With fuel prices nudging $4 a gallon again, the first time that has happened since the energy crisis of mid-2008, industry observers had been anticipating a sharp run-up in small car and hybrid sales.
With rare exception, it isn’t happening. Indeed, demand for pickups and big SUVs soared during February, even fuel prices made a rapid run-up. That follows a modest decline in the fuel economy of the average vehicle sold in the U.S. last year.
But there are a few bright spots for those hoping to see Americans embrace more fuel efficient products.
The Toyota Prius experienced a 47% surge in demand during the first two months of 2011, and indications are that this sales boom has continued in March. The other exception is the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, the first gasoline-electric model offered by Ford Motor Co.’s luxury marque, which is handily outselling the automaker’s most optimistic expectations.
Nearly one in four of the MKZ sedans sold so far this year have come equipped with a battery-electric driveline, 762 hybrids out of the 3,343 MKZ models so far sold.