His claim is borne out by Government statistics, which show that the average fuel consumption of new vehicles last year was indeed higher than in 1987 - but by only 0.14mpg. The figures also show that 1987 saw average mpg hit an all-time high, before falling back quite dramatically until the returns started to creep up again in 1994 to reach the second highest recorded figure last year. Although the statistics do not take four-wheel-drive vehicles into account - which would almost certainly reduce the average still further - the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said Strang had been selective in his use of statistics.
Director of public affairs Roger King said the last decade had seen manufacturers fitting catalytic converters - which had a 5% adverse impact on fuel economy and also needing to meet more stringent safety regulations - making cars heavier. 'These figures show that, despite the extra weight and the introduction of catalytic converters, we have actually done quite well,' said King. 'We will continue to make further progress over the next few years and the 90mpg motor car is now not a dream, but a distinct reality. It's all about technology and we have made some very significant progress in recent years.'