Year-to-year new car sales in March up 13% despite $4 gasoline price

Article by Christian A., on April 9, 2012

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.

By utilizing the newest C-segment platform from Ford Motor Company, the newest version of the Focus becomes the brand’s hero model. This latest platform is expected to support around ten models worldwide. In addition, it is expected that by 2012, this platform will also account for an estimated two million units per year. Accordingly, the brand also revealed that the next-generation line-up will also have a Focus model. For those who were curious about the appearance of the new Focus, which will be unveiled in 2012, Ford gave a preview in Paris.

Dubbed as the Focus ST model, it will be fitted with the Ford EcoBoost powerplant and at 250 PS, it is expected to offer a driving enjoyment that is able to complement its excellent appearance. Similarly in Paris, the brand also confirmed that while the next-generation Focus will have three models, there will be no expansions that would include Coupé-Cabriolet units or even three-door ones. According to Vice-President of Product Development at Ford Derrick Kuzak, the reveal in Paris of the three-core bodystyles of the Focus is an important milestone in the C-car strategy of the brand.

A few months later, production of the Focus is slated to be not only at the facility in Michigan but also at the one in Saarlouis, he added. With this, he continued, Ford will be able to meet its goal of offering customers ten new offshoots coming from one global platform. Vice-President Kuzak said further that with the decision to have a five-door hatchback show a smooth design similar to a coupe, this resulted in the range having little room for a three-door model. Under the three-model Focus lineup, he continued, there is a good mix when it comes to everyday practicality with a dynamic and sporty appearance.

Kuzak added that customers who want a model with a similar dynamic look but still offer additional space should consider the C-MAX.

Indeed, the C-MAX is a model that customers will clearly find to easily meet their needs, Kuzak concluded. The new Ford Focus was developed in Europe and will be sold in at least 120 markets around the work with commonality in parts of around 80%.

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