By Guy Page
Rep. Peter Welch, a member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, last month blasted an August 2 EPA plan to reduce Obama-era automotive miles-per-gallon (MPG) targets. “Today, President Trump threw into reverse decades of fuel efficiency progress,” Rep. Welch said in an Aug. 2 press release. “Consumers are demanding greater fuel efficiency in vehicles.”
Rep. Welch seems to have confused “forward” with “reverse.” The 2018 standard is 29 MPG in overall industry average. The Aug. 2 Trump EPA proposal would require 37 MPG industry average for cars and light trucks sold new in model years 2021-2026. The Obama EPA required 47 MPG by 2025. It would be more accurate to say instead of burning rubber, the Trump EPA is accelerating cautiously towards better fuel efficiency.
Vermont consumers may indeed want greater fuel efficiency, but you wouldn’t know it by the vehicles they buy. Sales and registration data show they like relatively low MPG all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles. Consider these facts:
The 11 most popular registered Vermont car models in 2017 were (in order): Ford Truck, Chevrolet Truck, Toyota Truck, GMC Truck, Subaru Forester, Subaru Legacy, Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav-4, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Impreza, and Subaru Outback. Only the Corolla is a high-MPG 2WD compact. Source: State of Vermont reports (see Pg. 26)
According to Insurify.com, the most popular passenger car model in Vermont is the Subaru Legacy. The “Vermont State Car” is an all-wheel drive vehicle with 25/34 MPG city/highway.
The most popular-selling new car model in Vermont in 2017 was the all-wheel drive Toyota Rav4, with 23/30 MPG city/highway.
The most popular-selling used vehicle model in Vermont in 2017 was the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, according to a study by Santanderconsumerusa.com. Capturing 3.3% of all used vehicle sales in Vermont, the Silverado gets 16/22 MPG city/highway. It comes in both 4WD and 2WD, but the mileage difference between the two is minimal.
As for car companies, Jeep, Ram, and Subaru were Vermont’s top #1, #2, and #4 sellers respectively, according to the August 23, 2018 issue of Vermont Auto Outlook. (Ford ranked third.) Jeep, Ram and Subaru sell mostly 4WD/AWD vehicles with relatively low MPGs.
Vermonters prefer AWD/4WD transportation over compacts, even when they cost more to buy and fuel. The state’s most popular rides pass the “white knuckle test”: if you can drive in bad weather and your knuckles DON’T turn white, it passes. However, they would fail both the Trump EPA’s 37 MPG and, of course, the Obama EPA’s 47 MPG.
In fact, safety is the Trump EPA’s main reason for cutting car manufacturers some MPG slack. Getting to 47 MPG would require Detroit to build smaller cars with lighter materials. The new EPA standards are expected to save 12,700 lives through 2029, as well as billions of dollars of social costs incurred by death, injury and car damage.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.