Toby Talbot  /  AP
Honda led automakers with a fleet average of 25.1 mpg, followed by Toyota Motor Corp. with 23.5 mpg, the government said Thursday.
updated 7/29/2005 9:19:49 AM ET 2005-07-29T13:19:49

Honda Motor Co. posted the highest average fuel economy for 2005 vehicles, but automakers made little progress in making automobiles more fuel-efficient, the government reported Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency said in its annual findings that the estimated average fuel economy for 2005 model year vehicles was 21 miles per gallon, a fleet-wide average that increased 0.2 mpg from the previous year.

It was 5 percent below the peak of 22.1 mpg in 1987, the EPA said. Since 1997, the fleet-wide average for U.S. automakers’ light-duty vehicles has remained fairly consistent, ranging between 20.6 mpg and 21 mpg.

The fuel economy for cars remained unchanged for the third-straight year at 24.7 mpg. Light trucks, which include pickups, SUVs and minivans, improved to 18.2 mpg, their highest average since the late 1980s.

Honda led the automakers with a fleet average of 25.1 mpg, followed by Toyota Motor Corp. with 23.5 mpg. Ford Motor Co. posted the lowest average at 19.5 mpg, but that represented an increase of 0.4 mpg over the previous model year.

Ford spokesman Mike Moran said the company was making progress, noting the Ford Five Hundred sedan, Freestyle utility and Escape Hybrid models scored among the highest in their individual categories.

DaimlerChrysler AG followed Ford with 19.8 mpg in its fleet, followed by General Motors Corp. with 20.5 mpg. GM also showed an increase of 0.4 mpg from the last model year.

Volkswagen AG fell to 23.4 mpg, a drop of 0.4 mpg.

The fuel economy figures are important to consumers, with gasoline prices averaging more than $2 a gallon at the pump. Light-duty vehicles account for about 40 percent of U.S. oil consumption.

“Despite the need to cut our oil dependency and curb warming emissions, the government is failing to order carmakers to improve fuel economy, and left to their own devices, they’re not moving forward and some are moving backwards,” said Daniel Becker, who runs the Sierra Club’s global warming program.

The New York Times reported Thursday that it had received an embargoed copy of the report for publication Wednesday but was told later by EPA officials that it would be delayed until next week.

Environmentalists pointed out that the report’s delay coincided with Congress’ final work on an energy bill that does little to boost fuel economy. Becker said it “would be hard to imagine” that the bill did not play a role in the delay.

EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher said the report was held “so that we could ensure that the public received the most comprehensive and understandable summary of information possible on fuel economy.”

Light trucks accounted for 50 percent of vehicle sales of model year 2005 vehicles, nearly twice their market share in 1985, the EPA said.

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