From a record average fuel economy of 24.1 mpg of new vehicles purchased in the U.S. last March, the rating for April declined to 23.9 mpg, according to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. The researchers have been tracking the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold each month since October 2007, when the average fuel economy was 20.1 mpg. They said that the decline is probably because of the slight drop in gasoline price as the end of April neared.
Brandon Schoettle, an institute research associate and co-author of the report, said that gas prices have been falling ever since the first week in April. From 23.9 mpg in February, the average fuel economy increased to 24.1 mpg in March. Schoettle said that the gasoline price and the U.S. unemployment rate are both highly influential to the average fuel economy for new vehicles. If these two factors continue to drop, the interest in fuel-efficient vehicles will also weaken. According to AAA this week, the national average of a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.80. A month ago, a gallon cost $3.92. [source: DetroitBureau]