Remember the story of Goldilocks? She didn’t like the first chair she sat in because it was too big. The second one was too small. Then she found the chair that was just right. Well, in today’s car industry, Goldilocks would pretty much be considered an oddball.
Once upon a time, new car shoppers in America were much like Goldilocks. They shied away from oversized vehicles like SUVs, as well as small, fuel-efficient cars that didn’t have much interior space. Instead, they spent their money on mid-sized sedans and got the best of both worlds, and reasonably-priced car insurance rates to boot.
Recently, that trend has done an about-face. Call it “the reverse Goldilocks effect.”
A close look at car sales in June of 2011 reveals some unusual buyer tendencies. According to the data, sales of mid-sized sedans slipped while purchases of pickup trucks and small cars increased sharply. In other words, Americans opted for “extra-big” or “extra-small” vehicles while eschewing cars in the “average size” category.
Why is that exactly?
For one thing, automakers are doing a better job of “prettying up” their fuel-efficient vehicles. Today’s models are much less boxy and utilitarian, while boasting heavier doses of style and pizzazz – and buyers are showing their approval.
On the other end of the spectrum, pickup trucks have always been steady sellers in rural areas, and many current offerings in this category have shown improvement in gas mileage ratings over those of their predecessors.
Here are some of the winners in the car sales derby for June.
Chrysler Corp. reported that sales of its popular pickup surged 35% in June from a year ago. In fact, most Detroit automakers posted gains in their truck sales figures, albeit on a smaller scale.
This was an atypical result for the Japanese label, which is better known for its smaller passenger cars. Sales of Nissan’s small pickup truck skyrocketed 51% from June of 2010 as it rode the “truck-buying” coattails of its American counterparts.
No surprise here – the F-150 has been the top-selling truck model for over a decade. But what is interesting is that the majority of F-150 sales in June involved models with V-6 engines instead of the larger V-8s. This is the first time that has happened since way back in the 1980s!
An attractive design and great fuel economy pushed the Cruze past the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry, making it the top-selling car in the U.S. in June. Its sales were more than twice those of the Cobalt, which was the model it replaced in the Chevy family.
This subcompact was once viewed as a glorified roller skate. But year-over-year sales of the Fiesta were a mind-boggling 438% higher in June – and better aesthetics probably played a role in that jump.
The moral of the story? Americans’ car buying habits are about as predictable as the time at which fairy tale bears return home.