• Oct 6, 2009
2011 Chevrolet Cruze - Click above for high-res image gallery

When gas prices spiked above $4 per gallon in the summer of 2008, car buyers appeared to find their small car zen. Toyota Corollas, Honda Fits and Civics, Chevrolet Cobalts and Ford Focuses were flying off dealer shelves at a fevered pace, while truck buying dropped through the floor. Fast-forward to present day and car buyers are once again picking bigger vehicles while many of last year's "smart" small car buyers may be experiencing a bit of buyer's remorse.

A closer look at the current sales charts shows that Americans may not be too keen on small cars after all, as News Chief is reporting that America's compact car market has dropped 15 versus the same point in 2007, but from 2008 to 2009 overall truck sales jumped by 23%.

Perhaps the biggest issue here is that many of the customers who went small in 2008 are now unhappy with their more economical vehicles. George Peterson, president of AutoPacific told NC that a recent survey of 32,000 car buyers showed that customers aren't thrilled with their new small car, quoting customers as 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.'"

The survey showed that 30 want more cargo room, and 25 of those surveyed would like more safety and 22 want a midsized sedan and 18% want a crossover or SUV.

While the Auto Pacific survey results shows that many car buyers are looking away from compacts with their next purchase, automakers are ramping up small car production. New products like the Ford Fiesta and the Chevrolet Cruze are coming Stateside over the next year or two, and if the apparent trend away from small cars continues, automakers will be fighting over a familiarly small group of perspective buyers. Unless, of course, gas prices once again spike into the stratosphere, in which case we're likely to repeat this process again.



[Source: News Chief]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 163 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      In other news, Americans make stupid decisions again and again with zero ability to remember history.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Most of those people don't drive fast, why would they need a powerful car? Whether they have some big SUV or small car, they will drive slow on the fast lane, they are not considerate of other drivers, they still talk on the phone while not really paying attention to the road.

        It's a mystery.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's simple; during the recession fast food sales went way up, so americans now need bigger cars, to fit their fat asses.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I call BS.

        They want more power? With 4 cyl's producing 200 HP!
        - They're not using the power.
        - Bogus INDUSTRY Survey.
        alexacoon
        • 5 Years Ago
        Maybe just maybe if most of the small cars sold weren't sedans with trunks little larger than an old Cadillacs glove box people wouldn't be so disappointed on the cargo front. Over in Europe hatches and wagons do far better and for those who want it performance models are more prevalent as well, SUV's have rather poor cargo room for their overall size, you would be amazed what a modestly sized wagon or hatchback with the rear seats folded down can swallow.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Maybe then you should write to this guy....a colleague of mine...and let him know how you feel about it.

        http://climate.nasa.gov/news/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=175
        • 5 Years Ago
        The switch to small cars was a stupid knee jerk reaction by a majority that has no sense. Yes smaller cars are better on gas, but in the end of the day we had tons of people freaking out about gas prices and deciding that the only choice was to buy a brand new car that wasn't bad on gas(clearly the best financial decision).

        Now the former SUV owners are unhappy that they replaced their giant 300hp land yachts with chevy aveos, toyota yarises, and etc. It might come as a surprise to a lot of people but SUVs sold for a good reason, people LIKED them. Sense would have told them to just keep their old car or get something that wasn't so small, but as I said before the knee jerk reaction made them stupid.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "And bigger cars tend to come with bigger or less efficient engines and in older times the ones that didn't felt painfully slow."

        In America certainly - a Hummer H3 emits practically as many CO2s as a V8 Toyota Landcruiser. But the point is you stated that Europeans are taxed for driving big cars. They're not. They're taxed on inefficient engines.


        Carlos
        • 5 Years Ago
        Couldn't have said it better myself. People wonder why America doesn't get the cool small cars because consumers here are stupid.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Most people don't buy 4cyl cars producing 200hp and most of those engines don't produce a lot of torque either which is probably the real problem the consumers have coming from suvs.

