This month’s Los Angeles Motor Show brought the launch of an assortment of small cars, including Ford’s new Fiesta and Mazda’s subcompact Mazda2. Even more downsized offerings will make their debut at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, next month.
Borrowing a maxim from the film, “Field of Dreams,” manufacturers are betting that if they build ‘em, customers will come, especially in an era of costly fuel and new government mileage standards. But a new study warns that even with an array of attractive new offerings, American car buyers may not be ready to accept small as beautiful.
“Our research shows that, despite what the U.S. Government is telling us, few Americans want to downsize to smaller cars,” says George Peterson, President of the Los Angeles-based consulting firm, AutoPacific, “Finding more buyers inclined to purchase smaller cars will not be easy.”
Exactly how much of the market today is made up by small cars, trucks and crossovers depends on who you ask and how they parse their data. Ford claims the segment has grown from around 14% in 2004 to nearly 22% in 2008. But other data show that small car demand has been slipping, again, since fuel prices hit their peak, in July of last year.