The new, lighter-weight F-150 was a hit at the 2014 Auto Show. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Vehicles that go farther on a gallon of gas — or that don’t need gas at all — are turning heads at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. There are new all-electric cars from BMW and Volkswagen, a redesigned Ford F-150 pickup that weights 700 pounds less than last year and new fuel cell models from Honda.
But high-tech, fuel-efficient rides are not just for show. On dealers’ lots across the country — including ours at Ann Arbor Automotive — Americans are choosing from an increasing number of electric vehicles, hybrids, and fuel-efficient conventional cars. The era of the gas-guzzler is drawing to a close.
Among the factors driving this trend are the national fuel-economy standards that have all automakers shooting for an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. I believe the national push for fuel efficiency is good for business. Not only are fuel-economy rules saving motorists money at the gas station, they are sparking innovation at car company headquarters around the world — and they are helping us sell more cars.
My customers want vehicles that fit their needs — whether they’re in the market for a starter car, a family sedan, an SUV or a pickup — and they also want fuel efficiency. And car manufacturers, spurred by a mixture of consumer demand and government goals for fuel efficiency, are doing their best to oblige.
At the leading edge, there are cars moving beyond gasoline, like the all-electric Nissan Leaf — a car we sell, and one I drive. Nissan saw a whopping 130 percent increase in Leaf sales last year. Nissan moved production from Japan to Smyrna, Tenn., to save costs, and slashed the sticker price 18 percent. We’ve sold plenty. So many that at times it has been tough to keep up with demand.
Electric cars in general had a great year last year, with plug-in models’ sales up more than 80 percent compared to 2012 — despite the fact that gasoline prices dropped. Compared to 2011, the first year plug-in electric were widely available, 2013 saw more than five times the number of electric vehicles sold. That’s a faster rate of growth than we saw when hybrid cars were introduced. And with 16 plug-in models available, and more on the drawing board, the number of electric cars sold seems likely to keep growing.
Among conventional, gas-powered vehicles — even bigger vehicles, like SUVs and pickups — fuel efficiency is proving to be a selling point, as well. Ford, for example — which sells a lot of pickups — has improved its fleet’s fuel efficiency by seven percent over the past three years. GM’s fuel economy figures have improved by six percent.
It’s no accident the average fuel economy of new vehicles reached a record 24.8 mpg in 2013. With consumer demand for high quality, fun and fuel-efficient cars, plus long-term national rules in place that let all car manufacturers know how fuel-efficient their vehicles have to be, that number will only keep rising. And so, I believe, will sales.
Doug Fox is the president of Ann Arbor Automotive and was the chairman of the 2010 North American International Auto Show.