Toyota and General Motors were among automakers whose compact cars and hybrids received a jump in shopper interest last month as gas prices approached $3.40 a gallon, according to the New Car Insights Report on AutoTrader.com.

Four Toyotas – the Prius and Prius V hybrids and Corolla and Yaris compacts – were among the 20 models that were subject to the largest increase in customer interest between December and January, according to the report. Shopping interest in GMs Buick Verano compact sedan almost doubled in January, marking the largest jump, while Chevrolet's Sonic and Cruze compact models also made the top 20. The Subaru Impreza also had a surge in consumer interest last month.

Overall, the number of people shopping for compacts rose 1.1 percentage points while full-size trucks had a 1.7 percentage-point drop in consumer interest. Shoppers may be gearing up for the heavier spring and summer driving seasons – and the resulting gas-price increases – by looking at more fuel-efficient cars.

U.S. fuel prices rose almost 20 cents a gallon last month to about $3.53 a gallon, and are up about 12 percent in the past year, according to AAA. Last year, refueling costs accounted for 8.4 percent of an average family's annual income, the highest number in 30 years.
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SMALL AND FUEL-EFFICIENT CARS MAKE BIG GAINS AS GAS PRICES INCREASE
Shoppers turned their attention toward compact and hybrid cars amid rising gas prices in January, according to the New Car Insights Report from AutoTrader.com.
ATLANTA – February 22, 2012 /PRNewswire/ - As gas prices crept up to a national average of nearly $3.40 per gallon in January, shoppers quickly turned their attention to smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the New Car Insights Report, which provides analysis of consumer shopping behavior on the AutoTrader.com site. The report shows that compact cars accounted for nine out of the 20 vehicles on the list of Big Movers in January, and there were two hybrid vehicles on the list as well. Big Movers are vehicles that have experienced a significant increase in shopper interest month-over-month.

"Gas prices have been on the minds of shoppers lately, and our most recent tracking study showed that 54 percent of consumers said their vehicle choice was affected by this issue," said Rick Wainschel, vice president of automotive insights at AutoTrader.com. "With projections of even higher gas prices to come during the heavy driving season over the summer, we will likely see a continuation in this surge of interest occurring for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles."

On the list of Big Movers, the Buick Verano made the biggest jump, with a 95.7 increase in shopper interest. Toyota, however, claimed the most spots on the list of any automaker, with four fuel-efficient vehicles. The Toyota Prius experienced an increase in consumer interest of 38.1 percent, and interest in the recently released Toyota Prius V increased 23.7 percent. In addition to these hybrids, Toyota also had two compact cars on the list: the Toyota Corolla and Yaris, with increases of 20 percent and 19.5 percent, respectively.

Additionally, there were several compact vehicles from domestic automakers on the list of Big Movers as well, with the Chevrolet Sonic, Dodge Caliber, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze experiencing notable increases in consumer interest. The Sonic experienced an increase of 31.8 percent, the Caliber experienced an increase of 28.8 percent, the Focus experienced an increase of 27.6 percent and the Cruze experienced an increase of 19.6 percent.

"We are watching the competitive compact segment closely," Wainschel continued. "After a challenging 2011, Toyota appears to be bouncing back and regaining interest from shoppers, which bodes well for the automaker. And while the big three domestic automakers haven't traditionally fared well with small cars, they are certainly holding their own in our recent shopping trends."

At the segment level, renewed interest in compact cars in January buoyed the segment as a whole. Month-over-month, the compact car segment posted the largest increase in share of interest, at 1.1 points. Conversely, the full-size truck segment posted the largest decrease in share of interest at 1.7 points. These trends support the assertion that the increase in gas prices in January had some effect on which cars shoppers are considering.

While compact cars have enjoyed a recent resurgence, analysts pointed out that it is also important to consider the year-over-year trending as well. As a segment, full-size trucks are up significantly (3.3 share points) from their position in January 2011, an indication that, while the recent increases in gas prices have fueled a month-over-month spike in interest for smaller cars, there is still a sizable portion of the shopping audience that wants-and needs-larger trucks, which are typically associated with many work-related endeavors.



Full Report Available Online
The New Car Insights Report, brought to you by the AutoTrader.com Trend Engine, provides analysis of new car shopper behavior on the AutoTrader.com site. The February edition, available online, includes more in-depth information on the above topics, as well as a look at the top 20 Most-Viewed Vehicles on AutoTrader.com in January and a look at trends in asking prices. To access the full report, complete with downloadable graphics, click here.

