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    Gas to Top $5 a Gallon by 2020, Industry Experts Say

    Survey reveals average fuel economy to increase as well.

    DETROIT -- The next 15 years will show a "dramatic" increase in fuel prices and vehicle fuel economy, according to a recent survey conducted by the University of Michigan, reported MarketWatch.

    The average price per gallon of gasoline will reach $4 by 2015, and exceed $5 by 2020, said survey respondents, which included more than 100 automotive manufacturers, chief executives, suppliers and other industry experts polled by the university's Research Institute Automotive Analysis Division.

    In addition, the survey found that the federally mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) for cars is expected to increase from 27.5 miles per gallon to 33 miles per gallon by 2015 and 38 miles per gallon in 2020. For trucks, the CAFE standards will increase from the current 21.6 miles per gallon to 27 miles per gallon in 2015 and 31 miles per gallon in 2020.

    If those gas prices become a realization, consumers' car choices will become a main concern to automakers MarketWatch reported. The $3 price spike that occurred last year caused lower sales of gas guzzling pickups and SUVs, putting pressure on U.S. automakers that rely on the sale for profits. While car manufacturers here have invested more in the midsize and small cars and increased fuel economy, consumer perceptions still favor Japanese vehicles when it comes to saving gas, the report stated.

    The survey also found that auto manufacturers will continue to push alternative fuel engines in their vehicles. By 2015, 42 percent of the U.S. fleet will be powered by an alternative fuel vehicle, while in 2020, more than half -- 55 percent -- of cars will have an alternative fuel engine. Of the five types of alternative fuel engines available -- electric, fuel cell, advanced diesel, hybrid and homogeneous charge compression ignition -- the survey found that the majority will be powered by advanced diesel and hybrid technologies.

    However, current alternative fuel technology might not meet the standards of fuel economy in 2015 and 2020, MarketWatch reported.

    "This survey shows that though manufacturers are developing alternative powertrains, they may not be working fast enough to meet the challenges imposed on them by government regulations or by potential dramatic increases of fuel prices," Walter McManus, director of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute Automotive Analysis Division, said in a written statement. "The auto industry may be operating under a false -- and potentially fatal -- assumption that fuel economy is not a high priority."

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