Average fuel prices in the United States managed to triple between the years of 1999 and and 2012. While we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy relatively low prices at the pump over the last few years, analysts predict the current spike will continue through the summer.
However, a recent study from Kelley Blue Book suggests most new-vehicle buyers don’t give a flip about it, with consumers claiming the price surge won’t influence their vehicle purchasing decisions in the slightest.
The assumption that the cost of gas will stabilize in the fall could play a factor for some, but many respondents say the price per gallon would have to reach $4 before they became rattled enough to consider swapping to a more economical vehicle.
Kelley Blue Book’s Current Events Panel, which conducted the survey, found that more than 20 percent of respondents expect fuel to “move up significantly in the coming year.” But roughly 60 percent of respondents say it’s unlikely that the recent surges will affect the next vehicle they decide to buy. While that bodes well for automakers that are hurriedly pumping more crossovers into their lineups, it doesn’t give them much incentive to improve fuel economy.
“What we see now is more of the sport utility vehicle [and] crossover vehicles are built on car platforms, and they get much better vehicle economy, in fact there isn’t much penalty between a midsize sedan and a compact sport utility,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader, told Automotive News. “Despite the rise in gas prices, people still want the versatility and practicality of those utility vehicles.”
Let’s use Honda’s Accord and CR-V as an example. In its most efficient form, the crossover manages to average 28 city and 34 highway mpg, while the base sedan manages 30 city and 38 on the highway. While that’s not insignificant, you probably won’t notice huge savings at the pump on a day-to-day basis. While the Accord is more powerful, lighter, and costs a bit less, the crossover recipe has proven it to be the clear winner with consumers. Last month, Honda moved 28,323 CR-Vs and 21,751 Accords in the United States.
However, gas prices have only been increasing by a noticeable margin for a few months. The market could shift if shoppers find themselves saddled with a full year of expensive fuel. Even then, most experts believe it would be difficult to pry most consumers away from CUVs. Analysts from Kelley Blue Book suggest that fuel prices would need to climb more than 35 percent from current levels to affect the industry in a meaningful way. But that could just cause people to buy more economical crossovers, rather than re-adopt cars.
“They haven’t been high for long enough that we would see any change and I think the desirability of crossover vehicles and various utility vehicles outweighs concerns about higher gas costs,” Krebs said.
[Image: Daniel Christensen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)]