Even with the $4 gasoline, there were 1.4 million light automobiles bought last month, an increase of 13% from March 2011. It is also the highest volume for any month since August 2007. It may seem counterintuitive, but the expensive gasoline did not only help boost new-vehicle sales in the first three months, but also was a key factor in the increase. However, unlike four years ago when fuel prices surged, people are not shifting from big trucks to small vehicles; they are purchasing in the same segments and snapping up those modern models with better fuel economy.
Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales chief Ken Czubay, commented that fuel economy was "the name of the game" last month and the first quarter. He further stated that they have been informed by dealers all over the nation that higher prices of fuel played a bigger role in the selection of customers. He cited the improving economy but also stated that the availability of fuel-efficient automobiles has done the most to increase sales this year.
The increase in March was not a wholesale rush to small fuel-sippers like it was back in 2008. Sales of trucks increased at around the same rate as car sales. Last month, car sales were up 14% while truck sales increased 11%. In May 2008, when fuel prices skyrocketed, sales of cars were up 2% while truck sales dropped 25%. The bestsellers in March were models that offer much-improved fuel economy and utility like the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Prius, and Ford F series and Focus.