Dealers: Give us crossovers, fewer big SUVs

Dealers say they don't want more big SUVs, such as the GMC Yukon, shown.
LOS ANGELES — Crossovers, cars with four-cylinder engines and hybrids are topping dealer orders for the next model year. Dealers say they don't want big SUVs.

Mark Parkinson, a Buick, Pontiac, GMC and Hummer dealer in suburban Los Angeles, says he must factor in rapidly rising gasoline prices, and consumer response to them, as he develops his order strategy.

"I'm kind of shooting from the hip," Parkinson told Automotive News.

Parkinson said he continues to order GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave crossovers. "I can't keep Enclaves in stock," he said.

He also is stocking up on Pontiac G5 small cars and G6 and Vibe mid-sized cars with four-cylinder engines. He's shunning GMC Yukon full-sized SUVs.

Even though gasoline prices nationwide exceed $4 a gallon, some Ford and Dodge dealers say they have high hopes for the brands' redesigned full-sized pickups, the 2009 Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram.

Shopping list
Among the vehicles dealers say they are — and aren’t — ordering for the 2009 model year
More
-- Dodge Caliber, Journey, Ram
-- Ford F-150, Focus, Edge, Fusion
-- Toyota Prius, Corolla
-- VW New Beetle convertible, Jetta diesel
Fewer
-- Chrysler Aspen, Dodge Durango
-- GMC Yukon, Yukon Denali

'They want trucks'

"The farmers are doing quite well," says Pat Walsh, a Ford dealer in rural Atwater, Minn. "They want trucks."

Walsh predicts the redesigned F-150 will prompt customers who otherwise wouldn't buy a new truck to "take some action."

Dave Kelleher, a Dodge dealer in suburban Philadelphia, says he is taking the "full allocation" of the 2009 Ram, which is scheduled to reach showrooms in mid-September. He says his pickup sales are off about 30 percent from last year, "but not enough to scare you."

Kelleher says he also is ordering Dodge Caliber small cars and Journey crossovers.

At his Chrysler-Jeep-Suzuki dealership in Philadelphia, he says, he continues to order the Jeep Patriot crossover.

Dealers say they are ordering more vehicles with fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. In May, such vehicles accounted for nearly half of U.S. retail sales of new cars and trucks.

Mark Harding, general manager of Santa Monica Toyota in suburban Los Angeles, says he wants every Corolla small car the factory will send him. He has a desk drawer full of orders for the 2009 Prius, he adds, but thinks he will be unable to get enough of the hybrids to meet demand.

"People will start looking at four-cylinders since they can't get hybrids," Harding says.

Factory help

Dealers told Automotive News that automakers aren't forcing big trucks on them. Dave Perricone, general sales manager of King O'Rourke Auto Group in suburban New York, says GM is asking him to take some slow-selling full-sized trucks as a favor. King O'Rourke sells Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac and GMC vehicles.

At the same time, Perricone says, GM is covering a larger share of dealers' inventory financing costs on many models. "GM listened to what the dealers wanted," he says.

Volkswagen Group of America Inc. is offering 0 percent retail financing on most 2008 VW brand models for 36 months, says Jeff Brooks, general sales manager of Noyes Volkswagen in Keene, N.H. VW is offering 0 percent retail financing for 60 days on the 2008 GTI two-door hatchback and New Beetle convertible, he adds.

Brooks says he plans to order more New Beetle convertibles. But most of his factory orders will be for Jetta cars, including the diesel version scheduled to reach showrooms in August.

Says Brooks: "We have nine presold diesels."

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