Running on Fumes: Drivers Ditch Small Cars

The coronavirus pandemic has made 2020 a bumpy ride for auto sales, but one segment of the industry has seen the bottom fall out. Sales of subcompact cars fell 50% in the first half of this year compared to last, prompting automakers to discontinue several models. The Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris are among the subcompact models ceasing production this year. And that follows standard compact lines like the Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze, which said goodbye to the assembly line in recent years.

The pandemic didn't kill small cars, but it accelerated a trend that's been underway for years toward larger vehicles like pickups, SUVs and crossovers. "Automakers now are really tightening their belts and looking at what vehicles are making them money, and which ones are not doing so well in terms of sales," says Michelle Krebs, analyst at Autotrader. "And they're starting to prune their lines...and it's most notable in the small car segment because they don't make much money for the automakers."

Krebs tells KTRH there are several reasons for consumers flocking to SUVs and larger vehicles in recent years. "Fuel economy in sport utility vehicles has just soared in the last ten years, so they really get very good fuel economy now," she says. "(SUVs) sit up higher, they have a lot of cargo area and they're versatile for cargo-people combinations, and people like the easy entry and exit."

Plus, with hybrid and electric-powered SUVs and crossovers now available for the 'green' consumer, there are even fewer reasons for people to buy small cars. "I don't think cars are going to make any big comeback," says Krebs. "There will still be some cars available, but I do think we are moving toward more versatile, practical kinds of vehicles."

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