Bull Market: America’s Auto Comeback Is Good News For Wildlife

Bison in Yellowstone National Park (via Flickr's pt101)

New car sales numbers show Americans don’t have to choose among saving money, oil independence and protecting wildlife. According to the Detroit News, demand for gas-sipping vehicles is fueling sales:

Motorists aren’t pushing the panic button, and neither are automakers. Owners of gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, who rushed to unload them three years ago, are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Shoppers in the market for a new car or truck aren’t delaying purchases, but shifting to smaller or more fuel-efficient vehicles — many of them from domestic brands. And consumer credit, which virtually dried up three years ago, is available to car buyers again.

As a result, demand is holding up — 20 percent stronger this year, compared to last — as the industry’s fragile recovery continues. U.S. car and truck sales are expected to reach 13 million vehicles this year, comparable to 2008 but well above 2009’s 10.4 million tally.

And while sales of smaller cars are way up, drivers of larger vehicles are also looking for better gas mileage:

In April, the first full month of soaring gas prices, sales of small cars from Detroit’s Big Three jumped 77 percent from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp., which tracks U.S. car and truck sales. The imports increased 22 percent that month.

Almost one-quarter of U.S. sales are now subcompacts — the fastest-growing segment — and compacts, said Ford sales analyst George Pipas. It could have been close to 30 percent if more were available, he said. In April, Ford ran short of small cars and the new Explorer SUV, which gets 25 percent better mileage than its predecessor.

With no end in sight to sky-high gas prices, automakers are moving now to boost production of fuel-efficient vehicles:

General Motors will reconfigure the plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt to expand production to up to 60,000 electric cars a year.

The Detroit-area factory, which will be shut next month, now can produce about 16,000 a year. […]

The company has dealer orders for all the Volts the plant will produce this year, GM spokeswoman Michelle Bunker said Wednesday.

The shutdown also will let GM add equipment to build the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan at the plant starting next year. GM will stop producing two other big cars at the factory, the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne, later this year.

Improving the fuel efficiency of the vehicles we drive is a win across the board – saving drivers money, cutting pollution that threatens our public health and natural resources, and reducing the need for risky, expensive oil drilling and tar sands operations.

The Obama administration has a chance to make sure this progress keeps moving. It’s preparing to unveil new standards increasing fuel efficiency in the next generation of cars, SUVs and pickups. A strong fuel efficiency standard will make sure we continue the progress we’ve seen over the last three years, making vehicles more fuel efficient while making sure we still have the giddy-up to get out of the way if we’re at Yellowstone and that bison decides to make a charge.

Please take a moment to ask the Obama administration to support a strong fuel efficiency standard of 60 miles per gallon by 2025.