The sales and pricing data experts at TrueCar, using official U.S. EPA ratings, along with estimated and/or actual monthly sales data, crunched the numbers, and found that over the past year, Toyota's average fuel economy has gone down—to 23.8 this past month, versus 24.8 in February of 2010.
All other major automakers boosted their average sales-weighted fuel economy, with Ford gaining 1.5 mpg and Hyundai 1.3 mpg higher than last year. Nissan and General Motors, at 1.2 and 0.8 mpg, respectively, also posted gains ahead of the 0.7-mpg average improvement.
Hyundai emerged securely on top among full-line automakers, with a 26.6-mpg sales-weighted average this past month that's way ahead of the industry sales-weighted average of 22.2 mpg (considering cars and trucks combined). That's likely due mostly to two of its new sedan models, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra and 2011 Hyundai Sonata, which both get among the best numbers in their classes. The Elantra gets 29 mpg city, 40 highway in all versions, not just with a high-mileage package, and the Sonata gets up to 24/35 in non-hybrid form.
Hyundai's solid first-place performance follows a challenge that Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik issued last month—for automakers to issue a monthly sales-data-weighted average mileage.
That said, it's worth mentioning that Hyundai isn't quite a full-line automaker to the extent of Toyota—or even Honda. While Toyota sells several truck-based SUVs (the Land Cruiser, 4Runner, Lexus GX 460 and Lexus LX 570) as well as Toyota Tundra and Tacoma pickups, and Honda has its Ridgeline pickup, Hyundai currently has no equivalent. Though it does have its V-8-powered Genesis and Equus luxury sedans.
Chrysler ranks at the bottom, averaging just 19.5 mpg on a sales-weighted basis. U.S. manufacturers together boosted their average fuel economy from 19.4 mpg on average last February up to an average of 20.5 mpg this February.