US car fuel economy on the rise image

US sales of pickup trucks, utility vehicles – even minivans – have been on the rise in recent months. Despite the resurgence of these gas-gulping vehicles, the overall mileage of the new vehicles sold in November continued to rise.

According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI, the typical vehicle sold last month delivered an EPA-rated fuel economy of 24.8 mpg in November, up 0.1 mpg from the revised October figure.

That means the typical new vehicle is now getting about 23% better mileage – a 4.7 mpg average increase, since October 2007, the first month of monitoring by UMTRI, noted lead researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

The improvements in fuel economy this year have come even as the U.S. auto industry was enjoying its best year since 2007’s economic meltdown – with a resurgence of the light truck market helping drive the boom. Sales last month increased by roughly 8%, with the year expected to end with total sales of around 15.5 million – a more than 50% surge since the industry’s low point during the Great Recession.

The sales surge has been driven by a steady increase in demand for products across the board, but there’s been a particularly strong revitalization of the pickup truck market – benefiting in particular General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

But today’s trucks are significantly different from those of just a decade ago. Ford, for example, now sells more V6-power F-Series trucks than those equipped with V-8s. Chrysler launched a new, high-mileage Ram 1500 diesel for 2014 – even winning the coveted Motor Trend Truck of the Year award in the process. Along with these new, higher-mileage powertrains, makers are also moving to cut mass. The new 2014 Range Rover Sport, for example, is about 700 pounds lighter than the model it replaces.