ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The average fuel economy for new cars sold in March rose to 25.4 mpg, according to researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The March average is up 0.2 mpg compared to February and an improvement of 5.3 mpg from October 2007, when the researchers first began compiling data. However, fuel economy is still down 0.4 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014.
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 overall reduction in the fuel economy of new vehicles sold since last August likely reflects the continued strong sales of trucks, SUVs and crossovers.
As previously reported by Edmunds, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Colorado and Ford F-150 were among the sales leaders in March. Nissan, Honda and other brands also reported robust sales of light trucks and SUVs for the month.
The latest UMTRI Eco-Driving Index showed that the average emissions of greenhouse gases generated by the driver of a new light vehicle stood at 0.82. That figure indicates that the average new-car driver produced 18 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 was $2.38 on Monday, compared to $3.57 a year ago.
AAA predicts that we can expect to see lower gas prices by summer, and some areas may even see pump prices return to near $2 per gallon. AAA says it doesn't expect the national average to rise above $3 per gallon for the remainder of the year.
"There is a real hope that gas prices could drop significantly in time for the busy summer driving season," said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in a statement. "The overall outlook looks good for drivers, and with any luck we will avoid the types of problems that often lead to higher gas prices at this time of year."
According to AAA, the cost of crude oil will be the most important factor influencing gas prices over the next few months. AAA notes that there is a glut of petroleum around the world that has helped to keep prices at their lowest levels since 2009 but cautions that "international conflict, declining production or other issues could result in higher prices."
Edmunds says: Even a slight increase in average fuel economy is good news for consumers, as is the drop in gas prices.