Truck, SUV drivers want better fuel economy, CR survey finds

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Nearly three-quarters of large pickup and SUV owners in the U.S. are interested in buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle, according to a survey released Monday by Consumer Reports.

That compares with 42 percent of drivers of all other types of vehicles, according to the survey, conducted this year for the first time by the influential magazine.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed that automakers should improve fuel economy for all vehicle types, according to the online and phone survey of 1,048 American adults.

Just 34 percent said they think automakers care about lowering fuel costs for customers.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and energy policy for Consumer Reports, told Automotive News that technology exists for automakers to build pickups and SUVs with better fuel economy.

An EPA study released in March found vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards are helping pickups and SUVs travel more miles per gallon, with those vehicles using 125 fewer gallons of gasoline a year while driving the same distance they did 10 years ago.

Since 1999, truck-based SUVs have improved fuel economy by 43 percent, the EPA study said, and pickups improved by 18 percent in that period.

Baker-Branstetter said fuel economy savings for pickups and SUVs have a greater potential to improve than in previous years.

“According to both the analysis by the EPA and our own analysis, the payback period for the fuel economy technologies for trucks and larger vehicles is shorter, and the overall fuel savings is higher,” Baker-Branstetter said.

The survey found 55 percent of owners of large SUVs and pickups wanted improved fuel economy, while just 30 percent of drivers of small or midsize vehicles chose fuel economy as an improvement.

The survey results should indicate to automakers and regulators that pickup and SUV owners want improved fuel economy, and not a rollback of emissions efforts, Baker-Branstetter said, though even a small investment may not initially seem “worth it.”

“Consumers are the ones who save the money,” she said. “If [automakers] advertised it more and emphasized the value of good fuel economy, then consumers would pay more attention to it.”

Improving fuel economy would be a way for automakers “to entice buyers to new vehicles,” Baker-Branstetter said. “Consumers think that automakers don’t care enough right now and could certainly do more.”

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