creates the real mile index to reveal the cafe  

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With gas mileage figures posted on the window sticker of just about every new car sold in America, it's easy to see where an individual model stands. Rating where each automaker stands, though, is trickier. The closest thing to an official ranking is the federal government's corporate average fuel economy program, established in 1975 and regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Suffice it to say the program has major implications for automakers — especially with a recent mandate that mileage standards increase over the next dozen years — but these numbers can be misleading to car shoppers.

Case in point: For 2007, CAFE rated Honda's domestic passenger-car fleet at 33.5 mpg; Honda's imported cars averaged 39.6 mpg, and its light trucks averaged 25.0 mpg. Given those figures, you'd think a typical Honda dealership would be teeming with cars with combined city/highway gas mileage in the mid-30s. You'd be wrong. Aside from the Civic Hybrid, no Honda has combined mileage (meaning a combination of city and highway mileage) of better than 31 mpg.

That isn't a knock against Honda; it's largely the same story across the industry. The underreported truth about CAFE is that even though its figures are regulated by the EPA, those numbers, according to NHTSA spokesman Eric Bolton, have nothing to do with the ones posted on new-car window stickers. CAFE rankings are subject to a number of adjustments, such as whether a car can use E85 or other alternative fuels.

As such, the idea that the auto industry will be required to achieve an average of 35 mpg by 2020 is misleading. Strictly speaking, that's 35 mpg by CAFE calculations. It doesn't mean, as it might suggest, that in a dozen years the window stickers on most models will have mileage figures in the mid-30s.

That's why we've created's True Mileage Index. Our index analyzes a number of factors — combined city/highway EPA gas mileage ratings, vehicle sales, an automaker's lineup of vehicles and more — to determine major automakers' average gas mileage across their lineups. The True Mileage Index offers a snapshot of the sort of mpg ratings you'll actually see reflected on new-car stickers.

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