Gas Price Spike Drives Buyers to Small Cars

Posted: March 13, 2008

The AP reports, "Gas prices jumped to a new record of nearly $3.25 a gallon at the pump Wednesday, while oil prices set new highs of their own in response to the dollar's continuing slide."  According to AAA, "The national average price of a gallon of regular gas rose by 1.9 cents overnight to $3.246 a gallon, a new record."  Many analysts have predicted prices of $4 per gallon this summer. 

The rising price of gas is driving interest in smaller, more fuel efficient cars, according to the Indianapolis Star.  "At Butler Toyota in Indianapolis, Toyota Prius hybrids, with gas-electric motors that get 48 mpg in city driving, are selling at the rate of two or three a day, compared with two to three a week two years ago, said Gary E. Hohmann, new car manager."  Other cars selling well in the area include the tiny Smart ForTwo, which boasts a "41 miles per gallon highway rating...among the highest of any gas-powered car on the market," as well as "the Chevy Aveo, at 34 mpg on the highway, and the Mini Cooper, which averages 40 mpg on the highway."

Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal sees the same trend.  "Northeast Ohio customers are buying more fuel-efficient vehicles than in recent years, said Adam Huff, president of the Barberton-based Fred Martin dealership group."  Dealers have adapted to consumer interest.  As part of their sales pitch, dealers now "show customers how different vehicles compare in monthly gasoline purchases," according to Huff.

The phenomenon has not reached Kansas City dealers yet, according to the Kansas City Community News.  Scott Todd, a sales representative with Northtowne Lincoln-Mercury, said "People are still buying pickups.  The price of gas hasn't really had any impact. Some buy an additional vehicle that gets high gas mileage to use for commuting and still keep their other vehicles."

Meanwhile, the spike in gas prices is driving another trend: gasoline theft.  Colorado NBC affiliate KUSA-TV reports, "In the last month, Denver Police have investigated seven" incidents in which thieves have drilled small holes into gas tanks and siphoned out gasoline.  Autoblog adds, "The victimized vehicles are primarily SUVs whose higher ride height makes it easier for Mad Max-inspired criminals to get underneath and do their worst."

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