With gas prices hitting record heights, it’s not surprising that motorists are shopping for more fuel efficient vehicles. The situation has even boosted demand for some cars that are no longer in production, such as the 40-plus mile a gallon Geo Metro. Jim Bintner, general manager of one of Iowa’s largest car dealerships in Des Moines, says his customers’ top priority is finding an economical drive.
"They’ve decided that they’re either going to trade in their SUV or not drive it as much," Bintner said. "They’re looking for something they can commute with and something that’s going to give them good fuel economy that they can afford to drive." Bintner says smaller cars are now "in," while gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs are out.
"They’re looking for older cars that are fuel efficient, for example, the Geo Metro is one, the Ford Festiva, the Ford Focus and the Escort all get great fuel economy," Bintner said. "The value of those cars have gone up greatly." The top selling car in the United States in May was the Honda Civic, followed by the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Camry. Bintner says those vehicles do get good gas mileage, but many American-made cars do too.
Bintner says the challenge for the big American manufacturers – Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler – is overcoming "the perception" that they don’t make as fuel efficient, or as good of cars, as the foreign manufacturers. According to Kelley Blue Book’s rankings, the top fuel efficient vehicle is the Honda Civic Hybrid, which can travel 45 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Ford Escape Hybrid leads the list of high-mileage SUVs (30 mpg highway). General Motors announced plant closings Tuesday in Wisconsin, Ohio, Canada and Mexico. The affected GM plants make pickups and SUVs. GM plans to focus on smaller cars, including the Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric.