Thursday, October 8, 2009

He's just not that into you: Many people not buying small cars, and don't like the ones they have ... and my opinion

It's no secret that small car sales have been down, as have many other vehicle segments. However, the subcompact and compact markets have been down even further than other segments. This is according to an article on, who sites that cars, such as the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Aveo, have had slower sales recently. (This just in: Fire is hot, and water is wet.) The article also states that many people who bought smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles when gas prices spiked above $4.00 a gallon are having buyer's remorse, and wish they had a larger vehicle.

The article mentions that interest in larger vehicles and SUVs has risen, while overall interest in small cars has "plummeted."

The article is not an Op-Ed piece, and does have a lot of statistics, and is with a the read. It gets my blood boiling a bit, though.

My opinion

My take? Many people have short memories with regards to gas prices. Personally, I can't imagine gas prices staying where they're at. Then again, I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong.

Secondly, I am not the kind of person that believes all people should be driving tiny cars and that trucks and SUVs are four-wheeled evil. I would never tell someone they shouldn't buy a kind of car. However, I think a lot of people still get wrapped up in the "bigger is better" idea. Today's crop of small cars are the best they've ever been in the U.S., and there are a whole lot of new small cars coming to the States soon that will be even better.

It's always been a challenge to get Americans into small cars, and I assume it will continue to be that way for a long time. I suppose, if anything, we're all seeing a neat automotive experiment to see if, given the option, American will purchase smaller vehicles. Maybe not at $2.50 a gallon, but perhaps again if and when gas spikes.

Many consumers are feeling robbed as auto industry implements tough fuel standards and cars get smaller" (


Anonymous said...

The details are vague to me, and therefore, suspect.
"In a study by AutoPacific, a California-based industry research firm, small car buyers were unhappy with their vehicles." Really? What percentage of small car buyers are unhappy? It doesn't state. Instead it shows percentages in categories.... some want more room, more power etc. but many of these buyers may have indicated unhappiness in several categories. The article implies that the percentage of unhappy small car buyers is high, without ever giving an exact total percentage. You can play all kinds of games with numbers and statistics, to create a perception. If you asked how many people were unhappy with their recent large vehicles purchases, and compared that number against recent small car buyers, that might be illuminating. I am suspicious of these kinds of studies and articles, because there is often an agenda behind them. Ever noticed how how many of the insurance institutes try to convince us that small cars are really unsafe? Follow the money I say, and you find who is manipulating the data....and the perceptions.

Andy Lilienthal said...

Very well put and thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

As soon as our Taurus dies, we will be a small car / big car family.

This seems optimal to me. You can then pick the are appropriate for the task.

Unknown said...

Hmm....not sure anonymous made it through half the article and the article makes a lot of sense, to me at least, in the good editing for unbiased media.

You just have to end up admitting people are panicky and don't end up doing research for their needs, wants, etc. Prices go up on gas, buy a more fuel efficient car, but wait, will that car work for me? It's not so much a perception that bigger is better, but will bigger BE better.

Or you can have the daily driver (smaller) and then the utility "haul the kitchen sink" (bigger, but less used and {ahem} diesels). Does the prices and ends justify that? Maybe.

adamaoc said...

First disclaimer… I live in Texas and yes, bigger is better in Texas.
But I do own a 7 passenger SUV (a Suzuki XL7) and even with gas prices up I couldn’t sell it. It is so hard for a normal size family these days to do daily commuting in a small car. It’s just so much easier owning a lager vehicle or an SUV.
Also trucks… Trucks are a big part of Texas and lots of rural communities. You just can’t haul a bunch of lumber (or a number of other things) in a family hatch.

I do like the small cars too though. I love the SX4 and hope we get to see the Mazda 2 soon and loved driving the Fiesta! I hope that Americans not buying them in large numbers doesn’t turn the car companies away from producing and bring these cars to America.

Andy Lilienthal said...

Larger vehicles certainly have their place, I don't doubt that for a second. And if I had kids (and all their stuff), I'd probably end up with something bigger, too (a Mazda5, please). Like Craig said, having a "hauler" and "commuter" makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote....from the end of the article:
"When they are asked what size car they will purchase next, 49 percent of the owners of the smallest cars said they would buy a compact sedan, 35 percent said they would buy a midsize sedan, and 18 percent said they would buy a compact crossover or SUV."
So, out of all these "unhappy" small car owners, 49 percent said they would buy a COMPACT sedan next. Not a LARGE vehicle, as the article infers. Only 18 percent said they would buy a cross-over or SUV. If they are soooooo unhappy with their small car, why plan to buy a compact? This article contradicts itself.

nlpnt said...

I got a Popup That Wouldn't Die from that site, so beware and hit "STOP" quickly! Too, that made me wonder about the quality of journalism on that site...

I bought my Yaris at the end of January '08- at THAT time, they were still making deals so mine was $900 below list. If I had bought in July '08 and paid list or more, THEN I'd feel robbed.

I wonder how much dissatisfaction comes from timing-based buyers' remorse ("If I had kept the Stratus, I wouldn't have a car payment now"/"If I kept the Blazer a year longer I'd have gotten $4500 from Cash for Clunkers instead of $250 off Craigslist") and not the car itself.