Itís easy to see that people buying new vehicles the past couple months are moving heavily to smaller cars. But overall May-June sales fell 14.3 percent. What we canít see in the numbers are the people who didnít buy. Weíre only seeing part of the full market.
Yeah, itís a crappy market. Public confidence is the lowest in a decade. Most Americans think the economy will get worse. And many worry about job security.
But all this suggests folks are waiting for the dust to settle and fuel prices to stabilize before they buy. The most likely to wait are those who want a bigger vehicle. Contractors who need a heavy duty work truck. Large families. People who think small cars arenít safe enough. Even folks who like sitting up high enough to see the road ahead.
These absent buyers are a classic case of pent-up demand.
As soon as the future is a little less hazy, these buyers will reemerge. They may buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, but they wonít trade down from Super Duty pickups to subcompacts that donít fit their needs.
Todayís stampede canít continue at the same pace indefinitely. At some point, this sudden swerve toward fuel-efficiency will return a bit closer to the old course. The question, of course, is what the long-term vehicle mix will look like.