According to industry analyst Alan L. Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, and Luke Tonachel, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior vehicles analyst, U.S. consumers will be the big winners in 2013 as a result of strong growth in sales of electric and hybrid cars ... a wide range of available fuel-efficient midsize vehicles and pickups … lower prices for a number of the vehicles with the highest MPG ratings ... and a greater emphasis on diesel-powered vehicles and affordable new tech. In addition, Baum and Tonachel say the auto industry will remain on track to meet higher federal fuel efficiency standards.
"All signs point to another robust year for America’s most highly fuel-efficient vehicles," said Baum, a key auto industry analyst. "The options for consumers will continue to grow in the New Year with full-year production of many products launched this year and a variety of new products. These products will be a combination of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines powered by gas or diesel, stop/start technologies, hybrids (both mild and full), plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles."
"2013 is shaping up as another record year on several fronts for highly fuel efficient vehicles," said Tonachel, an expert in vehicles at NRDC. "Across all major automakers, across a variety of technologies, across all major vehicle segments, fuel economy is increasing and will continue to do so in 2013. Consumers are the major beneficiaries, with more choices available to meet their needs."
Baum and Tonachel offered their 2013 fuel efficiency outlook today during a telephone press conference with the media.
Key trends for 2013 identified by Baum and Tonachel include the following
- Electric vehicle sales will double in the coming year and hybrid sales are set to jump by a quarter. The Accord will soon be offered as both a plug-in hybrid and regular hybrid. The Fusion hybrid is now available and a plug-in version will be offered soon and we expect the Altima will appear as a hybrid next year. In addition, the volume of the Nissan LEAF will increase in the coming year as production is available from Tennessee. At least six new hybrid models will be launched next year and eight plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will also appear. While many of these initially will be offered in modest volumes, the sales of plug-in hybrid/battery electric vehicles will more than double in the coming year. Hybrid vehicle sales are expected to increase by more than 25 percent.
- Midsize vehicles and pickups are likely to be a big driver of MPG gains in 2013. A wave of higher MPG midsize vehicles, many launched this year, will be available for the entire year including the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Chevy Malibu. The market for higher MPG pickups also offers opportunity, with a new Dodge Ram available now and an improved Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra coming in the spring.
- Rising demand and increased production will mean lower prices for consumers. The launch of domestic production of the LEAF is being accompanied by a new lower-cost model as well as new marketing programs in order to generate demand for the higher volume that will be available. This will no doubt generate responses from other manufacturers. Price clearly matters to consumers, as recent incentives offered on the Chevy Volt have resulted in higher sales volumes.
- More emphasis on diesel and new tech will mean better fuel efficiency in 2013. Diesel engines are coming to the Chevy Cruze in the spring. Diesels deliver strong levels of fuel economy and Volkswagen, Mercedes, and BMW have had great success with these engines. Stop/start technology is growing across a range of automakers, with the Ford Fusion offering this system at low cost ($295) in order to improve fuel economy.
- The industry is likely to remain on track to meet higher federal 2016 fuel economy standards. The process is gradual and long-term, but the continuing increase of more vehicles with a variety of technologies will enable the continuation of the process. In 2011, the average fuel economy level increased by 0.5 miles per gallon, with the increase over 1 mile per gallon in 2012. Things are likely to continue trending in that direction. The standards require somewhat less than 1 mile per gallon improvement for Model Year 2013 and 2014. (Model Year 2014 begins in October 2013.)
For more information see the full Q&A discussion by Baum and Tonachel of 2013 fuel efficiency trends or see a related blog post from Tonachel.