By on December 5, 2014

2015 honda cr-vAfter climbing above $3.50/gallon for much of the spring, the average U.S. retail price for regular gasoline began to decline in mid-July before rapidly plunging throughout the fall of 2014, sliding to around $2.70/gallon by the beginning of December.

Have consumer tendencies been altered as a result?

We’re not on a mission to suggest they have, nor is our aim to support the belief that they haven’t. Any change would be both slight and gradual, and not without other possible causes. (Indeed, if it is slight, it means the vast majority of buyers aren’t changing their ways at all.) But if there is a band of consumers which makes new vehicle purchase decisions based on a brief period of less costly fuel, how many consumers are in such a band, and how different is the new track they follow?

One-month snapshots don’t tell a full story. An examination of long forgotten history won’t answer the immediate question, either: is the current price decline changing consumer behaviour?

Sure, consumers aren’t buying full-size SUVs like they used to, but showcasing that trend in a chart that’s full of other moving parts ignores a multitude of other social, economic, and technological changes which will interfere with our ability to spot recent changes. We want to reduce, not increase, the number of variables.

If our goal is to determine what, if any, changes are made by the buying public as a result of this recent fuel price dive, one surefire way to reduce variables is to examine consumer behaviour only during this recent fuel price dive. This way, our figures will not be skewed as severely by automaker bankruptcies, government-infused purchase incentives, variances in the number of offerings, or major changes to specific high-volume vehicle lines.

Do buyers reconsider the type of vehicle they’ll pay for over the next three or six or eight years based on the price of fuel over the span of four or five months? We’ll attempt to find the collective consumer response to that question by looking at the overall share of the U.S. auto industry gleaned by different vehicle types, but we’ll remember that this is only one factor: out-the-door pricing, recalls, our culture’s constantly revamped palate, and significant product introductions play vital roles, as well.

One chart won’t sufficiently display all the information we wish to make manifest – this will be an ongoing process. The mission TTAC’s Managing Editor set out for these charts is to track. Not to reach a conclusion. Not to build a case. But to track. Together, we’ll discover that which is worth examining on a deeper level, or if anything at all warrants such an examination.

TTAC COTD Midsize Cars vs Small CrossoversFirst up, the Honda CR-V-led small crossover segment and the Toyota Camry-controlled midsize car class. With the CR-V having just outsold every passenger car nameplate on its way to ending November as America’s fourth-best-selling vehicle, this seemed like a fair place to start our journey. Yet the extent to which fuel prices play a role in this discussion at all is up for debate, as one key reason leading to increased small crossover popularity is believed to be fuel efficiency, which doesn’t go hand in hand with a reckless disregard for the price of fuel.

The fact that today’s chart shows small crossovers outselling midsize cars is all but a moot point. After all, by reorganizing vehicle classifications to suit your preferences – we did the math with the 15 core midsize car nameplates and 19 core small crossovers and did not include subcompact utilities like the Buick Encore – you could rejig the numbers slightly. This isn’t about the totals, however, but the trend, where one grey line has steadily risen by claiming more and more U.S. market share. And while the cause of the shift is debatable, the trend itself is not.

Could midsize buyers be heading elsewhere? Of course. We’re not implying that a few thousand potential midsize buyers, without exception, all opted to buy a small utility vehicle instead. Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that the share of the market owned by compact cars has decreased from 14.5% in March to 13.7% in November, while larger and more costly volume brand cars have seen their share of the overall industry fall to 3.2% in November from 3.6% in March.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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129 Comments on “Question Of The Day: Are Small Crossovers Stealing Midsize Sales Because Of Fuel Prices?...”


  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    No, but they are stealing sales because Stacy’s mom, dad, & grandparents like “sitting up high.”

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Folks who need a SUV will get one , by that I mean folks with three kids , folks with one or no kids may buy a CUV , most people around here ( NJ) had 2 SUVs but now have one and a CUV, the CUV choices have gotten much better and I am in Honda land , the SUV choices have stayed pretty ho hum, the Pilot is about 100 years old and the Volvo xc90 was about 200 years old with the same basic model before this year.

    Now I have to watch the Stacy’s mom video thanks folks

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      There’s only a few SUVs left
      GMs fullsizes, 4Runner, wrangler, FJ, xterra, expedition , sequioa(sp?), a few luxury Japanese fullsizes and maybe that’s it?

      Pilot and your Volvo example are crossovers.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        The FJ is no more for the US market, and I believe it’s gone from Canada as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Better look again. If it has a Jeep badge on it, it’s an SUV, not a CUV. That includes the new Renegade.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          What are you talking about? Crawl up under them, the badge doesn’t determine whether something’s an SUV or a crossover.
          Only the wrangler is an SUV.

          • 0 avatar
            Occam

            Jeep loves to blur the line.

