by Edmunds, low fuel prices earlier in the year prompted a spike in sales of pickup trucks and SUVS, such as the 2015 Jeep Cherokee, 2015 Lincoln Navigator, 2015 Cadillac Escalade, 2015 Honda Pilot, 2015 Nissan Murano and 2015 Nissan Tundra.
And, according to more recent Edmunds data, there's still considerable market interest in those vehicles, with sales of the Jeep Cherokee and Nissan Murano remaining strong in May, along with the Chevrolet Colorado and Ford Explorer.
But sales of more economy-minded models surged in May, as well, with vehicles like the 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan, 2015 Nissan Rogue crossover, 2016 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV and the Volkswagen Golf family of cars turning in robust sales performance.
According to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline nationwide was $2.75 on Thursday. That's up from last month's average of $2.62 but still down from $3.66 a year ago.
The good news, says AAA, is that the cost of fuel may have peaked for the year. With pump prices expected to drop soon due to stabilizing crude oil costs and refineries completing seasonal maintenance, AAA says we may see the cheapest summertime gas prices since 2009.
"This could be the year of the summer road trip with lower gas prices motivating millions of people to travel," said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in a statement. "Many drivers are likely to save hundreds of dollars this summer as gas prices remain more affordable than in recent years."
Edmunds says: Better vehicle fuel economy and lower gas prices spell good news for consumers planning summer road trips.