American motorists have proven decidedly stubborn when it comes to downsizing, willing to hang onto their pickups, SUVs and bigger passenger cars despite near-record fuel prices.
But buyers are showing a lot more flexibility with what they order under the hood. Makers like Ford are scoring big gains with smaller powertrains, such as the EcoBoost V6 offered on the latest version of the F-Series pickup.
In fact, the trend towards smaller engines has not only swept aside the V8 but now threatens to marginalize the V6. With a number of new models, such as the latest Hyundai Sonata, not even offering six-cylinder options, the Inline-4, or I-4, engine became the most popular powertrain choice among U.S. consumers during the first half of 2011, according to research firm IHS Automotive.
Four-cylinder engines now account for 43% of the U.S. automotive market, up from 26% in 2005. During the same time period, the six-banger dropped from 43% to just 37%. And the once all-mighty V-8, that simple of American muscle? It has dipped from 29% to just 18% over the past six years, with most studies predicting still further declines.