            What makes it an SUV vs. a Crossover? Solid axles? Body on Frame? Rear wheel drive? Four wheel drive (instead of AWD)?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Every definition I’ve ever seen, and the one most agreed upon is BOF, meaning it is in no way related chassis wise to anything other than perhaps a truck.
            Axles would be a nice addition, and ford IRS expedition is extremely pointless, but it still passes as a crease in the body doesn’t affect structural rigidity.

          • 0 avatar
            Occam

            The XJ Cherokee and Grand Cherokee have always been unibodies.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I realize this, and it makes them outliers

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            The squared-off shape is what makes it an SUV. CUVs are all egg-shaped with a tapered rear.

            Ok, I guess that means that SOME of the Jeeps are CUVs after all. My apologies.

          • 0 avatar
            nwa2014

            I thought that the JGC/Durango had hybrid platforms like the Ridgeline and euro vans – a rigid body with a pair of frame rails permanently bonded to it. Correct me if I’m wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            nwa2014, on our 2012 WK2 4×4 Grand Cherokee there are two subframes; the front frame with the engine, transmission, transfer case and front differential, and the back frame with the rear differential and gas tank support.

            Both frames are bolted to the unibody, but the skid plates tie the unibody and both frames together (if the model comes with skid plates).

            The side steps mount to the unibody-rails and the tow hitch mounts to the unibody and rear frame.

            This prevents body yaw, but allows for body twist, yet keeps the body rigid to prevent pitching and deforming.

            I believe the Durango is just a stretch version of the Gand Cherokee platform.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            nwa2014, on our 2012 WK2 4×4 Grand Cherokee there are two subframes; the front frame with the engine, transmission, transfer case and front differential, and the back frame with the rear differential and gas tank support.

            Both frames are bolted to the unibody, but the skid plates tie the unibody and both frames together (if the model comes with skid plates).

            The s!de steps mount to the unibody-rails and the tow hitch mounts to the unibody and rear frame.

            This prevents body yaw, but allows for body twist, yet keeps the body rigid to prevent pitching and deforming.

            I believe the Durango is just a stretch version of the Grand Cherokee platform.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            The shape of it has no affect on being an SUV or a CUV, that’s just the design the builders decided on. A terrain is no doubt a crossover and it’s blocky, a 2nd Gen S10 blazer is quite rounded off and no doubt it’s a SUV.

            I’m pretty sure you just made up that metric on spot,

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I never considered the 2nd gen S-10 Blazer as “rounded off”. The rear in profile was still quite square compared to the egg-shaped CUVs of today. And my old ’02 Saturn Vue offered probably the flattest floor I’ve yet seen in almost any recent model–challenging the old-style station wagons for offering a truly flat load surface. Not even the later Opel version offered a floor as large and as flat as that early one.

            For that matter, that Vue’s load floor is larger and flatter than even my avowed SUV Jeep Wrangler Unlimited offers.

            And I’m not the only one here that uses the vehicle’s overall shape to define its class. Sure, a CUV may be unibody, but so might an SUV as demonstrated by even the original Jeep Wagoneer and Cherokee. The more truck-like shape and design purpose (work vs comfort to oversimplify) better defines the difference between the two classes.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Vulpine, the original Cherokee may be an SUV but that’s only because the mainstream crossover was 25-30 years from being introduced. The original Wagoneer as we’ve all seen is a traditional BOF truck in no way similar to any unibody construction.
            Even trying to pass off the Cherokee as an SUV is hard, because looking online and around, they simply cannot hold up to anywhere near the stresses of BOF SUVs. Many people have had to buy or devise steel sections to weld to the unibody construction due to cracking/ripping body sections and downright unsafe condition of heavily stressed vehicles.
            Flat load floor is most associated with crossovers, as a BOF vehicle requires a transmission bump, and a high rear load floor for the rear axle. I have no idea what point your trying to make on the load floor unless your trying to prove what I’m writing as correct. Flat floors are not associated with SUVs.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Hummer: “The original Wagoneer as we’ve all seen is a traditional BOF truck in no way similar to any unibody construction.”

            False. The original Wagoneer was Jeeps first look into unibody-style construction–using unconnected sub-frames rather than a full-on BOF construction. While I acknowledge the Wiki article, I have a book on the history of the Jeep in toto through into the TJ years which surprised me with that statement. I will attempt to locate that book and give title, page and quotation. I will also acknowledge my error if the book states otherwise. I do know the Cherokee was pure unibody, though perhaps again with partial sub-frames to hold the engine and suspension.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I’ve found most automotive books to be more interested in random facts for non enthusiasts that fit no specific time frame than actually giving facts that would impress anyone with a slight familiarity on the subject; for example, I was at Barnes and noble a few days ago and saw a book on iconic American vehicles.
            It said the H1 used a gas engine until 96 when a diesel was offered. Completely untrue and anyone with a computer and downright a novice understanding of the differences between a gas and Diesel engine can prove that to be false. Gas was offered for 2-3 years but the diesel was always standard.

