Let's give the vehicle-buying public what it wants

(August 14, 2010) The auto-buying public seems to be at odds with the government and others who are pushing people to purchase ultra-fuel-efficient vehicles.

Despite the huge volume of print and internet coverage of the emerging electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, and a non-stop campaign to convince society that cutting the use of foreign oil while at the same time stemming emissions of bad things from the tailpipe is patriotic, big vehicles are leaving dealer lots in increasing numbers.

The bottom line — people are going to purchase what they want to drive based on their needs and desires, and pocketbook.

Look no further than the 2010 seven-month sales statistics for some interesting facts.

So let's examine some sales trends.

There's no better place to go than Ford and Chevrolet, by far the largest purveyors of body-on-frame big vehicles.

The figures are somewhat staggering.

Chevrolet first. Sales of the full-sized Sliverdao pickup are up 13.4 percent to 201,446 in the first seven months of 2010; sales of the huge Suburban SUV are up nearly 44 percent to 24,865; sales of full-sized Tahoe SUV are up nearly 20 percent to 43,602; and sales of the large Express van are up 8 percent to 33,783.

Ford looks the same. Sales of the F-series big pickup at up 34.6 percent to 290,794; sales of the big Expedition SUV are up 26.6 percent to 20,985; sales of the 2010 Explorer are up 33 percent to 36,627; and sales of the E-series large van are up nearly 20 percent.

Granted, current sales figures are still far off the numbers of several years ago before the big automobile market collapse.

But the fact that sales of these big vehicles — whether used for families or business — are trending higher is noteworthy.

They are selling, for the most part, on a par with the best-selling cars at both Ford and Chevy. Ford's hottest nameplate, the Fusion, is up 25 percent. Chevrolet's top-selling car, the Malibu, is up 41 percent.

Sales of some of the smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles — the darlings of those striving to dictate our vehicle decisions — have lagged. Prime example is the Toyota Prius hybrid. Sales of the Prius are up for the first seven months of the year, but by just 5 percent to 81,000. The fuel-efficient Scion lineup of cars is DOWN 32 percent.

At the same time at Toyota, the new 4Runner, which remains truck-based, is up 124 percent. Even the gas-guzzling full-sized Tundra pickup, which has hit hard times in recent years, is up more than 28 percent.

We see the same trend at Nissan.

The full-sized Titan truck, unchanged since it was introduced in the early 2000s, has seen a 29 percent increase. Likewise, the outgoing Nissan Armada, which is ending production, is up a startling 129 percent to 10,804.

Full disclosure — the fuel-efficient lineup of cars is also impressively up at Nissan.

What these statistics show is that if the public is given a choice they are going to choose what they need and what fits their lifestyle best. And big vehicles are still as much in demand as small vehicles — including hybrids.

Let's continue to give the public what it wants not what the government thinks it needs.

— Jim Meachen