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Vehicle Buying Trends

With the price of gasoline still being uncomfortably high, one would think the preferred mode of transportation for the current automobile buyer would be something fuel efficient.  Gas prices still average around $3.50 across the country for regular unleaded.  Is the popularity of the sports utility vehicle over?  Has the cost of gas finally put a dent in driving what you really want?

Something tells me there will always be someone wanting to get behind the wheel of a big black 20 inch chrome wheeled Cadillac Escalade, but on average people are changing.   Out of the top ten selling vehicles in the United States, seven are fuel sipping passenger cars, per the July 4th, 2102 edition of Usatoday.com.   Continuing to buck the trend is the ever popular Ford F Series pick-up.  Even though its fuel efficiency is not acceptable in this day and age compared to a passenger car, some F150 models do return an estimated 18-23 miles per gallon highway, per Fueleconomy.gov, which is almost double that of a 1979 F150 truck.   Brand loyalty to Ford, and consistent owner satisfaction seem to contribute to the F150, according to Chilton, being the bestselling vehicle for 24 years, and according to Ford Motor Company, the bestselling truck for 34 years.   Forget about the guy who always wants the prestige of a 5,000 pound Cadillac, and the never dying loyalty of the Ford F150 owner, and you have people who want to save money on gas.

On the top ten list of fuel efficient vehicles, the seven that are passenger vehicles average a combined highway and city driving cycle of almost 30 MPG.   Compare that to a Cadillac Escalade which averages 15 MPG’s combined city and highway, although there is an Escalade hybrid that averages 21 MPG combined, still not too hot for a hybrid.  Consider this, if you drove a 15 MPG Escalade, as opposed to a 26.5 MPG Camry, since you may still need some passenger room, you could be paying thousands extra in fuel.  If the average person drives 12,000 miles per year, at 15 MPG they are buying 800 gallons of gas at $3.50 a gallon, that’s a whopping $2,800 a year in fuel, a car payment in itself.  The Camry driver would be buying about 453 gallons of gas per year, spending only $1,585.50 on gasoline.  People are feeling the pain at the pump, Escalade’s aren’t selling like they used to.  According to Theautochannel.com, Escalades hit an all-time high in sales at 62,250 in 2004, after a steady climb since its introduction in 1999, when only 3,089 units were sold.  However since the all-time high of 62,250 sold, there has been a heavy decline, with the lasts numbers showing only 25,503 sold in 2011, per Cheersandgears.com.  With gas prices likely to remain high, the gas guzzling SUV is fading away.

People are still not crazy on electrics.  The fear of running out of juice seems to be the fear of those who steer away from pure electric vehicles.  Michael O’Brien in an interview with the Los Angeles Times says, “A lot of consumers believe an ideal vehicle might be an all-electric, but the distance they drive might be greater than what an electric can handle.”.   There are over 100,000 gas stations in the United States, and only 10,000 charging stations.  People don’t want to be on the highway running low with nowhere to go; it’s not like a gasoline car where the next off-ramp usually has a gas station.  The prices for pure electrics aren’t ideal as well.  According to Nissan.com, a base Nissan Leaf, a pure electric, retails for $35,200.  A similar sized gasoline powered Nissan Juke starts at $19,990.  Hybrid sales, however, are soaring.  According to Edmunds.com, sales of hybrids are up 381% for the first half of 2012.  The mix of an electric engine with a gasoline engine provides the fuel efficiency needed, and diminishes the fear of nowhere to charge your car, since the gas engine will kick in when the electric batteries are low.  Hybrids aren’t as pricey as well.  At Ford.com the base price for a gasoline powered Fusion is $20,705, with the hybrid starting at $28,775, a significant difference, but not as dramatic as the difference between a Leaf and a Juke.

The final question is, if gas fell to $1.25 a gallon, and the economy was on a high, what would happen?  Would we still try to conserve fuel and save money?  Or would we go back to our gas guzzling ways?  I guess it’s a theoretical or maybe rhetorical question of which the answer to we may never know.