$4 Gas is Changing Consumer Behavior

Lynne Kiesling

The New York Times has an article today that supports the anecdotal evidence I reported last month: consumers are substituting out of low fuel economy cars and into high fuel economy cars.

With gasoline prices topping $4 a gallon, consumers are overwhelming dealerships with demand for the littlest vehicles in the showroom.

Mr. Libby said that the tiny Honda Fit is on a dealer’s lot an average of 11 days before it is sold, half the time of traditional quick sellers like the Cadillac CTS and Mercedes-Benz C300 luxury sedans.

“These are amazingly low numbers for a car of this type,” he said. “If gas prices stay where they are, I think we’ll see this for quite a while.”

Hybrids are even more difficult to buy. Four of the 10 fastest-selling vehicles are hybrids, led by the Toyota Prius, which sells within four days of arriving at the dealer, according to J. D. Power. The average time to sale for the industry in June, by comparison, is 57 days.

But while inventories are low, manufacturers cannot move quickly enough to increase production of popular small cars like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Ford Focus.