Demand growing for fuel-efficient cars

November 23, 2008 1:48:56 PM PST
The dramatic drop in gas prices has become a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economy.

In just four months the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded has plummeted from $4.56 to $1.99.

It's been a rough year for SUV and truck drivers filling up at the pump. But, the recent price drop has helped make the low miles-per-gallon seem reasonable.

Several gas stations around the Bay Area are selling a gallon of regular gasoline for less than $2 per gallon, including one Arco station in Hayward and the South San Francisco Costco.

"Paying almost $5 dollars a gallon what, three months ago? It's like a raise," motorist Philip Stathas told ABC7.

At the San Francisco International Auto Show many representatives say car sales are down dramatically. But the people that are buying are looking for fuel-efficient vehicles despite the drop in gas prices.

Several automakers are making new hybrid models to fill the demand created by high gas prices.

"In terms of what's popular with us right now, hybrids are as popular as ever. Of course with changing gas prices people are concerned with their fuel economy as always," said Laura Voss with Toyota.

But as gas prices drop to levels not seen since 2005, are people going back to their SUV's and trucks?

AAA spokesman Matt Skryja doesn't think so.

"People aren't getting back to their old habits even though gas prices are as low as they are currently. And that may be because they anticipate they will go back up," he said.

Masa Alkire is one of those people waiting for another spike in gas prices. He's shopping for his next car and is looking to buy a hybrid.

"I mean it went from $130-a-barrel to $50-a-barrel in about three months, and I mean it could go in the other direction at any time," said Alkire.

A Ford representative told ABC7 that the car company is seeing an increase in sales for its more fuel-efficient models, including a 35% increase in the Ford Focus, but a big decrease in truck and SUV sales.

So as automakers adjust to the ever-changing consumer market, drivers are adjusting to the fluctuating oil prices. And, they're happy about it, for now.

"Man, more money for me. More money in the pocket," said motorist Angel Vegas of Vallejo.

The AAA spokesman says he expects gas prices to stay the same or even drop a little more this year, with spikes over Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, he believes gas prices will start to creep back up in the New Year.


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