About AutoTrader.com
Atlanta-based AutoTrader.com, created in 1997, is the Internet's ultimate automotive marketplace and consumer information website. AutoTrader.com aggregates in a single location millions of new cars, used cars and certified pre-owned cars from thousands of auto dealers and private sellers and is a leading online resource for auto dealers, individuals and manufacturers to advertise and market their vehicles to in-market shoppers. The company also provides a robust suite of software tools for dealers and manufacturers to help them manage and market their vehicle inventory and display advertising on the Internet. AutoTrader.com continues to grow key business metrics, including revenue, profitability and site traffic. Today, AutoTrader.com attracts millions of unique monthly visitors who utilize the site to review descriptions, photos and videos of vehicles for sale; research and compare vehicles; review pricing and specials; and read auto-related content like buying and selling tips and editorial coverage of major auto shows and automotive trends. AutoTrader.com operates one other auto marketing brand, AutoTraderClassics.com. AutoTrader.com also owns used vehicle management software company vAuto, Kelley Blue Book (Kbb.com), HomeNet Automotive, a leading provider of online inventory management and merchandising solutions for the automotive retail industry and VinSolutions, a leading provider of end-to-end solution platforms for dealers. AutoTrader.com is a majority-owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Providence Equity Partners is a 25 percent owner of the company and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is also an investor. For more information, please visit www.autotrader.com.

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Media Contact:
Julie Shipp
404-568-7914 (o)
404-558-7837 (m)
julie.shipp@autotrader.com


