Back in 2008, soaring gas prices sent car buyers in search of efficient four-cylinder vehicles and, as the numbers show, sales of V6 and V8 engines dropped from 63.9 percent to 57.1 percent when gas prices spiked. Though elevated fuel costs may have triggered the increased demand for four-cylinder power a few years ago, the numbers show that the four-banger's rise to dominance continues.
According to data posted by Ward's Auto, the V8 engine powered a mere 20.8 percent of the total North American light-vehicle output in 2010, down from the 22.8 percent in 2009. In contrast, the four-cylinder engine powered 64.5 percent of all cars built in 2010, an increase from the 61.9 percent in 2009. Ward's chalks up the rising popularity of the once-lowly four-banger to technical improvements, such as direct injection, turbocharging and variable valve timing systems, that have transformed some four-cylinder engines into potent mills that consume significantly less fuel than many V6 and V8 engines.
[Source: Ward's Auto – sub. req.]