Small car sales up locally

Published 12:06 am Saturday, April 7, 2012


Local buyers are following the national trend of purchasing smaller, more efficient vehicles as the price of fuel moves toward $4 per gallon.

Yesterday, the national average was $3.915 per gallon, and the state average was $3.802 per gallon. In Andalusia, the lowest price recorded by yesterday was $3.78 per gallon.

“Any time gas goes over $3.50 per gallon, people start trading in sports utility vehicles,” Massey Automotive salesperson Johnny Duggan said Friday afternoon.

At Andalusia Ford, Hunter Owen agreed. The dealership has seen increased interest in smaller cars, “and we’re just about out of them,” he said.

Lately, Ford has been offering rebates on smaller vehicles.

“When gas goes higher, they’ll put them on larger vehicles,” he said. “Consumers have caught on to that, and they’re buying now.”

Owen said Andy Ford’s current bestseller is the Ford Focus, which is rated for 40 miles per gallon on the highway, as is the Ford Fiesta.

The demand has made it a little more difficult to put consumers in exactly the vehicle they want, he said. When people want a specific color or amenity, dealers typically find another dealer with whom to trade a vehicle.

“Used to, it wasn’t a problem,” Owen said. “Now dealers want something to trade.”

Greater fuel efficiency has been a big push for Ford, Owen said, and not just for smaller vehicles.

During the gas crisis of ’07-’08, he said, Ford’s F-150 truck averaged 18 miles per gallon.

“The F-150 now gets 23 miles per gallon,” he said.

“That’s a big boost.”

Duggan said the Nissan Versa has been a big seller for Massey. It’s rated at just under 40 miles per gallon.

Both Duggan and Owen said the demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles is driving the prices of smaller used and program cars up, while the prices for large SUVs are coming down.

At J.M. Jackson Buick-Chevrolet in Opp, members of the sales staff said Friday they haven’t seen much change in buying habits as a result of increasing gas prices, and are still selling more larger vehicles. However, they offer six vehicles that get more than 30 mpg, including the Chevrolet Cruze, which gets around 42 mpg and starts at around $16,800, according to Chevrolet.

They also have a Chevrolet Sonic, which gets around 38 to 40 mpg, and starts at $13,865; the Buick Verano ($22,585), which gets 31 mpg, the Impala ($25,760), which gets 30 mpg; Chevrolet Malibu ($22,110), which gets 33 mpg.