California Autos Examiner

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ouch! Small Cars Take it On the Chin in the USA

For fans of the small car, last year's resurgence was a wonder to behold. Would Americans finally ditch their fuelish ways, relegate the Suburban to camping duty and join the rest of the world in peace and harmony?

Um, no.

No sooner could Honda, GM, Ford and everyone else ramp up production of their smaller cars then production slid off a cliff. For example, Honda sold 53,299 Civics in May 2008 and only 17,302 in December 2008, that's around a 67% drop! Of course, hardly any cars were selling in December of '08, but overall small cars have waned as fuel prices dropped.

Americans love big(ger) cars.

No mystery there. We are a big nation, a big people, with big families and even bigger gear. If we super-size the fry, it's no wonder that we super-size the Civic. Now that we're in April of '09, all the little gremlins are starting to come out of the woodwork. The IIHS has spanked small cars in their latest test, crashing them into their bigger brethren. Smart fortwo orphans clog the lots of many dealers. Pontiac has stacks of G3s sitting on the lots. Chrysler used a Fiat 500 to introduce the next Grand Cherokee.

MSNBC recently ran an article titled "The SUV is dead, Long Live the SUV." The basic point was that the recent NY auto show had a lot of SUV and crossovers on display. Bottom line, manufacturers are going to sell what consumers want to buy. Consumers want to be stylish, feel safe and have a ton of room. Guess what kind of vehicle fills the bill?

I'm a fan of smaller cars, but to be perfectly honest, I don't own one. Safety issues aren't holding me back, but frankly my need to carry people and stuff simply doesn't allow for an extremely small car.

If fuel economy is the primary concern, then many Americans can have their needs met with a hybrid offering such as the Prius or Fusion. These cars post excellent mileage numbers without robbing drivers of their apparent God given right to space. Expect models posting 40mpg + to grow in number as federal mandates continue to bear down on manufacturers to pickup their fleet averages.

I do hold out hope for the small fry of our highways and byways. Scion will more than likely try the dimunitive iQ in our market. Ford is bringing the very attractive Fiesta. Chevy will offer the sub-Aveo sized Spark. All of these offerings are hopeful of catching the public's eye. Will they entice you to buy?

1 comment:

Atomic Lib Smasher said...

The "smart car" looks dumb, and looks like it should be started by putting the key at the top of the car and winding it.

I would really not feel safe in that tin can of a car.