Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=41701
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Sirena Rubinoff/Medill

Paul Moreschi spends $45 each time he fills up his Nissan 350-Z.


Gas guzzlers popular, despite record gas prices

by Sirena Rubinoff
Aug 02, 2007


TOPCARS_berry fills tank

Sirena Rubinoff/Medill

Ken Berry grimaces as he watches his Mercury Mountaineer gulp gas.

Top 10 Most Popular Cars ranked by CarGuru consumers, first half of 2007

1)  Jeep Wrangler (18 mpg)
2)  Ford Mustang (20 mpg)
3)  Toyota Camry (25 mpg)
4)  Honda Accord (26 mpg)
5)  Toyota Tundra (17 mpg)
6)  Honda CR-V (23 mpg)
7)  Dodge Charger (21 mpg)
8)  Ford F-150 (16 mpg)
9)  Chevrolet Corvette (19 mpg)
10) Ford Focus (27 mpg)


Top 10 Most Popular Cars based on sales volume from Automotive News, first half of 2007

1) Ford F-150 (16 mpg)
2) Chevrolet Silverado (17 mpg)
3) Toyota Camry (25 mpg)
4) Toyota Corolla (31 mpg)*
5) Dodge Ram (16 mpg)
6) Honda Accord (26 mpg)
7) Chevrolet Impala (22 mpg)
8) Honda Civic (29 mpg)*
9) Nissan Altima (26 mpg)
10) Honda CR-V (23 mpg)
*meets federally recommended gas mileage

Chicagoans like Ken Berry have a love-hate relationship with their SUV's.

"I hate it," Berry said as he pumped $70 of gasoline into his Mercury Mountaineer at the BP Amoco station at the corner of Dearborn St. and Congress Parkway for the second time this week. 

But Berry loves the spacious interior of the Mountaineer, which he chose two years ago to accommodate a car seat and other necessities for his newborn son. 

He’s not alone. Seven of the 10 most popular cars ranked by consumers on CarGurus, an online automotive community, are gas guzzling sport utility vehicles or sports cars. The ranking results are for the first half of 2007.

Topping list was the Jeep Wrangler, which gets an average gas mileage of 18 miles per gallon.  Federal standards recommend that trucks achieve an average gas mileage of 20.7 mpg and that cars should maintain an average gas mileage of 27.5 mpg.

None of the top 10 cars listed by CarGurus' 1.5 million visitors in the first half of 2007 had an average gas mileage that met the federal standards.

“While online consumers understand the gas crisis intellectually, they just don’t seem willing to part with the cargo space and performance offered by utility trucks and sports cars,” said Langley Steinart, co-founder and CEO of CarGurus.  “People’s perceptions aren’t in line with their buying behavior.”

Industry trade publication Automotive News ranks the most popular U.S. vehicles by sales.  Just two of the 10 top-selling cars in the first half of 2007 met federal gas mileage guidelines. That means less bang for consumers' buck when they pull up to the gas pump. 

The Ford F-150 pickup truck topped the Automotive News’ sales volume list with an average gas mileage of 16 mpg, missing the federally suggested mark by more than 20 percent or 4.7 mpg. 

The Toyota Camry is listed as the third-most popular vehicle in America by both CarGuru.com and Automotive News.  The Camry runs an average 25 mpg, a few miles short of the recommended 27.5 mpg for cars. 

Steinart says the future of the automotive industry is heading towards hybrid and electric cars, but with sticker prices on electric cars in the $100-thousand range, he said they remain too expensive for most consumers.

“The challenge is for manufacturers to come up with hybrid SUV’s and pickup trucks,” he said.  “If manufacturers can produce the same car that gets 20 or 30 percent better gas mileage, people will buy them.”

The gas-stingy Toyota Prius hybrid ranked 15 on CarGuru’s popularity list.  It has an average mpg of 46, nearly 70 percent more efficient than the federal recommendation. 

 “If [electric or hybrid cars] can do everything I need to do – take me and the kids around – and keep me from spending more than $70 a week on gas, then I’d consider it,” said Berry.