ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The average fuel economy for new vehicles sold in 2015 dropped to 25.3 mpg, according to researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The 2015 average is down 0.1 mpg from the previous year and 0.9 mpg less than the peak reached in August 2014, but it's still 4.8 mpg better than October 2007 when the researchers first began compiling data.
New vehicles sold during the month of December 2015 averaged 24.9 mpg, down 0.2 from those sold in November.
The most recent UMTRI Eco-Driving Index stands at 0.84, indicating that the average new vehicle produces 16 percent lower emissions than in October 2007, although that number is 6 percent higher than the record low 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.
Schoettle noted that the decline in fuel economy, "likely reflects the continuing drop in the price of gasoline in December and the consequent increased sales of pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers."
According to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline nationwide was $1.99 on Thursday, versus $2.19 a year ago.
AAA says that's the lowest average fuel prices we've seen since March of 2009 and notes that "market fundamentals are positioned to continue to support consumer savings in 2016," although retail averages are "likely to increase leading up to the summer driving season as seasonal refinery maintenance gets underway this spring."
Edmunds says: Continued strong sales of SUVs and pickups indicate that consumers are taking advantage of low fuel prices.