ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The average fuel economy for new vehicles sold in February dropped to 25.2 mpg, as car shoppers turned to hardier trucks and SUVs due to bad weather, according to a new report by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
The February average is 0.2 mpg less than the January average but an improvement of 5.1 mpg from October 2007, when the researchers first began compiling data.
According to UMTRI, "this decrease in fuel economy likely reflects the increased market share of light trucks, SUVs, and crossovers in response to the inclement winter weather in a large part of the country."
The northeast part of the U.S. has been hit by record snowfall and what seems to be a continual parade of storms.
The fuel economy report echoes the February car sales report, which showed strong truck and SUV sales.
GM reported that truck sales climbed 36 percent in February, as buyers turned to such vehicles as the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Yukon. Ford reported strong sales of the redesigned 2015 Ford F-150.
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.
Publication of the latest monthly UMTRI Eco-Driving Index, which estimates the average monthly emissions of greenhouse gases generated by an individual U.S. driver, has been postponed because of a delay in the release of data from the Federal Highway Administration. UMTRI will update the Eco-Driving Index as soon as the information is available.
According to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline nationwide was $2.45 on Thursday, versus $3.46 a year ago.
AAA says we can expect gas prices to rise by 20 cents or more per gallon throughout March.
"Paying $2 for gas will seem like a distant memory for most drivers in the coming weeks," said AAA spokesman Avery Ash in a statement. "Gasoline remains much cheaper than in recent years, but drivers may not appreciate that fact given the steep increase in price over the past month."
According to AAA, gas prices typically rise this time of year as refineries conduct seasonal maintenance, which can limit fuel production and supplies at a time when demand begins to rise.
Edmunds says: It looks as if shoppers were more concerned about getting through the snow than improved fuel economy last month.