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Fuel Economy First When Buying New Cars

Dealerships say smaller engines save on gas but new technology allows for same pep.

Years of high prices at the pump has changed the way consumers shop for cars and the way manufacturers make them resulting in smaller engines that use technology to give the drivers the performance they're used to, say local dealerships .

According to Gasbuddy.com the average price of a gallon of gas five years ago was around $3.30 per gallon. Today, prices are hovering about 30 cents higher. Except for a six-month period between November 2008 and April 2009, the price of gas has not been below $2 per gallon on average and for the past two years or so has been stubbornly stuck above $3 per gallon.

This, along with increasing concern about the environment and the ongoing trouble in the Middle East has changed the way consumers shop for their new cars. Dealers say they have responded with new models to address their customer’s concerns.

“The last several years have brought monumental changes to the automotive industry,” said co-owner Michael Brown of the 21-store Atlantic Auto Group based in West Islip. “Consumer concerns triggered by the economy, the environment, and concerns about safety have been addressed by manufacturers and our products have become much more varied and much more relevant.”

In a survey published in May 2012, Consumer Reports found that by far the number one factor influencing customers when purchasing a new vehicle is fuel economy.

The report said that 37 percent of respondents named gas mileage as their top concern. The next features were much further down the list with only 17 percent of people saying they considered quality and 16 percent citing safety influencing purchasing decisions.

Clearly, people are worried about the hit at the gas pump on their bottom lines.

Lenny Cafarelli, General Manager of Atlantic’s Huntington Toyota store, says that his customers are down-sizing and are choosing smaller, more economical cars. He indicates that mid-compact cars are in great demand and that the four-cylinder engines are as popular now as the six-cylinder engines were in prior years. Rav-4, Camry, and Prius are models that his customers are craving.

Craig Fina is the General Manager of the Atlantic Nissan Super Store. His perspective varies somewhat from Caferelli’s.

“Economical cars are the vehicles driving the marketplace,” said Fina from his office in West Islip. “But I don’t necessarily see the cars or the engines getting smaller. I believe that the cars are just engineered better for more horse power and better gas mileage.”

Fina’s top sellers are the 2013 Altima followed by the 2013 Sentra. He indicates that Nissan has redesigned these models to maintain their popularity, not just to stand on their past successes. 

“Absolutely,” said Wayne Rampone Jr., Vice President of Ramp Ford in Port Jefferson Station when asked if he thought new cars were getting smaller.

The cars that are driving the marketplace right now are in what Ford calls the super segment. Small cars and small SUVs like the Focus, Fusion, Escape and the Edge.

Ford Fusion and Ford Escape only come with a 4-cylinder engine. The company no longer offers a 6-cylinder engine in those models, though Rampone Jr. said that the eco-boost technology engines offer the same "pep and pick-up as 6-cylinders and very good gas mileage."

That segment of the market, he says, is growing most rapidly. Gone are the days when his dealership moved gas-guzzling big trucks out the door.

“That business has slowed down quite a bit,” he said. “We used to have a lot of truck sales. Pickup and truck sales have slowed.”

Though people aren’t going for the hybrid vehicles. What they want are smaller standard cars with better fuel economy.

"Most go for 4-cylinder gas engines with great gas mileage," said Rampone Jr.

Me April 14, 2013 at 12:39 PM
The administrations response to the gas high prices have been pathetiic. The reason for the high prices is our government . No one else to blame.
edward April 14, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Another way to get taxes, currently 50 cents per gallon! They make more than the horrible evil oil companies. Only in America and of course the Great Empire State! Get those pensions!
Precious Box April 14, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Social engineering once again,,,Government makes more money either way,,,their pockets getting filled by both industries,,,We have less choice by having to buy the cars that they decide we should drive,,,Those cars are less safe,,,We get screwed,,,again and again,,,that's about right.
Rachel April 15, 2013 at 01:15 PM
If you think the government is entirely to blame you are deluded. Look at that picture, that is PURE GREED by the individuals who own the gas stations. There is no reason whatsoever for gas to cost $5 because you are using a credit card. The people own multiple gas stations in the same geographic region and then hike the prices to line their own pockets. While the government should be reducing taxes on gasoline and are not, you can blame these absurd prices on the greed of the gas station entrepreneurs.
edward April 15, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Those evil gas stations earn on average 5 cents a gallon, lot less than the govt. and govt. doesn't pump it or pay the person to pump it. Plus TOH doesn't allow us to pump our own gas, more cost. Evil gas companies!

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