Sales of the Chevrolet Volt are up (GM).
The recent surge in gas prices across the country has brought similar surge in the number of car shoppers seeking fuel-efficient vehicles.

The effect has been "dramatic," says Erich Merkle, chief of sales analysis at Ford.

The number of customers buying fuel-efficient vehicles started increasing in mid-January, and accelerated as gas prices continued their climb through February, Merkle said.

General Motors reported Thursday sales of small and compact cars increased 43 percent over February 2011. Sales of the electric Chevy Volt surged upward from 603 in January to 1,023 in February, a 70 percent increase.

Ford said sales of its compact Focus increased 115 percent year over year. And Chrysler, which saw overall sales leap by 40 percent, saw a 315 percent year-over-year increase in sales of its Chrysler 200 sedan.

"Our product portfolio now contains some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in our company's history," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Chrysler's Dodge Brand.

Small-car sales typically account for 19 percent of total sales volume, according to Merkle. Small cars have claimed as much as 24 percent of the overall market share this month, according to Ford estimates. In California, where gas prices average more than $4 per gallon, small-car market share is expected to reach 32 to 33 percent in February.

Gas prices rose 9-percent in February and averaged $3.73 per gallon Wednesday. It was only late December when they averaged $3.22 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

"In our opinion, there's no doubt this rotation is being stimulated by this increase in higher fuel prices," Ford's Merkle said.

Sales of mid-size sedans are also performing well, growing market share from approximately 14 percent in December to as high as 17 percent today.

Last spring, gas prices rose to a high of $3.96 per gallon in March and April of 2011, and automakers saw a similar correlation between the price increase and sales of smaller and fuel-efficient products.

Auto sales are making a strong comeback as consumers come off the sidelines amidst reports of surging consumer confidence and reduced unemployment. Overall, automakers believe, based on Thursday's latest round of sales data, that the U.S. auto industry is on pace to sell 14 to 14.5 million units in 2012. If today's Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) reaches 14.4 or above, it would mark the industry's highest pace in four years, according to TrueCar.com.

Domestic automakers were caught flat-footed in 2008 when a surge in gas prices sent concerned drivers away from the large-vehicle offerings that dominated domestic lineups at the time. Since then, the Big Three have diversified their portfolios and added more fuel-efficient vehicles across all sizes. Now they can capitalize on pent-up demand for those cars.

"Today, we're in a much different position," Merkle said. "... We're in the best position for whatever the external market brings."

But higher gas prices could eventually cross a threshold in which they hamper the overall economy, and thus, new-car sales.

That was a concern expressed Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified told a congressional panel that the high gas prices, driven in part by growing tensions between Israel and Iran, could slow the ongoing domestic economic recovery.

"That is likely to push up inflation temporarily while reducing consumers' purchasing power," Bernanke testified.

Foreign policy impacting the unrest in the Middle East is somewhat alterable by President Obama, who is seeking re-election and would like to not be facing $5-per-gallon gas prices nationally in the Fall. But the other big factors driving up gas process are increased demand from China and the loss of some refineries in the Eastern U.S., which will depress supply. And those factors are harder for a President to influence.

