September 21, 2005

Consumer Reports finds new car fuel economy stickers vastly overstated

Yonkers, New York – New-car fuel economy tests conducted by Consumers Reports show that government figures posted on new-car window stickers can be short by as much as 50 per cent, according to an investigation published in the October magazine issue. The magazine reports that hybrid cars and the diesel version of the Jeep Liberty are among the worst offenders.

In a study of 303 cars and trucks, model years 2000 to 2006, Consumer Reports found that shortfalls in miles per gallon occurred in 90 per cent of vehicles tested. The largest discrepancies involved city driving, with some models falling short by 35 to 50 per cent of their claimed mpg. Hybrids had some of the biggest disparities, averaging 19 mpg below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) city ratings, although hybrid cars still won three of the best five spots for overall mileage in the magazine’s testing.

The magazine attributes the problem to the use of outdated testing procedures dating back to 1973, and that the EPA allows car manufacturers to use hand-built prototype vehicles and the most favourable test conditions when testing, yielding results that are nearly impossible for consumers to achieve. By comparison, Consumer Reports buys new cars and trucks anonymously from dealerships, and tests on public roads and its own test track.

Assuming 12,000 miles (19,312 km) of driving over five years, with no fuel price increase, Consumer Reports estimates that a Dodge Ram driver will pay US$2,588 more in fuel than the EPA estimates, while Mercury (Ford) Grand Marquis drivers will pay US$1,742, and Nissan Quest owners US$1,316 more.

Further, Consumer Reports believes that carmakers are falling short of government-mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) levels, because of the EPA’s unrealistic tests and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) inappropriate methods of calculation. The magazine’s study shows that if more accurate mpg figures were used by NHTSA to rate CAFE compliance, most automakers would likely fail to meet the standards.

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