            Similarly you can’t realsitically trust your book when a simple Google images search of Wagoneer frame comes up with pictures of a complete frame detached from the body.
            And actually a search shows even the Cherokee was originally a BOF vehicle.

            I feel like I’m talking to a wall, and basically it’s useless for me to post links proving my point to you, but everyone else…
            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(SJ)
            Mentions in the mechanicals it has a frame, if you don’t trust wiki search any forums on the SJ

            And here’s your Wagoneer frame, I cannot hand you information that makes this anymore obvious.
            http://www.ifsja.org/forums/vb/showthread.php?t=128932

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You kind of disqualified your specific example by listing it as a book on “iconic American Vehicles”. It is at best an overview that was probably far more focused on photos of the vehicles than accurate data. The book I have (no I haven’t found it yet) is specific to one brand and the history of that one brand–albeit most notably the CJ/Wrangler models. Again, I will post title, page and quote when I find it.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Again, put that second link I posted into the search box.

            If a book told you to tighten your lug nuts to 90 in-lbs would you?

            Your book, it’s referring to the second generation Cherokee that had a Wagoneer package.
            The actual Wagoneer that ran from 67?-1991 is availible at your local junkyard with the body sitting on top of a frame connected by bolts.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “If a book told you to tighten your lug nuts to 90 in-lbs would you?”

            If the book declared itself the authority on all things lug nuts, then yes; I’m not illiterate.

            However, I will concede that you are right about the original Wagoneer; I have found other data that supports your argument outside of what you’ve linked and Wiki (I don’t fully trust Wiki as a sole source of data.) However, that data hinted at the possibility that the second-generation Wagoneer (which may be the first generation Cherokee or closely related) was the first “non-military 4×4” with unibody construction. Relying on memory alone for a moment, the original Wagoneer got upgraded to “Grand Wagoneer” at one point with the smaller model taking on the Wagoneer name for a short time. I admit I’m not certain of this which is another reason why I want to find this book.

            Again I want to find that book and re-read it. Once I do that we can discuss the accuracy of the different sources if you wish.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      People with three kids need a minivan. You can get by with swinging doors, but sliding doors make it much easier to get kids it and out.

      Ride height and BOF are irrelevant for family vehicles, unless you have to plow your own driveway.

      I’m sometimes amazed that nobody’s put sliding doors on a big SUV. That would be practical AND off-road capable, which is just something that should exist.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Who’s behind this spate of ADHD articles about the recent price drop?

    Just settle. It’s merely a fluke and will be back over $3.00 before we’re over diarreha from the holidays.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yeah, I wish OPEC wasn’t forcing prices down, because all the money I’m saving now to buy booze and cigarettes will just p*ss me off when I have to give it back sometime in the future

    • 0 avatar

      As oil speculation accounts for about 1/3 of the price of oil, looks to me like its not just OPEC, but Wall Street, CME, and other market manipulators are up to something.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @peteziess

      Is my Mom cooking your holiday dinner too? Lovely woman, but cooking is not one of her strong suits!

      I agree, this is temporary. Anyone who bases their purchasing decision on a short term price dip is stupid. CUVs are popular because they are more useful than small sedans, and the average American doesn’t care how poorly their car drives. Much of the country is dead flat and all but curveless anyway.

      Even I, who hate CUVs for the most part, would buy one before I bought a mid-size beigemobile sedan. There are a couple out there that don’t completely suck to drive. CX5 on the cheap end, BMW X1 or X3 for more money. Or a previous gen RAV-4 if you are really on a budget.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        @krhodes1
        Oops, didn’t see this comment before now.

        Actually, I was thinking of all the rich foods and deserts holidays bring into the house that we never allow around otherwise. I’ve personally always been blessed with good cooks in the household so any gastric distress is purely my fault with gluttony aforethought.

        After posting that original comment I went out on errands and filled up with 87 at $2.65/gal. Big. Whoop. I for one won’t give a fleeting dip in the pump price the slightest cons1deration when purchasing a vehicle.

        Truly, the majority of Americans are just as stupid, venal and short-sighted as the majority of anyone else. But I simply can’t imagine ANY of us will have our basic expectations of material life altered by these tiny burps in the ever rising cost of car juice.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I’d actually go for the more fuel efficient vehicle right now, because with even the slightest drop in demand it would probably make the gas sippers an even better deal. Then when prices go back up for fuel and cars that use the least I’ll be ready… Grrr!

  • avatar
    TW5

    If you trade a 4-cylinder Accord circa 2009, you’ll find that the new 4-cylinder CRV actually has better fuel economy (21/30/24 vs. 27/34/29). If you trade a 4-cylinder Camry circa 2009, you’ll find that the new 4-cylinder RAV4 is more fuel efficient (21/31/25 vs 24/31/26). If you trade in an older V6 midsize, you can get an Edge, Explorer or 4-cylinder Trailhawk without making fuel economy sacrifices.

