Gas Prices and SUV Sales
May 2008 saw the United States locked in the midst of the worst gas crisis in thirty years. The daily increase in the average price of gas was having profound affects around the nation, causing spikes in food prices and the canceling of summer vacations. The rise in gas prices also had a profound shift on the American auto market. For the first time in seventeen years, the American large pickup truck was knocked from the top of the best selling vehicles in America list.
The Ford F150, a workhorse of a vehicle that held the lead for most of those 17 years, fell not to the second, but all the way to the fifth spot on automobile best sellers list. The new king of the mountain was none other than the Honda Civic. The Civic was flanked by similar, small, more fuel efficient cars – the Toyota Camry, the Toyota Corolla, and the Honda Accord. And there were big moves in similarly sized American cars. USA Today noted the Chevy Cobalt s numbers were up 19%, the Chevy Aveo was up 44%, the Ford Focus jumped up by 52%, and the Pontiac Vibe rocketed up a massive 72%.
Things only got worse for the SUV market as the summer progressed. As the average price for unleaded gasoline passed $3.50 at the national level, the SUV and truck markets were largely declared dead by many members of the press. After the better part of two decades as an American icon, a rugged representation of American freedom, the inefficiencies of they had finally dethroned the SUV as a practical, everyday vehicle.
By the end of the summer, with gas prices reaching their fevered highs, Nissan became the last automobile manufacturer to official announce across the board reductions in to the sheer volume of makes, models, and total numbers of SUVs and trucks to be produced. Coincidentally, the end of the summer also marked the potential end of the gas prices. The daily reports of record high gas prices were replaced by the national average cost for gas falling on a daily basis. A penny here, a penny there. Soon, prices were lower than they were before Katrina. Not long after that, they were nearly on par with the averages in 2003. Five years of steady increases, an industry finally retooled to the changes, and a consumer-base which aligned itself were undone in a matter of months as various forces drove the global price of crude oil down from the mountain it climbed.
Though gas prices seemed to be falling with the same reckless abandon in which they d risen, the results in SUV sales did not match. Though many makes and models did see a the rate in which their sales were declining, and some did see an actual move into the positive territory, the obvious connections between the low price of gas and SUV sales can t be instantly made. After all, many car dealers had made hereto unprecedented moves to rid their lots of their remaining SUVs.
SUV Sales Suffer from Gas Price Fear
Perhaps the fear that is currently keeping the sales of SUVs at rather depressed numbers isn t the price of gas, but rather the fear of the price of gas. American drivers have seen gas move towards both ends of the spectrum seemingly without real world correlation for years now. It s quite possible that for the time being, even though the prices are still generally below $2 per gallon, drivers are still holding our breaths. Or perhaps, we ve found that small and frugal is as good an icon as rugged and roomy. Perhaps we re heading for an America where SUVs and sub-compacts can peacefully co-exist.
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