The United States was a much different place in the year 1980. Jimmy Carter was president, the population was about 227 million, and American cars had a terrible reputation, both at home and abroad. American cars were viewed as unreliable behemoths that were dreadfully inefficient. The dismal reputation for American cars at the time was warranted: in 1980, light-duty American vehicles averaged 22.6 MPG, while imported vehicles averaged 29.6 MPG.
According to the United States Department of Transportation’s latest data, American vehicles are not only catching up to their imported counterparts, they are more fuel-efficient, on average. While imported vehicles have long enjoyed a reputation for being superior in terms of efficiency, the data shows that it is time for that perception to change.
One of the main reasons for the improvement of fuel-efficiency in American cars is consumer demand. In 2012, when gasoline prices were skyrocketing, Consumer Reports found that 37% of potential car buyers considered fuel-efficiency the most important factor when considering a new vehicle. In 2015, even as gas prices came back down to earth, fuel efficiency remained a main selling point.
Despite the improvements American automakers have made, the sales figures show that the negative perception has not changed all that much. The Wall Street Journal finds that while American trucks routinely sell better than imported trucks, consumers bought more than twice the amount of imported light-duty cars than domestic in 2015. Additionally, a JD Power study found that 7% of new vehicle buyers will not even consider purchasing an American vehicle.
American automakers have worked hard to change their dismal reputation and they are doing it in more ways than just improving efficiency. Not only are American vehicles becoming more efficient, Auto Trader reports that “the average selling price of an imported car is a staggering $7,000 higher than a domestically produced one – the widest divide in almost 12 years.”
JD Power has found even more advantages to an American vehicle beyond fuel efficiency and affordability. “Not only are American car companies building higher-quality cars, the cars they are building are more stylish, more rewarding to drive, and contain more technology than many consumers give them credit for.”
There was a time when the American automotive industry found itself in a difficult position: they either had to build more efficient and dependable vehicles or sales would continue to plummet. The industry decided to make marked improvements to their vehicles, but the perception of American cars has been slow to change. It is time for consumers to add American vehicles into their consideration set once again and realize that affordable, dependable, and fuel-efficient vehicles are being made right here in the United States.