Make us your home page
Instagram
Autos | Gas prices

Rising gas prices fuel interest in small cars

LOS ANGELES — Buyers shifting their shopping to small, fuel-efficient vehicles because of high gas prices run the danger of making a long-term decision on a short-term price spike and finding themselves driving a car they don't want, some analysts warn. • "It is like people who look out the window, see that it is raining and then think it is going to rain for the next four years," said Jack Nerad, an analyst with auto information company Kelley Blue Book.

Though most oil watchers believe the cost of petroleum is on an ever-upward curve, the steepness of the climb is likely to be uneven, and it's not clear whether prices will remain high if political turmoil in Arab oil-producing nations recedes.

"The prices of gasoline could collapse overnight if things settled down in the Middle East," said Phil Flynn, oil analyst with PFGBest Research in Chicago.

The problem is that no one can predict whether the revolution in Libya and unrest in neighboring nations will be limited or spread, disrupting oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations. That means gas and oil prices will remain high until commodities traders and petroleum buyers have a better sense of where the situation is headed, Flynn said.

For now, there is significant spare petroleum capacity in Saudi Arabia and reserves in other major markets, "which could be very helpful in defraying a price-spike episode," said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, an economist at Ford Motor Co.

But with gas prices well into the mid-$3-a-gallon range nationwide and hovering at $4 in some areas, consumers are starting to migrate to smaller cars. Ford's tiny subcompact Fiesta sells best in California, where gas prices are among the highest in the nation.

The trend is reflected in traffic on Internet sites.

"Among individual models, every compact car we tracked was up a minimum of 20 percent week-over-week, and the Ford Fiesta jumped 77 percent," Nerad said of Web traffic at kbb.com.

Searches for fuel sippers such as the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Honda Accord each jumped more than 60 percent. On the hybrid/electric side, individual increases were even more dramatic, he said. The all-electric Nissan Leaf jumped 154 percent, while the Toyota Prius jumped 86 percent.

At least that's how a segment of the population will react. Automakers believe people will continue to buy less fuel-efficient trucks and vehicles as long as they have some particular use or need and they have the money to put gas in the tank.

Aaron Pelcher, who works for an electric company in Nevada, bought a Dodge Ram 1500 pickup in Las Vegas recently, replacing a Honda Accord that got about 25 miles per gallon.

"Not the best timing considering the gas prices. . . . But we feel secure in our financial situation right now, and we wanted a truck," Pelcher said.

He tows a camper for frequent family getaways and spends recreation time in the outdoors, hauling equipment that fits better in a truck.

Rising gas prices fuel interest in small cars 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Los Angeles Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]