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WardsAuto has released the first annual WardsAuto Fuel Economy Index: State of the Industry report, showing that new technologies and consumer buying patterns lifted average fuel economy to a record high of 24 MPG in 2012.

The average represents a full mile-per-gallon improvement over light vehicles (LVs) sold in the previous 12 months.

The report features data from the WardsAuto Fuel Economy Index, which uses model-line LV sales, engine installation rates and EPA window-sticker fuel economy rankings to calculate relative average fuel economy of across brands, segments and power types.

The 2012 gain in fuel economy was the largest year-to-year improvement in the history of the FEI, which has risen every year since its inception in 2008. The 4.3% gain eclipsed the 3.2% jump in 2009 that accompanied that year’s government-sponsored “Cash-for-Clunkers” program, which incented consumers to trade in older LVs for more fuel-efficient models.

The 2012 results also represent a 14.3% improvement over the index rating established in Q4 2007, the Index Base Period (IBP).

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