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More drivers ditch big trucks, go small

June 23, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
We're seeing a big trend develop because of record gas prices -- more and more drivers are ditching their big trucks and SUVs and going small. So how are car companies responding?Americans are now turning to smaller cars in a big way. Their habits are being shaped by sky-high gas prices.

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"You know, we were always asked when the death of the big SUV would come. Well, I think it came this month, and that's probably the way it will be moving forward," said Kelley Blue Book Editor Jack Nerad.

Recent sales numbers are quite telling. The Honda Civic was the best-selling vehicle in the country in May, beating out the Ford F-150 pickup, which had been on top for many years.

"The Civic actually sold a little over 53,000 units, which I believe put it into first place for all vehicles in the U.S.," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin.

Honda is building Civics as fast as it can and adjusting its factory output to suit demand as more and more drivers want fuel efficiency over size.

Back in the 1970s, drivers were also dealing with rising fuel prices. That's when the original Honda Civic was one of the hottest vehicles on the road. Many people couldn't wait to trade their gas-guzzlers for it.

History seems to be repeating itself. Not only did the Civic enjoy recent record sales, but at just about every car company, they're shifting their product mix from large to small.

Ford's truck sales may be down, but their redesigned Focus is selling so well, the factory is working overtime to build enough of them. It's a similar story over at Nissan, where they're reducing U.S. truck production in order to make more Altima sedans.

Even Toyota is hurting on the truck end. Their big new Tundra pickup isn't selling as well as predicted, though they have plenty of fuel-efficient cars like the Prius Hybrid to help make up for it.

Car companies are so desperate to sell trucks that most of them have huge rebates to get them off the lot. Even GM's new full-size Hybrid SUVs come with up to $4,000 in incentives.

If you do need a truck, they can be a heck of a deal right now.

"I think this is a great time to buy a large truck, if that's in fact what you do need," said Nerad. "And some people do."

But for those who just want to get around economically, small cars are definitely the rage right now.

 

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