    I don’t think low gasoline prices are the motivating factor. People can get better fuel economy, more ride height, and the convenience of a hatch, while upgrading their fuel economy compared to their 5 year old sedan. Some buyers can upgrade to 4wd and still make better fuel economy. The 4wd CRV makes 28mpg and the Forester makes 27mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      This. The small & mid size CUV offers 90% of the utility most people wanted from a full size SUV with the interior appointments and fuel economy they expect from a relatively recent mid-size car. Plus most small CUV’s are affordable to purchase, easy to drive, and fairly practical.

      The small & mid-size CUV is a fairly new category that checks off a lot of boxes for many new car buyers (and most likely will do very well as used cars too). As more buyers are exposed to them their popularity keeps growing for fairly obvious reasons.

      Their growing sales is not that complicated.

      • 0 avatar
        haroldingpatrick

        Ding, ding. My 14 CRV averages between 29 and 30 mpg in my weekly routine and a 1500 mile roadtrip to Michigan and back returned 32 mpg. This is identical to the 10 Camy I used to own. I do about 50 percent interstate and 50 percent suburban driving.

        I don’t do extreme hypermiling but I do realize that the cause of poor mpg is more the brake pedal than the throttle peddle. 50k miles behind the wheel of a Ford Escape hybrid I drive at work has really taught me a few things. We have a bunch of them and driven without care they return 30mpg, driven with care, but still keeping up with traffic they return 36 to 38 mpg all year long without extreme hype emailing techniques.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        And you can thank uncle revenue collector for handicapping cars, by banning vehicles with the inherent weight distribution to drive 25% faster than a CUV, from taking advantage of this.

        Just another reason why “Safe and Prudent” is the only justifiable speed limit.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Front end so pretty. Why Honda make so ugly back end?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Fun fact: for my final project in statistics class, I plotted the correlation between monthly gas prices and the mean fleet fuel economy of Toyota sales for 2003-2008. Correlation ended up being 0.0002 or so.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      The entire correlation between fuel prices and SUV sales is obviously fabricated and based upon specious arguments, furthered primarily by a contingent of people who want to raise gasoline excise tax. The SUV boom and truck sales accelerated rapidly through the first half of last decade, when fuel prices were rising steadily. To find a strict objective correlation, you have to omit that era.

      Subjective value is what drives consumption. The nominal price of gasoline is not nearly as important as whether or not people feel it is a good value.

  • avatar
    Occam

    The demographic wave of Baby Boomers is aging, but they fear being seen in an “Old Man” car. Thus, the big sedans that were the choice vehicles of the greatest generation have largely disappeared, but midside sedans are growing more each year to fill that niche (I joke with Dad that every time he buys a new Accord, the numbers on the speedometer and labels on the buttons get just a bit larger.)

    The added benefit of extra ride height for their worn knees and lower backs don’t hurt.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I personally disagree with your stereotype. It is not “fear of being seen in an old-man car\'” that has me driving something much smaller, but rather the huge improvement in fuel economy and the sheer FUN of driving something so agile.

      I never liked the big sedans and honestly never liked sedans at all–I never had a need for four full doors in anything I drove and still don’t have a need for four full doors. 2-½ doors is enough for me in 99.99% of my driving because my only back-seat passenger is a dog who can easily scramble between the front seats to get in back or hop in through the rear hatch.

      And my knees hurt much worse when my legs are hanging down from a tall seat than they do in a more reclined, lower seating position. That doesn’t mean I like riding on the ground as you do in something like a Camaro or Mustang, but my Fiat 500 is far more comfortable than my F-150 ever was for seating.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The FIAT 500 is really pretty much the perfect arrangement for ease of getting in and out. The floor is very low, but the seat is kitchen chair height. And a nice big door opening with a high roof. So you sit somewhat high, but the heavy mechanicals are down low so the handling is very good.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I agree, krhodes. As I paraphrased elsewhere, “This ain’t your father’s Fiat.” From what I’ve seen and experienced so far, the new Fiat is the polar opposite of what it was 40 years ago. Its reputation in Europe is remarkably positive and compares quite well with other cars in its class.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Although I love pickup trucks, I’m not an SUV/CUV person, but I wouldn’t be surprised if indeed fuel prices, although temporary I’m sure, are responsible for increased SUV/CUV sales over mid-sized sedans.

    The small CUVs are much more practical than a sedan for a variety of reasons why station wagons more-or-less have become extinct. Still, I’ll take a sedan for the 100 mile commute I currently have, at least for just a little over 2 years until I retire.

    After that, I’ll be a full-time TTACer in spirit and in action, buying only USED vehicles!

