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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Subcompact Sales Slide Despite High Gas Prices

    By William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    April 16, 2013

    With gas prices on the rise, you would think sales of subcompact vehicles would also be rising? No. Wards Auto reports that subcompact sales are off since October, even though the price of a gallon of gas is rising and holding steady at $3.50 to $4.00 across the country.

    So why the drop off in subcompacts? Wards has a couple ideas to explain this. For one, the reason might lie in the boom/bust cycle that comes as a result of new or aging models in each segment. For example, the large crossover class are up a whopping 61% in the same time frame, thanks in part to new models and derivatives. But as Wards points out, most of the subcompact lineup are only two years old or less.

    The more likely reason for the drop off may have to deal with compact cars getting the same fuel economy as subcompacts. Also the difference in price between compacts and subcompacts isn't really there.

    Source: Wards Auto

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.


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    I agree with the compacts getting the same as subcompact gas mileage, but even more is the fact that subcompacts really only meet the needs of a small group of people. As you have a bigger person, they are less likely to buy a subcompact. For me being 6'6" tall I will never have anything below mid size CUV at worst.

    More people now than before are not able to be comfortable in compact or especially subcompact. You can only get so many stuffed like sardines into a subcompact.

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    From what I can find, the bulk of mini buyers are repeat customers, they have a very low conquest rate of new buyers. I think this trend will continue with the subcompact market. Once you meet the needs of those that can only think sardine in a noisy can work transportation, you have to expect fall off.

    The SubCompact market has been saturated and while there are many high quality auto's out there, I really do not see much future growth for this segment compared to Compact and mid size especially when you have new Hybrid and alternative energy powertrains coming online.

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    I have heard the same thing time and again. "I bought such and such little car as a knee jerk reaction to high gas prices but nothing fits in the trunk, it is too small and cramped inside and it's noisy." I hate little cars with a passion. If my legs and knees are smashed up against the center console or door panels that automatically puts it off my purchase list.

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    Exactly, spend all that money for an uncomfortable ride. Quality of Life, Safety and common sense needs to come before the knee jerk reaction of just buying small or subcompact small.

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    Americans like bigger cars. And, while they are not totally oblivious to fuel economy, that was never and is still not their top priority when shopping for a vehicle. One or two mpg doesn't register as a big reason to choose one model over another. Quite honestly, they are much more likely swayed by a nice alloy wheel design or rear seat headroom than a couple of MPGs. This is especially so with mid-size cars posting more than decent 34~35 mpg highway numbers. There is very little reason to spring for that 38 or 40 mpg sub-compact to save $40 on the annual gas tab -- quite honestly it is immaterial to most people.

    Sure there are those who drink the global warming coolaid or think it's cool to be seen as "green". But those buy Priuses and Model Ses, they don't shop for Sonics or Versas. Those who are REALLY on a tight budget -- one tight enough that $40 matters -- buy $3000 10 year old vehicles. That $15K they saved is much more than enough to make up for the gas savings or increased maintenance. 90% of the aerodynamic drag of any subsonic object is in the ass -- it comes from the low pressure and turbulent volume of air behind it sucking at its stern. The more distance you have to gradually "collapse" the displaced air stream the better your aerodynamic co-efficient is going to be.

    Also, let me let you in on a little secret... Sub-compacts tend to not deliver as much additional fuel economy as their downsizing and weight reductions seem to suggest. The reason is simple... all else being similar, long cars are more aerodynamically efficient than short cars.

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    Exactly, Dwightlooi. I have never, for the life of me, understood why anyone would settle for a subcompact car in the USA ever. There is no point, especially since a three year old used midsize car could handle that and you save yourself a lot of tiny car hassle. BTW, what are the fuel savings of a Chevy Spark vs a Sonic anyways? They don't seem large enough to justify going subcompact. Dropping from a large truck to a midsize CUV or sedan makes far more sense at every level. Subcompacts, no. I am very pleased that customers are increasingly rejecting the false choice that is the subcompact car.

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    Well, part of the problem is, the manufacturers don't seem to put their best technology into their smallest cars.

    Interested in seeing the mileage figures for the 2014 Spark with CVT over the current, outdated 4 speed auto.

    Wish GM would put a 6-speed manual in the car as an alternative to an auto.

    I found my Fiesta to be a perfectly fine small car to drive. All it needed was a 6th gear for more relaxed highway cruising. And it was plenty roomy for me.

    This Beetle suits me to a T (Di). It has plenty of power when I want it, and great economy when I need it. A big part of the entertainment of driving it (aside from that hard to quantify VW "feel") is watching the numbers tumble so far forward on the "average consumption" readout on the dash. It definitely does not feel cheap or compromised in any way to achieve such high MPG.

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    Ocnblu everything will be roomy for a tiny guy like you. For most people subcompact is a no go from the start and I think this market is over built and over hyped. Sweet point is the compact to mid size market for the US. Still I would want GM to have quality products at every sales point.

    I think the subcompacts could really have gone with far superior power-trains. I think they could have done a crazy high mileage diesel as well as a Hybrid. CNG should also be done.

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    every day on the interstate on my daily drive I see quite a few Fiestas lately. I know the basic model Fiestas have been selling quite cheap. I don't know what the real world Fiesta mpg is, but I doubt it's way higher than the Focus. Makes me think though with seeing so many lately that the gas + price of car total cost must be getting cheap on those.

    Fiesta could use a small tiny turbo diesel, like a 1.2l 3 or something. I bet eye popping mpg would commence.

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