Americans Still Love Gas Guzzlers

Kendall Hoopes Pexels

Despite the high cost of filing a gas tank and paying gas-guzzler taxes, Americans continue to buy cars with extremely low miles per gallon. They are buying these high MPG SUVs, crossovers, and light trucks at record levels. This behavior includes purchasing used cars and new cars alike. A current analysis of the most popular used cars sold in the US highlights this purchasing trend despite calls for using hybrids and EVs to slow global warming. The EPA reports that transportation causes 29% of US greenhouse gas emissions, so vehicle buying patterns are critical.

The Biden Administration ordered car companies to have average fuel economies across their fleets at 46 MPG by 2026.  To reach the Administration’s goal, manufacturers like Ford and GM must balance extremely energy-efficient EVs and hybrids against Mustangs, massive Cadillac Escalades, and full-sized pickups. EV sales at the major car companies have been slow, so the odds that these manufacturers will achieve Biden’s goal are small.

For many years, full-sized pickups have been the best sellers in America. The Ford F-series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for 42 years. Last year, Ford sold approximately 750,789 F-series units. Sales of the F-150 Lighting EV version of the truck were only 24,165. Ford management says EV sales have been so slow that it has pushed back $12 billion in its EV operations. Ford cannot claim the entire EV market is in trouble. Tesla delivered 1.81 million vehicles in 2023, up 38%. 

How to sell more cars: GM buys EV customers

More affordable: $3 gas.

Usually, the two vehicles just behind the F-150 in annual sales are the Chevy Silverado and the RAM, each of which is a full-sized pickup. All of these pickups have several engine options, so MPG varies. A fairly standard model, the 2021 Ford F150 Pickup 2WD 6 cyl, 3.5 L, Automatic, gets gas mileage of 17 MPG in city driving and 24 MPG on the highway. That puts it squarely on any gas-guzzler list. 

A new iSeeCars analysis of used car sales gathered data on 9.2 million vehicle sales for the last five model years (2018 – 2022). The top-selling used car in 2023 was the Ford F-150. Its sales were 3.3% of all used car sales last year. The second-place vehicle by the same measure was the Chevy Silverado 1500. Its sales were 2.6% of the used car market in 2023. RAM ranked fourth with a 2.1% share. Three vehicles, usually with extremely low gas mileage, comprised almost 8% of used car sales in 2023.

As sales of gas guzzlers continue at a high rate, Americans have shown real resistance to EVs. This is usually based on the range they go on a single battery charge, the fairly small number of public charging stations, and the time it takes to charge an EV battery.

The road to improved greenhouse gas emissions does not run through the vehicle buying habits of the American driver.

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