Last year when gas prices topped $4.50 a gallon in many parts of the country, car buyers ditched their large SUVs and trucks for smaller cars like the Honda Fit, but now many of those buyers are beginning to regret their purchase.
Gas prices are not quite as high as they were last year, which is part of the explanation for why truck sales have rebounded from last year. Car buyers have all but forgotten how painful it was to see near $5 prices and have moved back into larger vehicles. According to the latest figures subcompact car sales are off 15 percent year to date and compact cars are off 28.5 percent. Popular small cars like the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit sales are down 41 percent and 8.2 percent respectively.
It get’s worse for the small car market, according to a new study by AutoPacific, small car buyers are not happy with their small cars.
“This is buyer’s remorse,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, “What they said in the study is they want a bigger car. They bought a fuel efficient car, but now they’re saying, ‘It does what I want, but it doesn’t have what I want. It doesn’t have the features, the power, the room, and next time I’ll opt for a bigger car.’ ”
AutoPacific found that 30 percent of current small car owners would like more power in their next car, while 25 percent would like more cargo room. When asked what they would likely buy next, 49 percent of the smallest car owners said they would likely buy a compact car, while 35 percent would buy a midsize car.
“Our research indicates that American car buyers are definitely willing to buy a more fuel-efficient car but that they don’t want it to be much smaller than what they are driving today,” said Peterson. “Tomorrow’s successful small car won’t be tiny. It will be reasonably sized, have increased fuel economy, adequate performance and a full load of customer features.”
So what does all this mean? Well unless gas prices dramatically rise again, many car buyers in the US are going to continue to flock toward larger vehicles since they offer the room, features and power that many buyers are looking for. It will be interesting to see what happens when new small cars like the much anticipated Ford Fiesta hits the US.
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