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      How many times will be we threatened by the Oil Industry and the Republican Party to break our budgets. At some point it only makes sense to buy a hybrid.
      mylexicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Please stop implying that the price of gas is directly related to automotive consumption habits. We just emerged from a decade-long period of rising gasoline prices in which Americans bought increasingly huge, inefficient vehicles (relative to all vehicles available for sale). Car buying is socio-economic or cultural. Prolonged high fuel prices have strained discretionary income, and automobile consumers have become increasingly anti-oil. The old culture of giant, inefficient vehicles still persists (due to mindless politicization of energy by both parties) so fluctuations in the price of oil appear to be direct determinants of auto sales. If the green scene continues to surrender power to the price of oil, they will render themselves impotent. Worse, they will engage in foolish political brinksmanship, like blocking a pipeline (regardless of the route) or capping access to domestic oil at a time when Americans are hard up for work. These political initiatives are particularly unforgivable when CAFE 2025 has already gone through, and the automobile manufacturers have signaled a desire to divorce their industry (as much as practical) from the volatility of gasoline prices. A major victory has been won for closing the US trade deficit and reducing pollution. Quit razing every part of the oil infrastructure to the ground, and quit ceding power to speculators, hedge funds, oil cartels, and the Chinese. Green scene is supposed to be more savvy than the rest of the population. Why do these things have to be explained? There is more power in telling consumers that Harry Potter thinks hybrids are cool than there is in telling consumers that $150 oil is on the horizon. For all you know, they might cancel their gym membership to pay the higher fuel bills. Wouldn't that be wonderful for public health.
        marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mylexicon
        @my lexicon In fact, the majority of environmentalists fully understand the importance of the oil industry to the economy. It's really only a small minority of activists who rant excitable conspiracy theories against oil products, and confine most of the rants to the supposed activities of the 6 Western Oil companies. This is not to say these companies haven't pulled off some pretty reprehensible stuff over the last 100 years! I agree with you that many earnest and well meaning green advocates and activists don't really comprehend the magnitude of the scale of disengaging economies from Oil. Oil depletion will remain a very complex and difficult issue, requiring a massive degree of adjustment for world economies over a lengthy period of time. Many environmental activists seem to have substituted environmentalism as a new form of religion! Rationality has been suspended, and replaced by 'faith'. In this new 'religion' conspiracy theories abound and a new "Satan", in the form of oil companies, has arisen. Any moderate environmentalist must be beaten down and purged of heresy with the maximum vitriol ! These self-appointed self righteous, crusader's do more harm to the environmental cause than it's opponents! In Australia, a country with the second highest per capita car ownership after the US, (and home of the first modern production 4 door, 5 seat EV, ) EV acceptance struggles due to a government policy of encouraging the widespread use of LPG. Australian LPG is priced at about half the pump price of gasoline, and available nationwide at most service stations. A new large GM-Holden saloon car is available in a LPG only model with a $2000 government rebate. The Commodore LPG model is only $489 dearer than the gas version. The commodore is fitted with a 3.5 Litre V6 engine and 5 speed Auto. (this is the car to replace the chosen to replace the ageing Ford Victoria as US police cars). Running on LPG, ($8.00 per 100 klms), an Australian Tesla S owner, would have to wait 30-40 years to economically justify his purchase against the GM Holden Commodore! ( the Commodore costs the same to run as a Mazda 3 or a 1.8 Diesel Turbo !). The Commodore is also available in ute (pick-up) S/waggon and sedan configurations. Australia has approximately 150 years of LPG reserves, and Hyundai has announced a LPG/Hybrid at 40% the cost of a Nissan Leaf. Yulon Motors of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is assessing the marketability of a Plug-in LPG/Hybrid 1.5 tonne delivery van. These are the many and varied developments to assist securing a 'soft landing' for economic Oil depletion. Not exciting and apocalyptic, but many different technologies.
        samagon0
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mylexicon
        realistically, they should drop the gym membership and buy a bicycle to exercise and save a little gas money while doing it.
        samagon0
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mylexicon
        realistically, they should drop the gym membership and buy a bicycle to exercise and save a little gas money while doing it.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 2 Years Ago
      "There is no reason not to believe that we couldn't stabilize with American production by drowning demand in supply the old-fashioned, free market way. There's no reason we couldn't have a stable price around $2 or $2.50 [per gallon]." Meruca!
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        Titan is underexploited. There are lots of hydrocarbons there.
        Ford Future
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        mylex, STOP getting your news from right wing liars. Drilling under Obama in America has increased 400%. As for the XL pipeline. - Global Warming is Real. PPM carbon is now 391. - The pipeline was not spec'ed for corrosive tar sand sludge. - The pipeline was going to cross fresh water aquifers in many states. - The other XL pipeline has a long history of expensive leaks. - The oil industry have a lousy track record of cleaning up spills. - US Drought has caused massive wild fire damage, and very low levels of fresh water in our aquifers. This is affecting the Southern States in a big way, costing each state Billions of dollars in damage. - Cattle Inventory down to lowest level since 1952 on Drought. - The US drought is driving up Food Prices Now. --- If you let the Koch Brother Coal barons run the Republican party, by buying the candidates with 100 Million Dollar Political contributions, what do you expect will happen? You'll burn coal, but you will pay high prices for water, food and meat as the drought continues and gets worse. Now, they're projecting an 11 F degree increase in temperature.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          Excellent points, FI Not sure about the GW stuff, but the pollution elements... i'll bite.
        Ford Future
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        The sad thing is I watch read about some of this politics thing. The Democratic party has allowed Oil Speculators to be able to purchase in the oil exchange markets, each hedge fund up to 25% of the oil traded. Bad right? Well, Republicans didn't think it was bad enough. They wanted speculators to be able to purchase up to 100% of the oil being traded in the exchanges. Wall Street, the Oil Industry who also have trading rights in these exchanges, and the Republican Party are all now on a propaganda offensive to BLAME OBAMA for the $5 a gallon they're going to push thru in Spring. But, this is purely an Oil Speculation Bubble that they will start and they will finish. At some point you can only buy a hybrid or an EV and tell Wall Street to !@#$%$#@!!!.
        MTN RANGER
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        Not going to happen on the supply side. 1. U.S. reserves are only 2 percent of global. 2. to increase supply would mean to tap Canadian/Alaska regions with expensive oil sand that is only cost effective at $150+ barrel. In addition any new prospective oil fields take a minimum of 6-10 years to become productive. No "quick fixes" by Drill Baby Drill.
          mylexicon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @MTN RANGER
          Then why are we banning drilling activities? To pick a fight? To keep unemployment high? or is the anti-oil information the result of facile number crunching?
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @MTN RANGER
          ^--- I believe it has something to do with the environment and the fact that the proposed type of drilling requires us to basically pollute tons of drinkable water and use tons of coal just to get to that 'unconventional' oil, and that we will pay the price for that oil for decades to come.. when drinkable water becomes an expensive commodity. All the low hanging fruit has been drilled and burned up. On the other hand, there is plenty of low hanging fruit in energy efficiency. Over half of America drives a SUV to work alone.
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