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I’d say so, and other commenters are on the money in that the CUVs are just so dang efficient these days anyways. I’d very strongly consider a 2015 CRV instead of an Accord, mainly for the utility aspect. Although I’d miss the Acccords handsome styling and that 6spd+Sport combination a lot. In my fantasy world, they’d make an Accord in the old 3rd gen (86-89) 3 door hatch style, along with a legitimate wagon (non-sloping roof form). Oh and while I’m dreaming, bring back the super funky shooting-brake Euro-only “Aerodeck” variant!

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    So, since the Verano is p!ssing me off, I have taken to browsing kijiji (just for kicks, I’m still in a lease after all). I can honestly say I am still not interested in a CUV, merely a bigger sedan.

    Right now the 2012 Fusion Sport AWD catches my eye.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      My parents have the Lincoln version: 2012 MKZ AWD with the 3.5L. My mom says it’s the best car she’s ever owned.

      28 will agree with me, the 2010-2012 Fusion and MkZephyr are about as good of a used car deal as you can get.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Y’all know I am an MT die hard, but the thing I like about the last gen Fusion is the slapstick is oriented the PROPER direction, forward downshift, backward upshift.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          It is certainly better than the paddle shifters Ford had until 2012ish. The left and right paddles did exactly the same thing. My wife’s MKT has them, but I don’t think she’s ever used the paddles.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Oh, so “MT” doesn’t stand for “MotorTrend”, I see

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            What I mean is:

            My moms’s Audi has the “push forward upshift, pull back downshift” orientation, which is flat wrong. I can’t use it.

            Push forward = downshift.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Dave-

            That transmission is a good autobox. With the AWD, you have to watch out for the PTU. I’d recommend changing the PTU fluid every 75K miles or so on a Fusion. On some of the crossovers, I’d change it sooner since they are heavier vehicles that people often tow with.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Try a Fiat. Get the same orientation.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “the 2010-2012 Fusion and MkZephyr are about as good of a used car deal as you can get.”

        The second gen cars are pretty darned good reliability wise. Take it from a guy who knows the data.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          What about all the people freaking out about the 6f35 that’s installed in the non-Sport variants (2.5 and 3.0 engines)? Both the Fusion and the Escape seem to have some pretty serious shift quality issues with many iterations of reflashes issued by Ford. I believe someone had claimed the culprit was a valve in the valvebody that had a soft aluminum bore? The 3.5 has an overbuilt Aisin transmission that also sees duty in the Taurus SHO, explorer, etc and is well regarded durability wise.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            All of the AWD Ecoboost products use the 6F transmission. It’s a beefed up version (6F55). The Fusion Sport and the MKZ had the Aisin 6 speed. I think the MKZ got the 6F in 2010, but I’m not sure.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            The issues are statistically small. Shift quality complaints are common for any modern trans and its very common for manufacturers to release multiple service flashes to improve performance.

            “The 3.5 has an overbuilt Aisin transmission that also sees duty in the Taurus SHO, explorer, etc and is well regarded durability wise.”

            You’re talking about the 6F50/55 which isn’t an Aisin trans, it’s a Ford/GM JV trans, like the 6F35.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        MY10-12 Zephyr is Smoothy Jimmy’s Lock of the Week (for used car value per dollar). The Fusion loses points for hiding the V6 in the very top trim and using the 3.0 as opposed to 3.5.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You really need conquest data in order to answer the question with certainty, and I doubt that you’re going to obtain that.

    The data that is available would suggest to me that those who used to buy gas guzzlers at the lower-price end of the scale downsized into something. Those guzzlers were mostly of the boxy variety (minivans, large SUVs, fullsize pickups), so presumably many of those chose smaller, more efficient boxes.

    The full-size mainstream sedan market has also taken a hit. I’m presuming that a lot of them migrated to midsize sedans — same shape, but smaller.

    Larger luxury sedans have seen some declines. I’m willing to bet that there is a migration from those to luxury crossovers.

    I would guess that some car buyers are moving into crossovers. But without more specific trade-in/ conquest data, this requires a lot of guesswork.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This is a sound assessment.

      “The full-size mainstream sedan market has also taken a hit. I’m presuming that a lot of them migrated to midsize sedans — same shape, but smaller.”

      When it comes to this segment, mid-size cars have grown to the point where they meet or beat many traditional large sedans in accomodations, but at a lower price point. So instead of paying a premium for a spacious car, consumers can find what they need in a midsize sedan at a lower price point or a CUV which has more perceived value.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that Fusion sales have climbed as Taurus sales declined. The downsizing trend, combined with the end of Mercury, has funneled those sales into one nameplate. (And that’s a positive result for Ford, which has gained credibility against Honda and Toyota as a result.)

        I just don’t see cheaper fuel changing this trend. The Fusion is already fine as is; moving to the Taurus isn’t really trading up.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I’m a coupe guy and find driving around within a sea of crossovers almost depressing. This past weekend in a parking lot there were 3 current body Honda CR-V’s all parked next to each other…..and all gray. I guess the trend isn’t going to end anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Ha, ha, that’s ’cause we squash you like a leetle bug

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I was driving to the Philly airport Tuesday on some backroads in southern NJ, and realized I was 5th in line of 6 black cars. I can’t wait for COLOR to come back in style. I had a black C250. The rest of this week I have a silver 228i for my rental in Atlanta. nearly every rental car at ATL is white, black, or some shade of gray/silver. Blech.

