Are Consumers Getting Smarter About Hybrid Cars?

President Obama announced that American automobiles must meet a fuel-efficiency standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Obama called the shift “the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood blogged that it would save the country about $1.7 trillion in fuel costs.

In the past the automakers have challenged attempts to raise the fuel economy standard, but representatives from a dozen car companies joined Obama for his announcement. That’s an unprecedented level of industry support, and a somewhat startling one considering that just weeks ago, when the administration made its m.p.g. ambitions known, auto leaders seemed less than thrilled.

The New York Times attributes this “extraordinary shift” to the growing popularity of fuel-efficient cars:

Six of the 10 best-selling vehicles in America are small or midsize cars, and one of the most popular pickup models on the market is a Ford F-Series with a high-mileage, six-cylinder engine.

Are Consumers Getting Smarter About Hybrid Electric Cars?
Are Consumers Getting Smarter About Hybrid Electric Cars?

That suggests consumers are a bit wiser when it comes to fuel efficiency than they were just a couple years ago. In fact it looks like only two of the year’s top ten sellers are trucks (though they hold the top two positions). That list is much different from the bestsellers of a decade ago, when trucks made up half the top ten.

Still when it comes to truly fuel-efficient technology — the type that will be required to achieve 50-plus m.p.g. — sales are less impressive. The Ford Fusion cracks the top ten, but the Prius doesn’t make the top 20, and neither the Chevy Volt nor the Nissan Leaf appears in the top 100.