9 Gas-Guzzlers With the Worst Combined Fuel Economy

In a sector where the U.S. government, and in some cases individual states, are pushing automakers harder than ever to crank out more fuel-efficient vehicles, you might be surprised to learn that there are still quite a few gas-guzzlers on our roads.

Over the past two months we've covered some of the most important aspects that consumers look for when purchasing a vehicle; and fuel economy is often one important consideration. However, for some consumers one of two characteristics tends to supersede the obsession with better fuel economy: the need for speed and luxury, or the need for space.

Source: Kristel Rae Barton, PublicDomainPictures.

Personally, I fall into the first category. I'm a bit of a lead foot, and the car of my dreams, which I purchased last November, gets a meager 12 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. For purchasers similar to myself, we're looking to experience the adrenaline rush associated with a high-performance vehicle and gas mileage isn't a huge consideration.


The other considerably more dominant group of consumers are those who need space, and lots of it! These are your families of four or more who likely shuffle the kids to and from school, perhaps even to sporting events, and make gigantic Costco runs. These families would probably prefer better gas mileage, but the practicality of a vehicle's size usually outweighs the need for better fuel economy.

You'll also find one additional subcategory that I would attribute to the fact that younger adults simply don't care too much for fuel economy. Although they're usually working on a tighter budget, their cars are often viewed as extensions of their personalities, so looks can occasionally win over a younger consumer regardless of fuel economy.

A tricky game for automakers
For automakers, this can be something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, vehicles with lower fuel-economy could potentially chase consumers away to a rival automaker that offers a vehicle with better fuel economy. Specifically, this could be a problem with the second group of consumers who are purchasing solely based on the need for space. Then again, one would surmise that low fuel economy shouldn't be as big of a concern in high-performance and luxury vehicles where price is less of an objection. This isn't to say that automakers are going out of their way to neglect fuel economy in high-performance and luxury vehicles, but it's more like a foregone conclusion that fuel efficiency is not the priority for the buyers of these types of vehicles. Something similar can be said for young adult purchasers, as well, because carmakers tend to focus on style rather than fuel economy to attract these buyers.

Today, using data from Consumer Reports' findings published in February, we're going to look at nine of the vehicles that ranked the lowest in overall combined fuel economy (i.e., city and highway combined) to see if this data might lend clues about how well these vehicles sell relative to their peers, and decipher whether it's something we might use to become smarter investors.

Consumer Reports broke its research down into five separate categories, tackling each segment one at a time. As for me, I'm going to break things down into the criteria listed above, and focus on the worst in each category.

Nine vehicles with the worst combined fuel economy
First, let's address the vehicles that would appeal to the adrenaline-seekers and luxury car buyers.

The three cars that fit the bill for worst fuel economy in this group are:

Vehicle Make

City MPG

Highway MPG

Combined MPG

Chevrolet Camaro 2SS convertible

11

25

17

BMW 750Li

12

25

18

Chrysler 300C

12

29

18

Source: Consumer Reports, all vehicles based on 2014 models.

Despite racking up the worst combined fuel economy of the sporty and luxury groups combined, General Motors' Chevy Camaro has been a superstar among muscle cars. GM's Camaro has outsold Ford's Mustang in each of the past four years, and consumers have made it apparent that fuel economy isn't the decisive factor that's causing them to flock to muscle cars like the Camaro. According to Craig Trudell of Bloomberg, Camaro's "more futuristic" design has kept it well ahead of the Mustang. In this case, it appears that the desire for power under the hood will continue to trump the need for better fuel economy, at least for the time being.

In similar fashion, BMW's 750Li and Fiat's Chrysler 300C bottomed out in combined fuel economy at 18 mpg.