      I am SOOO getting my 228i in Valencia Orange, just to put some color on the drab streets.

      • 0 avatar

        They’re *renting* 228i already?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I rented from Sixt, which is not your average rental car company. They are German (biggest in Europe, supposedly), and at ATL their stock is 1/2-3/4 German cars. They have two 228is there. Cost me $44/day. :-) The rest of that class is Audi A3s and MB CLAs. Then they have 328is, A4s, C250s, E-class and 5-series too. Sundry German S/CUVs from VW, MB and BMW. And a few Corvettes, I did not ask how much, probably should have. Only a handful of locations in the US so far, ~25.

          This was my second rental from them at ATL, and I have to say they have the FRIENDLIEST counter persons I have ever dealt with, just a complete pleasure to do business with them.

          Trying Silver Car in Dallas week after next, they rent nothing but silver A4s. $74/day, not as cheap as Sixt, but still a better deal than $74/day for a Camry from Hertz.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        So I’m not the only one who’s sick of today’s monochromatic automotive color palette. That’s what we get when we let our dealers pick and choose what sells most often. They eliminate any possibility of showing individuality in what we drive. I’ll admit I’m stuck with a Silver (yech!) Fiat, but it’s the wife’s car and she’s planning on getting it striped. I’ve suggested she get it skinned in a decent color (I offered the idea of blue or red chrome) but I don’t think she wants to stand out all that much. Personally, I’d go for a russet color. A metallic russet I think would look good on almost any car.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          It totally annoyed me that Fiat offers so many achingly cool colors on the Pops, but as you go up the line the choices get fewer and duller. My Abarth is metallic black with no stripes, which is also kind of blah. Imagine an Abarth in that cool green with brown seats and ivory trim inside. Or yellow – it would look great in yellow. Or that copper color the Turbos come in.

          Is yours an automatic? I got that impression from one of your posts. How does it go?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Yes, krhodes, it is an automatic, but it is in no way sluggish. With six speeds, the thing is quite lively and simply wants to run. It surprises some of the cars around me how quickly it gets up to highway speed, even if it isn’t listed as all that fast. 5 to 7 seconds 0-60 is as good as the stock V8s of 30 years ago and the speedometer reads up to 140mph (no, I haven’t tested it.)

            One thing about the Fiat 500 is that it is really easy to skin. Two-tone, stripes, graphics, pretty much anything you can imagine could be done to the car to brighten it up and some people do exactly that. At well under $20k for a brand new Pop or Cabriolet, you can pretty well afford to detail it however you want far more easily than paying the manufacturer to stick a national flag or racing checkers on the roof.

            Speaking of roof, mine has the electric sunroof with a spring-loaded, see-through screen to block direct sunlight with the top open or closed. It’s a design concept I personally haven’t seen on any other brand with a glass roof. And that’s another thing about the Pop–electric locks, electric windows and even bluetooth connectivity in what to most is a base-model car. The thing is amazingly well equipped for the money! Yes, the Abarth is more expensive, but it is tuned, turboed and the suspension is tuned for performance driving. It’s still less than $25K or right in that ballpark and notably less expensive than its most direct competitors the Beetle and the Mini.

            As far as fit and finish? To be quite honest it is no worse than 99% of the other cars I’ve looked at in the auto shows and better than many. I would consider it a surprising value for the money. Of course, it is effectively brand new and has 4 years on the warranty, so I’ll just have to see how it holds up as a daily driver. For now, I’m quite pleased. It comes close to doubling my Jeep’s fuel mileage on all the same routes I drove the Wrangler before we bought the Fiat. And it very nearly triples the 1990 F-150’s fuel mileage on those same roads.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Well no 500 Pop is doing 0-60 in 5-7 seconds, try 10 seconds or so, maybe more with the auto. The turbo is a bit better, but you have to step up to the Abarth to get under 7 secs. You are not getting a 5-sec 0-60 out of any of them.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Perhaps you’re right, 4; but it certain feels a lot quicker than 10 seconds and the way I zip past the other cars on the freeway entrance ramp implies quicker acceleration than the stopwatch may claim. Since I don’t have the time or the tools to do such a test all I can say is that it seems a lot quicker than the reviewers and nay-sayers want to believe. Remember, it has a huge advantage by being significantly lighter than most other cars and despite the argument (and the C&D review) the automatic is very quick and responsive. Of course, no sanctioned drag strip is going to let you run one down the track without quite a few safety modifications.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Well @Vulpine I am happy that you are enjoying the zippiness of your 500, and I agree, when I test drove one it does feel quick and nimble. But that doesn’t make it fast, its just fun, kind of like Honda’s used to be back in the 80s. The fact that you are quicker up highway entrance ramps speaks more to how slowly most drivers actually accelerate than it does to some deep conspiracy where every magazine test is underrating the 500.

