Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated the average amount by which Ford Motor Co. raised U.S. vehicle prices on April 1. It was by $117, not $170.
NEW YORK -- At the New York auto show, Mazda and Kia joined the 40-mpg club, unveiling production cars they estimate will get 40 mpg in highway driving. Hyundai showed its third 40-miler. Ford introduced a large 2013 Taurus sedan with a four-cylinder engine producing 31 mpg. Chevrolet countered with the 2013 Malibu Eco, a version of the mid-sized sedan that gets 38 mpg.
It's clear that $4-a-gallon gasoline is suddenly changing emphasis in the industry.
Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said consumers already are altering their purchases. "Segment shifts are happening in a major way," he said. "The most visible shift is from mid-sized car to compact car."
He predicted that compact cars will displace mid-sized ones to become the largest retail-sales segment this year and said there may have been a shift of 2 to 3 percentage points from one segment to the other. "That's a lot: about 300,000 to 400,000 units," Krafcik said.
The impact of high oil prices goes beyond cars' mpg. Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas, said the automaker has begun working with suppliers to cut shipping costs.
Commodity price increases could prompt Ford to take further cost-cutting action or raise prices, Fields said: "We'll have to offset what we can internally. But what we can't offset -- we then may have to take some price action."
Ford is not looking to switch component suppliers to save on freight costs -- yet. But if gasoline remains high, then as suppliers' contracts expire, Ford will consider local suppliers with lower shipping expenses for new contracts, Fields said.