April was a terrible month for the overall sales of new cars and light trucks, but one segment of the market feasted while the others fasted: Small cars.
Ever since the price of gasoline began heading for the stratosphere, those in the know have been talking of a small-car boom. Not exactly a divinely inspired idea. With gasoline leaping past $3 a gallon and pushing $4 and with much talk of $5, car buyers naturally want to wring as many miles as possible out of every gallon.
But the move to small, four-cylinder gas-sippers was slow.
In the first quarter, small-car sales rose only 1.8 percent. The tiny tots (the Kia Rio, Scion tC , Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris) were up sharply, but the small-car class as a whole had just as many losers as winners.
Then came April. A lot of incurable optimists who were expecting the price of gasoline to fall apparently woke up to reality. They bought the high-mpg model they had been looking at but hoped they would never have to drive.
Small-car sales rose 19.2 percent in April compared with April 2007. They had dropped 2.2 percent in March.