        • 5 Years Ago
        "The only thing for the auto manufacturers to do is to keep each line strong, have good offerings at all levels and use platform sharing to keep the prices down. "

        @Mike

        This is exactly what I was going to say.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Last I checked, gas was already back up to $3.30+ again in california, and its been going steadily up. Gas *will* go over $4 and $5 again, and when it happens people will once again be glad they ditched their land yachts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "People in other countries don't think this way because that's not how they've been programmed."

        Europe doesn't buy sardine cans because they're programmed differently, they settle for them because that's what gas prices and tiny parking spaces mandate.

        Look at what rich Europeans who aren't so constrained drive. Not mini hatchbacks.

        Preferring nice cars isn't programming it's common sense.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The article is not saying that people don't like the mileage small cars get it says that people don't like small cars. The knee jerk reaction when gas prices went up is the stupid part.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Mike

        I can count the number of times I have needed to haul a big enough load to NEED a truck sized car this year on one finger. I rented a SUV from Enterprise for $40 that day.

        Following your "what if I someday need the space to fit a huge load" mentality would have us all driving huge land barges on a daily basis b/c someday the economy will turn around and we'll all get huge raises and be able to afford to renovate our houses and buy new furniture and we'll spend all of our weekends going to Home Depot.

        I personally rarely see any of the ultra clean SUVs hauling anything other than a person sipping their Starbucks. Sheet rock barely fits in most SUVs so you will need a pickup or a van anyway.

        Fact is most of the time the huge SUV has 1 driver in it stuck in stopped traffic getting 12 MPG CITY commuting to work. You don't NEED one every single day of the year for that activity. People should buy for what you really need. Buying into the hype that you might need something huge someday is BS so buy something big now is dumb IMO.

        If you need a big truck, go get one. If you need some space, look at a hatch back car or wagon. Most of them fit as much junk as an SUV, have better brakes, better handling and are easier to drive so the idiots in them are hopefully less likely to have an accident.

        I've had both SUVs (Grand Cherokee and Tahoe) and cars and I prefer a nice hatch back or wagon. Heck, last year I fit a 6' Christmas Tree in the back of my wife's Mini Cooper with the seats down. The guy next to me in his F250 bought the same size tree.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Pretty much on point with that...
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is a BS statistic and I'll tell you why 1) Never trust marketing research models 2) They ask a question in a form of "do you want more power?" "do you want more room?" "do you want more cargo space?" Questions are biased and do not yield useful info.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm with amg! Get a hatch. People buy way beyond their needs.

        Then again, that's their right. But I smile when gas does shoot up and you can see the pain on that soccer-mom's face as she fills her Sequoia.
        • 5 Years Ago
        And bigger cars tend to come with bigger or less efficient engines and in older times the ones that didn't felt painfully slow.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Most of those people don't drive fast, why would they need a powerful car?"

        They don't. The problem is that Detroit (in the U.S.) has been telling generations that bigger is better and more power is better. They also told us that small=cheap so it should be no surprise that people in America knee-jerk into thinking they need and want a bigger car. Same goes for houses and $2000 washing machines, etc. People in other countries don't think this way because that's not how they've been programmed.

        Having driven daily drivers that ranged from a Suburban to a Hemi Charger to now a Corolla, there's no way I'd go back to piloting a barge no matter how many hp it has. And unless you're towing or are the Brady Bunch you don't _need_ any more space. You're convinced you do though.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This survey was brought to you by GM & Chrysler...

        I could imagine Ford will strengthen its position as it will be able to cater to more different demands. And as the barrel will cost 100-150$ again (sooner than you might think) Ford will have its Fiesta and Focus ready. Meanwhile they have the F-150.

        Generally I could imagine it depends more as how cool/sexy a small car is marketed.
        Fiesta: cool
        Aveo: as "sexy" as Rene Zellweger
        • 5 Years Ago
        @daleam

        "Mike is right. It's a matter of convenience and choice. Nobody (the general "nobody") drives a tiny car because they want to. Hell, I'd be driving a big ass Suburban if I could afford it."