            And FYI – you can go to any drag strip in the country and they will let you run your bone stock Fiat down the strip as many times as you want to verify the numbers. You don’t need any special modifications unless your car can break a 12-sec quarter mile, and trust me, no one is ever gonna think your car can do that. :)

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The Abarth is a faster car than the 0-60 time would indicate. It is severely traction limited off the line, and there is a fair amount of turbo lag. Like many turbo cars it has tremendous mid-range acceleration once the tires are hooked up, and I bet that is even better with the automatic banging off full-throttle downshifts and upshifts. I am sure the automatic is a touch slower than the stick from 0-60, but I would not want to take on one with my stick Abarth from say 20-80.

            And ultimately, a car that FEELS fast is way better than one that is actually fast, unless you are actually on a race track. Keeps your license points and insurance costs down.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            For that matter, mnm4, it seems you’re not familiar with Northeastern drivers–especially Jersey drivers. People around here think that the “95” in I-95 means 95mph speed limit.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            @krhodes – agreed, the turbo cars, especially the small light ones, really hit their sweet spot on a roll, which is why my GTI w/DSG always gave me a rush even after 5 yrs of ownership. But Vulpine doesn’t have an Abarth or even a turbo, he has a regular 500 Pop. And claiming to get a “5-7 sec 0-60” is a fantasy right up there with thinking the auto 500 is faster than the stick, or that the car’s top speed has anything to do with the speedometer numbers. I like fun and light cars, even when they just “feel” fast, our MR2 is a blast with 130hp and 2200 lbs, but it isn’t fast.

            @Vulpine – you made me actually laugh out loud there! Its funny you bring that up, because I happen to live in an area of Florida that has an extremely high concentration of people from New Jersey and New York. Since moving to this town, nearly everyone I have met is from New Jersey or Long Island. A few of my new neighbors didn’t ask us where we were from, but whether we were from New York or New Jersey. And something I have noticed since living in this town is that the drivers from that part of the country seem to accelerate VERY slowly, but then always end up going 20+mph over the speed limit. It is maddening when you are stuck behind them, crawling up to speed, and once you get an opening moving around them and getting up to the speed limit, only to be passed by the same person, who gets in front of you just in time for the next stoplight to turn red!

            Driving 95mph has nothing to do with how long you actually take to get up to that speed.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Now who’s sounding like the retired person here, 4? You’re down there where things are nice and lazy. Up here they’re still unsane. You do get the slow ones, but that just means the fast ones do even more insane antics to get around them. I watched a panther trying to make like a go-cart just today and in three miles only managed to move up three car lengths. I ended up passing him as I wanted to take a corner and there was enough room at the curb to squirt by despite not having a turn lane at that intersection–taking one of those three car lengths back. Gotta admit it surprised my wife, who declared, “Couldn’t do that in the Wrangler!”

            As noted in another thread, I owned a ’96 Camaro, too and surprisingly enough, everybody thought I had a V8 under the hood from the way I drove it while it only had the V6. It WAS fast, though maybe not AS fast as the V8 version–I did pas the 120mph mark easily enough and at highway speed I still exceeded 30mpg in it despite only being rated for 27. So how you drive is as important as the actual speed of a car.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Yea that’s why you made me laugh! I can vouch for what you say, I have family up north and I have driven in NY/NJ, and basically, you guys are crazy up there! I am not a slow driver, in a past life I actually lost my license for aggressive driving. True, as I have gotten older and wiser I have calmed down a lot, but I can hold my own with the crazy Tampa drivers just fine when I need to. But up there it was like a whole different world. Trying to navigate the Jersey Turnpike… 20 over and still getting buzzed by soccer moms… then the George Washington bridge… no signs, beeping, swerving, etc… too much for me.

            After that trip I vowed to stay below the Mason Dixon line from now on. And you drive there in a 500. Like I said, crazy. :)

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Strangely to some, despite the sudden drop in fuel prices I sold off a full-sized pickup truck and replaced it with… a Fiat 500 hatchback. I can always rent a pickup from somewhere when I do have a need for a big open bed–until I can get my hands on my step-father’s ’94 Ranger.

    Why? Because every pickup truck currently available is too large outside and some are still too small inside and still don’t get the fuel mileage I would expect because they are so grossly overweight for the job.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Totally off-topic, but I saw you still posting elsewhere that the Camry outsold the F-150, you used to post that here… What gives?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I didn’t say “Camry” after that first time, I most recently said Toyota as it was for a time the #1 BRAND in the US. The latest chart now shows Toyota is #3.

