ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The average fuel economy for new cars sold in December fell to 25.1 mpg, according to researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The December average represents a drop of 0.2 mpg from the November average but still an improvement of 5.0 mpg from October 2007, when the researchers first began compiling data.
UMTRI attributes the lower average fuel economy to "the large and continuing decreases in the price of gasoline."
The researchers also found that the fuel economy of new vehicles sold during all of calendar year 2014 averaged 25.4 mpg, compared to 24.8 mpg during 2013, an overall increase of 0.6 mpg.
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.
The latest monthly UMTRI Eco-Driving Index showed that the average emissions of greenhouse gases generated by the driver of a new light vehicle stood at 0.79. That figure indicates that the average new-car driver produced 21 percent lower emissions than in October 2007.
According to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline nationwide dipped to $2.19 on Tuesday, down from $3.31 a year ago.
AAA says gas prices are running about $1.12 per gallon less than at this time a year ago and are at their lowest average since May 2009. AAA also notes that 2014 closed out on a high note, with U.S. households saving an average of approximately $115 on gasoline compared to 2013.
The primary reason for the falling gas prices is the continuing downward slide of the cost of crude oil. According to AAA, the price of crude is "on the precipice of falling below $50 per barrel" for the first time since April 2009. And — more good news for consumers — oil prices are expected to continue their decline through the first half of 2015.
The new year "promises to provide much bigger savings to consumers as long as crude oil remains relatively cheap," said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in a statement. "It would not be surprising for U.S. consumers to save $50-$75 billion on gasoline in 2015 if prices remain low."
The low fuel prices are, of course, dependent on many factors, including overseas political concerns and the amount of oil being produced by higher-cost countries like the U.S. Another issue, according to AAA, is that gas prices typically rise about 30-50 cents per gallon during the spring refinery maintenance season and also during the summer due to high demand as Americans take vacation road trips.
Edmunds says: Not surprisingly, lower gas prices mean a boom in truck and SUV sales, as car shoppers are not as obsessed with fuel economy.