Mid-sized car sales rebound despite high gas prices

Mar 19, 2013

The release of redesigned models and improvements in fuel economy of mid-sized cars is attracting buyers to larger sedans and trucks rather than to the smaller alternatives that previously dominated the market.

Sales of mid-sized cars increased by 8% year-over-year in February, while sales of subcompacts such as the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris were down 7%.

Sales of compact cars were up 7% overall last month, but down for the majority of individual models, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Honda Civic, as noted by Nick Bunkley for Automotive News.

“Today’s mid-sized sedans get the same or better gas mileage as the compact sedans five years ago,” said Jesse Toprak, TrueCar.com analyst. “Consumers have certainly gotten accustomed to living with high-level gas prices, so there’s no more of that knee-jerk reaction.”

According to AAA, gas prices rose $0.36 a gallon to a national average of $3.78 a gallon last month. But despite the spike, car sales were flat but light-truck sales increased 8% year-over-year. Full-sized pickup sales also went up 21% through February, compared to 8% for all vehicles.

Combined sales of the Ford Fiesta and Focus were down 11%, while sales of the mid-sized Fusion increased by 28%.

On a conference call discussing February sales, Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, attributed the decline of Ford small-car sales to shoppers who chose the Fusion or the Escape crossover instead.

In addition, sales of the Toyota Prius, a compact hybrid for which demand typically followed gas prices, decreased 14% in February.