When the price of regular unleaded gasoline hit $3.99 per gallon back in 2008, it was difficult to find small, fuel-efficient vehicles.
"The summer gas prices spiked, you couldn't buy a Civic in the state of Pennsylvania.When the price of gas goes up, it takes a toll on inventory," Sales Manager Eric Noll at Blair Honda, Altoona, said.
With the price of gasoline again heading toward the $4 mark, Noll and many other local auto dealers are quite busy.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Don and Sandra Rudy of Huntingdon ask a few questions of salesman Blake Gray (left) before purchasing a 2011 SLS Kizashi that gets 22 mpg in city driving and 20mpg on the highway at Five Star Suzuki on Monday.
"We are seeing an uptick in sales on our vehicles. Fortunately for us we get pretty busy when the price of gas goes up. Honda has always been a leader in gas mileage. We are selling Civics and selling our all-wheel drive CR-Vs as fast as they come in. The smaller SUVs are an alternative to the bigger V-8 SUV," Noll said.
Business has increased substantially since the beginning of February at Five Star Suzuki, Altoona, General Sales Manager Greg Sloan said.
"We have had a lot of people trading in larger four-wheel drive vehicles for fuel efficient all-wheel drive models. People are trading in their full-size SUVs and purchasing our SX4 and Kizashi all-wheel drive models," Sloan said. "People are scared right now because of the publicity gas prices are getting and talk of it going to $5 a gallon. People are concerned and are trading in their less efficient vehicles on higher efficiency models. I have some full size models that are not selling like they were, it [gas] has definitely had an influence."
Jim Hetrick also has seen the trend at Courtesy Dodge Chrysler Jeep Nissan, Altoona.
"It is spring so it is hard to say why people are buying more cars than SUVs. People are going to cars, they are looking for four cylinders," Hetrick, the dealership's sales manager, said. "Full-size SUVs are not as popular and we are not selling as many large pickup trucks."
Courtesy Ford Kia, Altoona, is selling more cars, Sales Manager Bob Bradley said.
"No one is panicking yet but a lot of people are buying. In 2008, everyone was trying to trade down to smaller cars. There are a lot of car buyers out there now. We are selling a lot of Ford Fiestas, Focuses and Fusions, people are looking for four-cylinder cars. We have sold a lot of Kia Optimas, Fortes and Rios over the last couple of weeks," Bradley said.
Buddy Kyle, general sales manager at Dean Patterson Chevrolet Cadillac, Mazda, Hyundai, Altoona, said he has seen a slight increase in people buying fuel-efficient vehicles.
"We have seen a slight change but nothing to be alarmed about. We have been through this so many times. We are selling a lot more trucks which are now more fuel efficient," Kyle said. "We are far from a panic. If gas gets to $5 a gallon, that would change overnight."
Matt Stuckey, president of Stuckey Ford and Stuckey Subaru in Hollidaysburg, said he hasn't seen a massive increase in people looking for fuel-efficient vehicles.
"That has been the trend the last couple of years. Ford and Subaru have kept on top of that with fuel efficient vehicles. That is what is driving sales," Stuckey said. "We are seeing more people looking in general. People are looking at more fuel efficient cars, but I don't know if it is a trend yet."
Bob Zeigler, owner of Zeigler Chevrolet, Claysburg, said he also hasn't seen a significant increase in the number of people looking for fuel efficient vehicles.
"I think, when it hits $4 plus, it will be more noticeable. People have got used to $3 plus prices. When it hits $4, I am not sure what will happen," Zeigler said. "We are still selling trucks; it is about a 50-50 mix between trucks and cars."
February new vehicle sales had been projected to increase by about 5 percent over February 2011 according to J.D. Power and Associates.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.