Toyota loses ground on fuel economy as federal agencies seek rollback of vehicle standards

(ACEEE blog, 28 Mar 2019) Toyota, an industry leader in hybrid technology for two decades, is the only major automaker to lose ground on fuel economy in recent years. And with the Trump administration poised to roll back fuel efficiency standards, Toyota may face less pressure to pick up its pace.

Toyota previously posted one of the industry’s best miles per gallon (mpg) averages for its fleet. It benefitted from selling more than 10 million hybrids worldwide since launching its signature Prius in 1997. Today’s most fuel-efficient Prius gets a whopping 56 mpg.  

Still, with robust truck sales, Toyota’s fleet mpg actually decreased from 2012-2017, according to the US Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Automotive Trends Report. In contrast, prodded by stricter US fuel economy standards for 2012-2016 vehicles, the other 12 foreign and domestic manufacturers increased their fleet mpg averages during the same five-year period.

The result: Cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change and the resulting harm to human health.

The administration’s proposal to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards could slow the industry’s overall progress and allow Toyota’s technological foot-dragging to continue. The administration is expected to announce a final rule as early as May.

The EPA report says Toyota lags behind other manufacturers in adopting fuel efficiency technologies such as direct injection, turbocharging, and cylinder deactivation.

Toyota’s Tundra, its only full-size pickup, is emblematic of the company’s failure to keep pace. Since 2011, Tundra has gained no efficiency technologies. As a result, its 8-cylinder four-wheel drive model has remained a fuel-thirsty 18.7 mpg, even as this vehicle’s CAFE target rose to 25.1 mpg for model year 2017.

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ACEEE blog, 28 Mar 2019: Toyota loses ground on fuel economy as federal agencies seek rollback of vehicle standards