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Even though auto sales overall were down in March (and February and January and ...), AutoTrader found that American car buyers (and window shoppers) still favor larger, less efficient vehicles. Last month, most of the top 20 used vehicles viewed on the AutoTrader site were big rides. Large trucks and SUVs took 11 of the 20 spots and muscle and sports cars took another three. For new vehicles, the majority were large sedans or trucks. Thanks, $2 gas.

In the fuel-efficient category, the VW Jetta saw a minor uptick (0.79 percent) in AutoTrader visitor interest in March 2009 compared to a year earlier. With pretty much every other vehicle dropping (the Honda Accord went down over 60 percent), the increase was enough to put the Jetta into 20th place. More details after the jump.

It should go without saying that the pageviews of one particular auto sales site don't define the whole market, but these results do hint that the market is not saturated with ABG regulars. AutoTrader.com President and CEO Chip Perry said that the results can tell us a little something about what's going on out there. "Americans have traditionally gone for larger and more powerful vehicles," he said, "and without gas prices spiking to $4 a gallon or above like they did last summer, there's little indication that this trend will change anytime soon."

[Source: AutoTrader]

PRESS RELEASE:

In March, Consumers Continue to Believe Bigger is Better

Large Trucks and SUVs Continue to Dominate for Most-Viewed Vehicles in All Categories on AutoTrader.com

ATLANTA – April 3, 2009 – AutoTrader.com's March Trend Engine report showed that in spite of government and environmental advocacy groups touting the benefits of smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, Americans seem to still have an insatiable feeling that bigger is better. Of the top 20 new vehicles viewed on AutoTrader.com in March, the majority were either large sedans or trucks, with exactly half offering consumers V8 power as either standard or optional.

Trucks and SUVs dominated the top 20 used vehicle list on AutoTrader.com as well, clinching 11 of the top 20 spots, with muscle and sports cars holding another three spots on the list. Vehicles with a four-cylinder option accounted for only seven of the top 20 spots of vehicles viewed on AutoTrader.com last month.

Reflecting many Americans' turn from new vehicles to used when they are buying at all, almost all new cars on the top 20 list saw drops in views in March 2009 compared to March 2008. Among new midsize sedans, drops ranged from 41.37% for the Chevrolet Malibu to 60.13% for the Honda Accord. Similarly, among full-size 1500-series pick-ups, declines ranged from 23.21% for the Dodge Ram 1500 to 60.55% for the Toyota Tundra. The new for 2009 Ram's drop was actually a bit of a bright spot, as the new car sales market in March was down 37% in terms of sales year-over-year. Other relative bright spots among mainstream vehicles were the heavy-duty Ford F-250 pick-up, which saw a decrease in views of just 4.45%, and the Volkswagen Jetta sedan and wagon, which actually saw an increase in views of .79%. That increase, while minor, was enough to drive the Jetta from 54th to 20th year-over-year, relative to a soft marketplace.

Among the Top 10 most-viewed brands in general, most saw drops in line with their performance in March new car sales figures. The lone uptick came from Hyundai, which saw an increase in views of 7.93%, the continued result of its Assurance marketing campaign and favorably-received new vehicle launches.

"American confidence is still low in the economy, and the fear of losing a job is still driving in-market car shoppers to turn from new to used," said AutoTrader.com President and CEO Chip Perry. "It will be interesting to see if Ford's Advantage Plan and General Motors' Total Confidence programs will lure shoppers back into those makers' new-car showrooms in the same way that the Assurance program has worked for Hyundai."

Sole Top-20 Used Compact Vehicle Sees Significant Drop in Views

The used vehicle market continued to show growth in light of consumers' skittishness towards new vehicles, with many of the larger vehicles seeing the greatest increases in views year-over-year when compared to March 2008. While the average asking prices for used vehicles declined slightly from March 2008, views for 1500 and 2500-series pick-ups showed double-digit increases, ranging from 12.77% increase for the top-viewed Ford F-150 to 24.40% for another Ford, the F-250. Similar gains were registered by trucks from Dodge and Chevrolet.

AutoTrader.com also looked specifically at sales of Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles this month, as the segment continues to grow in importance. The BMW 3-series and the Honda Accord continued their 1-2 dominance in the sector among most-viewed vehicles from March 2008.

The sole compact or sub-compact car on either Top 20 list-the Honda Civic-proved to be the largest loser in terms of views, dropping 22.56% among used vehicles, and 41.21% among CPO.

"The government says that part of the reason for General Motors and Chrysler's current woes is their failures at building the smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, but at the same time, we are seeing consumers shopping and buying full-size pick-ups and SUVs – not compacts," said Perry. "Americans have traditionally gone for larger and more powerful vehicles, and without gas prices spiking to $4 a gallon or above like they did last summer, there's little indication that this trend will change anytime soon."

About AutoTrader.com

AutoTrader.com, created in 1997 and headquartered in Atlanta , Ga. , is the Internet's leading auto classifieds marketplace and consumer information website. AutoTrader.com aggregates in a single location about 3.5 million new cars, used cars and certified pre-owned cars from 40,000 dealers and 250,000 private owners and the site attracts about 14 million unique monthly visitors. Through innovative merchandising functionality such as multiple photos, videos, detailed descriptions and comprehensive research and compare tools, AutoTrader.com unites new and used car buyers and sellers online to improving the way people research, locate and advertise vehicles. AutoTrader.com is a majority-owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. The venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is also an investor. For more information, please visit www.autotrader.com.


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