Average vehicle fuel economy hit record high during first half of 2012

The average new car is more efficient than ever.

More buyers switched to fuel efficient vehicles during the first half of 2012 than ever before, a new report reveals. The average fuel economy of new cars sold in the United States hit a record high during the first six-months of 2012.

According to research firm Baum & Associates, the average fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in the U.S. during the first half was 23.8mpg, representing a 1.1mpg improvement over the same period in 2011.

Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, says the improvement can be attributed to buyers placing a higher emphasis on overall fuel economy, particularly in the large vehicle segment. This year also marks the first year in a run-up to a government-mandated 27.3mpg corporate average by 2016.

But consumers aren't the only ones benefiting from more efficient vehicles.

"Automakers have signed on to the new fuel economy requirements, not because they're good guys, but because it's good for business," Baum told the Detroit Free Press.

Baum says there are now 60 small and medium-size vehicles with "high fuel economy," compared to 28 in 2009.