Gas Guzzlers Staging a Comeback?

Though the price of a gallon of gas has moved back above $2 this month, it’s still just half what it was at last summer’s peak. And, according to BIGresearch polling, this is reflected in consumers’ current thinking about the type of vehicle they might purchase.
Among those who are in the market for a vehicle, 55 percent said they’re considering a car, down from 63 percent a year earlier. (The new polling was fielded at the very end of March and first week of April.) Conversely, the number considering an SUV is up a bit, from 22 percent then to 26 percent now.
There’s been a sharp rise, from 14 percent to 23 percent, in the proportion of in-the-market respondents considering a truck. Of course, if gas prices continue their recent upward trajectory, this renewed interest in what BIGresearch terms the “highway heavyweights” could quickly fade.
Meanwhile, the U.S. isn’t the only country in which the automotive market is shrinking. A recent report by R.L. Polk predicts that global car sales will fall to 46.4 million units this year, down 18 percent from last year — which itself had unit sales 5 percent lower than in 2007. Polk expects a “recovery” in 2010, though not one that pushes new car registrations back above the 50 million mark. Demand isn’t expected to reach “precrisis levels” until 2012.
Car sales in the less-saturated markets of Asia, Latin American and Eastern Europe will grow more briskly and return to precrisis levels in two years, Polk predicts, while North America and Western Europe won’t get there until 2014 or 2015. “All told, the automotive industry is expected to lose about 70 million new registrations through 2015 as a result of the current crisis,” according to the report.