Alan Helfman sees it differently on the showroom floor of River Oaks Chrysler-Jeep in Houston.
"It is starting to play big time with people," says Helfman, the dealership's general manager. "We are scrambling for Liberties. And we raised our allocation for June on PT Cruisers and minivans because of gas prices."
For example, Helfman says he sold 16 four-cylinder PT Cruisers in May, up from a typical eight per month.
George Pipas, Ford Motor Co.'s sales analyst, sees few if any signs that rising gasoline prices are changing shoppers' behavior.
For example, Ford F-150 pickup buyers are not buying fewer gasoline-thirsty 4x4 models or fewer 5.4-liter V-8s, the larger of two engines available, he says. Rising household income and a strengthening economy are working against the need to economize on rising fuel bills, he says.
In May, sales of the Ford Expedition fell 22.9 percent and Lincoln Navigator sales dropped 27.5 percent from May 2003. Pipas blames exceptionally strong sales a year ago, not gasoline prices, for the decline.
But shopping behavior is changing, says Edmunds.com, an automotive consumer Web site. Research by consumers on small SUVs is increasing on its site, while large SUV research is waning, Edmunds says.
And 26 percent of shoppers said they are strongly considering vehicles they previously had not considered because of gasoline prices, according to a study by Harris Interactive and Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research. The data is based on shoppers who intend to buy a vehicle within 12 months.