Oil prices have dropped 16 percent from their high this year, and yet fuel economy is still the No. 1 thing people say they’re weighing when they buy a car.
It’s one more way American consumers, with their love of gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, are reminding the president that the economy still isn’t running.
President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney are statistically tied in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, out today. Obama is backed by 49 percent of registered voters, and Romney by 46 percent, which is within the 4 percentage-point margin of error. A majority of voters said the economy and jobs are the most important issue in the election. On that point, the candidates are tied at 47 percent.
Here’s where the new Consumer Reports data comes in: 37 percent of car owners interviewed cited fuel economy as the top concern when they make their next purchase.
“High fuel prices are continuing to impact driver behavior and influencing future purchase considerations,” Jeff Bartlett, deputy auto editor of Consumer Reports, said in an e-mailed statement. “This may be foreshadowing a market shift by folks seeking relief at the pump.”
And yet, regular gasoline at the pump fell to $3.689 a gallon on May 20, according to AAA. It was the lowest level since Feb. 25. That’s down 25 cents since a 2012 high of $3.936 on April 4.
U.S. oil inventories climbed for a ninth week, reaching a 21-year high, as growing production bolstered a supply glut, according to the median of nine analyst estimates before an Energy Department report tomorrow. The increase would take supplies to the highest level since August 1990.
Inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for New York futures, rose to a record in last week’s report.
Supply is up, prices are down, and consumers still don’t feel it enough.