2014 Chrysler 300C, Source: Chrysler Group. 

Both carmakers are generally targeting more sophisticated consumers who crave luxury; therefore, price and fuel economy tend to take a back seat. This segment, however, hasn't seen the same health as the rest of the auto industry. Total BMW 7-series unit sales have dipped in each of the past four years (albeit modestly), while Chrysler 300 sales (all models included) have nosedived since 2007 from 120,636 units to less than 58,000 in 2013. Some of the dip in 2013 for the Chrysler 300 can be attributed to an increase in price for the model's lowest-priced-trim tier, as Cars.com noted in 2012. But it's very evident from both BMW 750 and Chrysler 300 sales that even the luxury buyer is still very skittish about making large purchases, which could ultimately weigh on both automakers.

Bigger is better? Not quite!
In the group where space matters there are five vehicles which get the dunce cap for fuel economy: four SUVs, which tied for combined worst fuel economy, and one minivan.

Vehicle Make

City MPG

Highway MPG

Combined MPG

Lincoln Navigator Ultimate

8

18

13

Ford Expedition EL Eddie Bauer

8

18

13

Nissan Armada Platinum

9

18

13

Cadillac Escalade (base)

9

21

13

Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L

11

27

17

Source: Consumer Reports, all vehicles based on 2014 models.

Consumers aren't thrilled about the gas mileage they get with SUVs, but they simply don't have much choice when it comes to fitting five, six, or even more family members in their vehicles. It's for this reason that automakers continue to produce SUVs and minivans for the American consumer in strong numbers despite higher fuel prices putting pressure on future sales.

According to the list above, there are two representatives from Ford (the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition), two from Fiat (the Cadillac Escalade and Chrysler Town & Country minivan), and a single one -- the Armada Platinum -- from Nissan . In sum, these are monstrous vehicles, and big weighty vehicles demand big engines which guzzle gasoline.


2014 Ford Expedition, Source: Ford. 

In each case above, with the exception of the Town & Country, sales have fallen off a cliff since 2006. The Lincoln Navigator has seen unit sales drop by 64% while the Expedition, Armada, and Escalade have seen unit sales fall by 56%, 56%, and 68%, respectively. By comparison, Town & Country sales dipped by a modest 23% over that same period.

While some consumers are unwilling to compromise on space, higher fuel prices are clearly beginning to weigh on SUV and minivan producers, driving them instead to smaller SUVs capable of packing a big transportation punch like Honda's CR-V, which now offers the capability of a third row of seating. As CNNMoney senior writer Peter Valdes-Dapena noted in 2009, higher gas prices often mean fewer sales for SUV makers, including Chrysler, as consumers push smaller, more fuel-efficient non-American vehicles to the forefront. In other words, if gasoline prices continue their trend upward, it's likely that we'll see more people making the switch to smaller SUVs and sedans which could further dampen Ford, Fiat, and Nissan's sales of large SUVs.

The small car dunce cap
Lastly, we have our Consumer Reports dunce cap for worst mileage from the small car category:

Vehicle Make

City MPG

Highway MPG

Combined MPG

Scion xB

16

30

23

Source: Consumer Reports, vehicle model from 2014.

All things considered the Scion xB, which is owned by Toyota , gets pretty decent gas mileage at 23 mpg combined. Compared to its peers, though, it sits at the bottom of the ladder -- and this lack of fuel economy is weighing on the Scion brand. Whereas most vehicles have seen at least some modest rebound since the recession, sales of the Scion xB continue to fall, hitting just 17,489 last year, more than 7,600 units lower than 2009!


2014 Scion xB, Source: Scion.

According to a USA Today report in 2012, Automotive News found in a study that the Millennials who originally bought the xB no longer find it desirable to own a different-looking vehicle. In other words, it's become clear that Toyota is going to emphasize its own brand more and the Scion brand less, for Scion was really just a stepping stone to introduce younger adults to the Toyota line of cars. With bigger profits to be made on the Toyota side of the business thanks to its product line diversity, this may not be such a bad thing after all for investors.

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The article 9 Gas-Guzzlers With the Worst Combined Fuel Economy originally appeared on Fool.com.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends Costco and Ford. It also recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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