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Are American Drivers Immune to Fuel Price Hikes?

Buyers are changing driving patterns rather than shifting vehicle choices.

by on Aug.09, 2011

Buyers continue to go for pickups and SUVs - albeit with high-tech engines that can deliver better mileage.

When gas prices first hit $2.50 a gallon, auto industry planners braced for a dramatic shift in the market.  It didn’t happen.  When the pump price first nudged $4, back in the summer of 2008, environmentalists rejoiced, betting that hybrids would replace pickups and SUVs as the vehicles of choice.  Yet after a month or so, most U.S. motorists went right back to the cars and trucks they long preferred.

This year’s run-up in fuel costs has once again led many to anticipate a wholesale shift in demand and indeed, sales of small cars have been gaining ground – but pickups, SUVs, crossovers and muscle cars haven’t exactly vanished from the sales charts – a new study by AutoPacific, Inc. suggesting that despite wishful thinking, Americans have largely grown immune to high fuel prices.

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The consulting firm’s latest Fuel Price Impact Survey concludes that while, “American drivers complain about near historically high fuel prices…few are doing much about it. In fact, choice of what vehicle to buy in the future appears to have decoupled from the price of fuel.”

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