U.S. sales of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars had a slower rate of growth in May, according to data compiled for Reuters. The figures indicate that the purchase of vehicles with higher gas mileage is certainly not as frenzied as three years ago.
The rush to buy these cars is starting to weaken despite the fact that gasoline prices are on the rise and are nearing their 2008 peaks. Automakers are currently creating and promoting an expanded lineup of fuel-economic cars, including plug-in Volts and 6-cylinder F-150s.
Research website TrueCar.com said that for the month of May, the average fuel economy of new U.S. light vehicles dropped for the second straight month to its lowest since January even if gasoline prices only started to subside in recent weeks.
It’s apparent that starting January, average mileage has increased by only 1.4% to 21.9 miles per gallon. But over the same period in 2008, it increased by 6% to 21.2 mpg. The official May mileage figures are expected to be released any day now.
It is believed that the slower pace is partly due to the considerable increase in overall efficiency in the intervening three years -- a trend that has helped control gasoline use in the world's biggest oil consumer. Since the beginning of 2008, the average efficiency is up by 2 mpg.
Another factor for the slowed growth is the Japan disaster last March. The inventories of dealers had shrunk because the effects of the Japan earthquake had kept about 40,000 new, smaller cars off the market, according to Edmunds.com.