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  • 23 Comments
      mikemaj82
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'll never understand how people can complain about high gas prices. Once the price hits $4.00, you're only paying $10 on average more to fill up. Yet they're able to come up with $35,000 - $40,000 for a brand new car. ????
        • 11 Months Ago
        @mikemaj82
        Once gasoline prices starts to soar to an all time high hybrid and electric vehicles will be in total demand. Although smaller cars that has a fuel efficient package are on the line to replace the gas guzzlers, oil prices will still catch up on the operational expenditures of driving.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Amazing Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle NCD ( Net Cost to Drive ) Bout $37.25 a week! ........What? The Projection For MY 2012 New Vehicle/ US Sales is 14,000,000 Units. This Amazing Chevy Volt EREV Net Cost To Drive Statement Is To These Buyers/ Leasers and to Those Looking to Aquire a 5 Year Old or Newer Used Car, Midsized, Near Luxury Automobile. http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/rankings/Upscale-Midsize-Cars/ Let's try this one more time.....................**$5,364.00 NCD ? **$37.25 a week or less! We now know that the Volt Lease is back for model year 2012. We know that in most states the lessee pays a use tax only on the scheduled lease payments and NOT the MSRP or MSRP+.OR Sale Price! We know that the lease shows on the lessee credit report as total of scheduled payments only, thus not impacting household budget more then the typical $15,000.00 used car, at $299.00 a month with an average of 4 years old and minimal warranty remaining! We know therefore that the 3 year lease is ideal also because the turn in time may well happen as Volt Gen 2 arrives..........No 5-6-7 year contracts. We know that the Fed $7500.00 is captured by the Lessor, US Bank/ Ally Bank and they state, "Us Bank as the lessor holds title to the vehicle . The lessee receives the benefit of the tax credit as an ENHANCEMENT TO TO THE RESIDUAL VALUE..." ...No side loans or other fancy arangements...the $7500.00 credit is a price reduction NOW! Chevrolet announced the MY2012 Chevrolet from $349.00 a month with roughly 7% up front... ( Almost $2,700.00 Stackable Lease Bonus Cash ( a lease rebate ) NOW!) http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/ Assuming base Volt with destination included at no more than MSRP. 36 months at $349.00 per month =$12,564.00. Net over the 3 year lease! Now factor in the cost to plug in...... Estimated cost to drive the Volt 40 miles a day at $1.20 a charge=$36.00 a month, http://www.lbwl.com/PEVintro.pdf Plus some gasoline............ With 78% of American Commuters driving 40 miles a day or so......... http://www.bts.gov/publications/omnistats/volume_03_issue_04/html/entire.html .........then, here is the fuel costs that the Amazing Chevy Volt EREV will displace each month! Note, average consumer fleet average is 22 mpg, hwy/ city. Lets us 20 mpg for simplicity. With the cost of a gallon of gas at $4.50 that's $9.00 per day or $270.00 a month. With the cost of a gallon of gas at $4.00 that's $8.00 per day or $240.00 a month. With the cost of a gallon of gas at $3.50 that's $7.00 per day or $210.00 a month. With the cost of a gallon of gas at $3.00 that's $6.00 per day or $180.00 a month. Let us use the $4.00 a gallon figure for now at $240.00 a month gas cost, again, set aside $40.00, plug in costs plus some gas! Not spending $200.00 a month for gasoline. $200.00 a month net cost to drive reduction equals $2400.00 a year or $7200.00 over the three year lease! $12,564.00 lease payment over 36 months minus $7200.00- gas not bought equals.... $5,364.00 Net Cost to Drive the Amazing Chevy Volt EREV for 36 months! Divide $5,343.00 by 36 months and this equals $149.00 a month, Net Cost to Drive! One more step........... $149.00 devided by 4 weeks in a month equals.......... $37.25 a Week or less-Net Cost To Drive N.C.D. per week. Folks, if my math is right then anyone looking to buy a $10,000 used car with most likely 80,000 miles on it, no warranty and 5-7+ years old can do a heck of a lot better in The Amazing Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle. I Just Love My Math! Make Sense ? -------------------------------------Plug It Not Pump It----------------]= The Amazing Chevy Volt EREV-Facts Guy www.twitter.com/AmazingChevVolt www.gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?9525-The-Volt-White-Paper Reloaded 02-24-2012
      • 3 Years Ago
      Down here in Centralia we are paying over $4.00 per gallon. And what I want to know is how are us poor people suppose to be able to go out and buy one of these new gas efficient cars??? This kills me everybody screamed bloody murder (including me) when prices went up when Bush was in office. Now they are trying to bury it and not talk about it. But keep in mind the cost of food, clothes, etc. go up with the price of gas.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Motorists can now save $1 a gallon at the pump: http://mpg50.com with n
      billbarbflanagan
      • 3 Years Ago
      You voted for change,,,, you will be damn lucke if you have any change left when tis administration is over. We have oil in this country enough to meet our needs but .....
        depotofam
        • 3 Years Ago
        @billbarbflanagan
        But.....Big oil is exporting to other countries who pay more per gallon. It is called capitalism.
      jmac4110
      • 3 Years Ago
      You know who's not worried about $10/gal gas.... people who are lucky enough to have representative that fought for and built alternative forms of transportation...light Rail..TRAINS..Monorails...subways...streetcars... rickshaws... Pres Obama attempted to get a network of trains throughout the states... convenient, local, easy access, comfortable way to travel... the jobs & infra structure laying rails, the companies that would spring up around starting a old but new form of transportation.... The tea bag governors in several states, mine incljuded....Florida, Medicare Thief Rick Scott....Walker in Wisconsin, Christie in NJ.... returned our money stating it would end up costing the tax payers..... that LIE has now be revealed to be just a bunch of BS politics....they finds it more profitable to add 10 more gas guzzling lanes to a highway...Who does that make happy... their funders, of course... the oil companies...
        William
        • 3 Years Ago
        @jmac4110
        Sounds wonderful if it could be done without debt and if these systems paid for themselves. Just sit and wait patiently for the debt bomb to hit.
        mac102751
        • 3 Years Ago
        @jmac4110
        Hey mac I agree 100%
        reconfreya
        • 3 Years Ago
        @jmac4110
        Forgot about that train nonsense, will you please Moonbat. That only works for the 10% of the country living in the filth of big cities. I guess you want everyone to move too now huh? Maybe Obama can borrow some money for that, and hire a "Move to the cities Czar". How about having the Department of Energy actually, you know, PRODUCE ENERGY!? You can grow an economy without affordable energy. If not you end up like the other socialist green energy hell holes like Spain, and the rest of the PIGS!
      answer24
      • 3 Years Ago
      obama loves high gas prices!!
      draydare
      • 3 Years Ago
      i have an oldy pickup drive it right and get 18 per gal but to trade for 20 percent still doesnt martch the20k to up grade iloce the old 996 pivkup
      Sisterlou
      • 3 Years Ago
      Washington is killing us at the pump.....
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sisterlou
        Yes it must be the government, not the American consumer, who has known about the oil problem for 40 years, yet still refused to buy fuel efficient cars........people will blame anyone but themselves.
          reconfreya
          • 3 Years Ago
          Gay scott, really gay. We could all ride around in Smart Cars, but food prices would still rise, and people would still be hurt. Are you going to try and transport goods and services with Smart Cars, tough guy? How about the Government actually let companies produce ENERGY, and grow the economy, instead of letting people like you kill jobs and growth. OWNED!
      • 11 Months Ago
      Rising gasoline prices affect both individual consumers and businesses, but small service businesses often get hit hardest. Small service businesses don't have much of a financial reserve to cover rapid increases in their cost of doing business, so they are often the last to get paid when their customers fall on hard times or when their bills are higher than expected. Making it hard to pay for the gasoline they use to provide their services to their customers. read more here: http://www.laan-info.dk/
      zoebark
      • 3 Years Ago
      If you earn over $170000 per year and have a spare $41000 hidden away under a matress somewhere this car is an excellent option.
      Rowena
      • 3 Years Ago
      my friend's sister-in-law earned $16783 last month. she gets paid on the computer and got a $514800 house. All she did was get fortunate and follow the advice shown on this web site..EarlyRich.com
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