2011 Infiniti QX56 – Click above for high-res image gallery

Finally, after years and years of stagnation and painfully slow sales, small cars are starting to take a foothold in the United States. Or are they? While conventional wisdom makes us believe that Americans are ready to take the downsizing plunge in the face of – or at least the threat of – high fuel prices and environmental concerns (we're all still watching the Gulf Coast, right?), it seems that reality may once again set us straight.

Automotive sales watchdog Autodata has found that the gas-swilling large SUV segment is growing at a faster pace than the America's small car segment. Like statistics? Here we go: With a 19-percent jump over the first six months of 2010, large SUV sales have outpaced small cars (14 percent). Critically, they've also outpaced the overall market (17 percent).

Now, before we get our feathers riled up too much, realize that sales of large SUVs still lag way behind small cars – 974,000 to 121,000 through the first half of the year. Further, large crossovers like the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Flex, GMC Acadia and Lincoln MKT are included in those figures right alongside traditional behemoths like the Chevy Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Infiniti QX56 and Toyota Sequoia.

We also expect that small car sales will continue to climb with new models coming to market, such as the upcoming Ford Fiesta, Mazda2 and Hyundai's Accent and Elantra. That said, there's always going to be a demand for large and powerful SUVs that can haul people and stuff while towing a boat or camper in cool, air-conditioned comfort, and automakers will be only too happy to provide the thick-margined vehicles for their consumption. For better or for worse.


Related GalleryFirst Drive: 2011 Infiniti QX56

[Source: USA Today via Kicking Tires]