        Everyone who has ever bought a Mini, Mazda Miata, and probably the majority of Mazda3 owners, GTI owners, etc would beg to differ.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ditto. Given the wild FLUCTUATIONS in gas prices we've experienced in the last few years (not just high prices, but unpredictable prices), I'm a little surprised that Americans are going back to their old habits so quickly. Though, to be perfectly honest, I'd be a little upset too if fate stuck me inside a Chevy Aveo or Dodge Caliber...
        • 5 Years Ago
        @DAN:

        Europeans drive smaller cars because their smaller cars are better than what you can get here in the US.

        They have cars you can only dream of...so don't flatter yourself by thinking they drive things they can only afford. The wealthiest Europeans drive supercars...not SUVS.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "and you get taxed just for owning a big car." -jv2k

        Wrong. It's CO2 emissions that are taxed, not the size of the car. The more the car emits, the more your annual road tax (registration) costs. There's some degree of parity between larger engines and higher emissions but with ever-advancing European engine technology, this is nowhere near as cut-and-dried as it once was.
      • 5 Years Ago
      And we blame Honda for making their accord larger and larger each year...
        • 5 Years Ago
        No, we don't. We blame GM for shoving trucks and SUVs down our throats. But when Toyota does it, that's just fine.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "'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.'" Bull CRAPOLA!!!!!!!!!!!

      ummmm... What car did they buy a stripped Nissan Sentra???? or the Toyota Yaris sedan? (nothing wrong with them - just no function) My old golf could move a studio apartment in two moves... and get there in an adequate time...

      I laugh at people struggling at stores like IKEA in their Honda Accords that have NO functional trunk space or versatility...

      This survey is bullsh&*t... I live in Chicago and the word on the street is the new Ford Fiesta.... Even smaller towns that I have friends want something small and livable...

      PROPAGANDA PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Small car rule... big cars drool..
      • 5 Years Ago
      Who is AutoPacific? and what kind of nice folks did they talk to??? How were the questions asked/phrased???? I smell propaganda peoples.... It stinks....

      Aren't marketing firms down like 75%??? No one wants to hire them....
        • 5 Years Ago
        AutoPacific is a statistics-for-hire company. We ordered a survey from them once, they proclaimed us "best in class".
      • 5 Years Ago
      Gas prices high, people buy more small cars. Gas prices low again, people want big comfortable luxury gadgety vehicles again.

      In other news today, it was noted the sky is blue when there are no clouds in the way.
      • 5 Years Ago
      here is another summary of the survey:
      http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2009/06/11/465219.html
      • 5 Years Ago
      In 1996 I bought a Jetta, 115hp, 34mpg highway (my experience not EPA numbers). Now I drive an '04 Mazda6i, 160hp, 31mpg. Fourteen years after the Jetta, I'd buy another 115hp car but what I want in technological advancement is 45-50mpg. I won't buy another Mazda6i because the fuel mileage on the 4cyl model hasn't increased, nor has the horsepower (because the car has gotten larger and fatter).

      These days I'm thinking diesel so I can at least have the power I've had in the past and the mileage I need from a car that's driven on the interstate 95% of the time. I'd be much more impressed with the progress made in IC tech over the last forty years if we had fewer 500hp cars and more 200hp ones topping 40mpg.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Talk about some crappy journalism. The question isn't if Americans are disappointed with small cars, the question is if Americans are disappointed with cheap cars. When the economy was crappy people weren't opting for small cars, they were opting for cheap cars. Automakers have forced every small car to be a cheap, poorly appointed car. The two concepts need not be linked.

      The headline of the post should be "Americans unhappy withe their cheap cars"....but that would be obvious, no?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow what a surprise americans prefer to driver BIG cars. I would have never guessed it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So basically 6/8 cylinder SUV owners who bought a 4 cylinder Civic and missing the room and power? Ya think?
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's a shame. It's why we needed the Ford Fiesta here YESTERDAY.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't see why SUV buyers go to these really small compacts, just go drive a mid-sizer like a Camry or a fullsizer like a Charger if you need space, hell I sat inside a Challenger and found it more comfortable than SUV's.
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