        What’s more interesting is that FCA is offering Toyota real competition for that #3 spot and appears headed to challenge Ford for #2 before long.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I went tithe L.A. Auto Show, in the market or a new mid-sized sedan. I sat in the Fusion, Accord, Sonata and Passat. I hated them all. Hood and cowl are too high to judge the front end, A pillars are huge, rear deck is sky high and C pillars block side view. I am 67 and remember cars that one could see out of and easily park. Guess what, that’s now a CUV. They are not perfect, but offer considerably more outward vision and comfort than the sedans with high hoods and trunks, low roofs and high belt lines, Mileage be damned, I want to see out when I am driving.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      “I want to see out when I am driving.”

      I’m sorry but that option is no longer available for sedans and we’re diligently working to remove it from CUVs, SUVs and pickups as rapidly as possible.

      We intend to have completely curtailed greenhouse glass by the year 2020. Please continue to enjoy your safer, more fuel efficient motor vehicle.

  • avatar

    It really doesn’t amount to *that* much, but if I were car shopping while gas prices were low, it would make me romanticize the thought of having a very fuel-efficient car *and* not paying much for gas…not the other way around. I’d probably go out and buy a Civic or a Golf 1.8T, or something.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    The CRV has been leasing out cheap all year, that’s probably the biggest reason they are moving more of them. The RAV4 has also been running screaming lease and finance deals, so ditto for it. It also doesn’t hurt that the 2015 CRV got a significant bump in fuel economy over the 2014 (though you can’t get as cheap a lease deal on the new one).

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      It’s fall/winter, people buy CUV/SUV’s before and during winter…

      I just went through the process of buying a new 2014 CRV for my parents that they will pick up Monday. The lease payment for the 15′ was actually cheaper because the residual amount is higher four years from now on a 15′ compared to the 14′. They ended up purchasing the 14′ because the seats had individual armrests the 15′ went to a centre console armrest. Also for purchase I said to go with the old 5spd auto instead of the cvt.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        A 4yr lease is probably not not the Honda subsidized deals, those are almost always 36mo. The 2014 CRV is $199/mo with $2700 up front, and the 2015 is $249/mo with the same upfronts. With nothing down the 2014 is $260, the 2015 is $310. Of course those can vary by where you live so perhaps thats just in FL. Oh and its the same price for 2wd and 4wd, buyers choice.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    One fact keeping me out of a Sportage is its low fuel economy. The dealer had me drive a used one for a weekend, and while it met the EPA numbers, they aren’t so good. A modern 4-cyl FWD CUV should average better than 23 mpg. But I loved everything else about it.

    The upcoming Jeep Renegade promises better fuel economy, so I’m keeping an eye on it.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    At a guess the small crossovers are winning and will continue to win due to their higher ride height (access and view ahead) and “hatchback” practicality. These “small” cars are much bigger on the inside than they used to be.
    Another guess would be, people are becoming more “consumption” aware. Blame the internet or the boogie but I think the trend is there. The CUV offers a one car solution were as before one would have a commuter and a truck or van or all 3. And, they are relatively economical.
    However I guess there are some people out there that really are that short sited and will buy that full size, because, cheap gas… Sighs.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    As the owner of a current compact (’14 Jetta) and midsize (’13 Passat) I’ve learned to see what the allure of the CUV can be; outward visibility. When merging onto the highway, I have to jack my head around and crane my neck to see around the pillars and the monstrous blind spot they produce. Between roof rush standards, curtain airbags and head rests for all (to name but a few factors) driving either of these sedans in traffic is ponderous. Not only do you sit higher in a CUV, but rooflines were higher, at least until recently. Don’t underestimate the benefits of smaller blind spots and being able to see around all the other taller vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      “smaller blind spots”

      Verily, that is all we may now hope for. Forget “visibility”, that’s just a memory engram perilously stored in the watery minds of oldsters like me.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    You know, I remember a Sci-Fi story from long, long ago that had all cars heavily armored with no windows whatsoever to withstand “normal” daily bumps and grinds in city congestion. I’m getting the impression that we’re headed there with today’s modern cars and their high beltlines that have the windows getting smaller all the time. At the rate we’re going, passengers will be looking out through armored-car-style slit viewports with only the windshield having any size to it.

  • avatar
    redav

    I believe the theory that the motion of gas prices, not their absolute value, is more important to US auto buying habits. I expect knee-jerk reactions with rapid gas price changes, but once they stabilize, trends revert. That being said, the time of extended higher gas prices and the feeling of finances being pinched has changed people’s views of efficiency, and more smaller vehicles are sold as a result.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Most likely true, since with many seniors buying a smaller second or third car for ease of maneuvering in the Wal-Mart parking lot on shopping days, has affected replacement of older F150 trucks or Camry sedans altogether.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Probably the simplest near real time way to analyze this problem is to get and then study price trends for narrow categories in used vehicles and compare with pump prices. You could roughly correct for vehicle type, age and condition. Then examine to see if there has been a change in relative sales prices between groups as gas prices fell.


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