ATLANTA — A report by AutoTrader.com revealed that shoppers are turning toward smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles in the wake of rising gas prices, which crept up to a national average of nearly $3.40 per gallon in January. The New Car Insights Report shows that compact cars accounted for nine out of the 20 vehicles on AutoTrader.com’s list of Big Movers in January. Two hybrid vehicles also made the list.
Also on the list, which tracks vehicles that have experienced a significant increase in shopper interest month over month, were two hybrid vehicles.
“Gas prices have been on the minds of shoppers lately, and our most recent tracking study showed that 54 percent of consumers said their vehicle choice was affected by this issue,” said Rick Wainschel, vice president of automotive insights at AutoTrader.com. “With projections of even higher gas prices to come during the heavy driving season over the summer, we will likely see a continuation in this surge of interest occurring for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.”
On the list of Big Movers, the Buick Verano made the biggest jump, with a 95.7 percent increase in share of consumer interest month-over-month. The Subaru Impreza came in at No. 2 with a 39.4 percent increase in shopper interest.
Toyota claimed the most spots on the list of any automaker, with four fuel-efficient vehicles. The Toyota Prius experienced a 38.1 percent increase in consumer interest, while interest for the Toyota Prius V increased 23.7 percent. Toyota also had two compact cars on the list — the Toyota Corolla and Yaris, both of which experienced an increase in interest of 20 percent and 19.5 percent, respectively.
There were several compact vehicles from domestic automakers on the list of Big Movers as well, with the Chevrolet Sonic, Dodge Caliber, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze experiencing notable increases in consumer interest. The Sonic experienced an increase of 31.8 percent, while the Caliber experienced an increase of 28.8 percent. The Focus experienced an increase of 27.6 percent and the Cruze experienced an increase of 19.6 percent.
“We are watching the competitive compact segment closely,” Wainschel said. “After a challenging 2011, Toyota appears to be bouncing back and regaining interest from shoppers, which bodes well for the automaker.
“And while the big three domestic automakers haven’t traditionally fared well with small cars, they are certainly holding their own in our recent shopping trends.”
While compact cars have enjoyed a recent resurgence, analysts pointed out that it is important also to consider the year-over-year trending as well. As a segment, full-size trucks are up 3.3 share points from their position in January 2011, an indication that, while the recent increases in gas prices have fueled a month-over-month spike in interest for smaller cars, there is still a sizable portion of the shopping audience that wants — and needs — larger trucks, which are typically associated with many work-related endeavors.