High Gas Prices Push Consumers Toward Smaller Vehicles

Don't stop the presses. It's no surprise that consumers have been moving from traditional truck-based SUVs to crossovers. But because of high gasoline prices, consumers are also downsizing their car and truck purchases in general this season, according to Kelley Blue Book.

The online research and consumer auto-shopping site says new-vehicle shoppers plan to adjust their shopping habits due to high gas prices, while spending less money on themselves.

The company's study, based on shopping habits and online surveys of in-market car shoppers at kbb.com during the first week of December, shows that 44% of in-market new-vehicle shoppers are looking at cars they normally would not have considered. That means--because of fuel prices--there's a "notable shift" in consideration since October to fuel-efficient cars, crossovers and hatchbacks at the expense of traditional SUVs.

Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com, says that GM's lineup of crossovers--Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Vue and Outlook--have "come up pretty strongly" in the surveys and click-throughs.



He says that, generally, consumers are downsizing. "You are not seeing so many full-size sedans; consumers are becoming more attuned to the fact that fuel costs will remain high. They are spending more time eyeballing higher-fuel-economy vehicles than they have in the past 10 or 15 years."

He said that the trend is even stronger in pre-owned vehicles. "I would say that the new vehicle buyer is more affluent than the typical citizen, so they are more readily able to absorb fuel-price increases and continue buying what they want to buy."

Also, more than half of consumers say they would seriously consider a vehicle with higher fuel efficiency if gas prices were to increase as little as 50 cents per gallon. Hybrid shoppers are most interested in the Toyota Camry hybrid and the Honda Civic hybrid.

"One thing that stunned me was that Prius wasn't mentioned, but it seems as if there was a broadening of what hybrids people were looking at, and Prius is a little small for a lot of people."

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