Hey, Ford? GM? You Might Want To Read This!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 at 03:54 AM

Attention, executives of Ford and General Motors: Did you wonder why your sales are suffering? Please check this out....

Tsk, tsk, tsk, do these folks EVER learn?

Fuel economy is about even with reliability as the top factors that people consider when buying a vehicle, according to a nationwide poll taken for Consumer Reports magazine.

The telephone survey, taken Aug. 3-7 as gasoline prices remained around $3 per gallon, showed that 27 percent of likely vehicle buyers ranked gas mileage as the top factor in an automobile purchase.

Top factor: Miles-per-gallon, as in not "How big can it be and still squeeze into the parking lot?"

On the surface, the poll results appear to indicate further trouble for the Big Three domestic auto manufacturers, which rely more on truck and sport utility vehicle sales for their profits than their foreign-based competitors. Truck and SUV sales were down for the first seven months of the year compared with the same period in 2005, while car sales were up.

Of course they do. An SUV costs a lot, and that means more profits, unlike a small vehicle. Yet, they don't get it: An SUV drinks fuel like a parked 747 with the fans running. Can we say "really inefficient"?


But Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst at Global Insight Inc., said her company's research shows consumers often say one thing when polled and then do something else when it comes time to make a purchase.

Americans, she said, are loath to give up the storage space and seating of an SUV and switch to a sedan. She said she thinks the shift to car-based crossover vehicles, which have the same seating and storage as SUVs but are more fuel efficient, will continue.

"It's kind of difficult to get out of an SUV/crossover vehicle and go back to a sedan," she said. "When push comes to shove, it's tough to give up an SUV, especially because there are crossovers now that do get better gas mileage."

Oh, really? I see less of them on the South Carolina roads these days, especially when the local prices are no lower than 2.70 a gallon.

Reality check time: It's all about money. A big vehicle takes a big powerplant, and that means higher costs of maintenance, and yes, fuel. A smaller vehicle burns far less.

It just means that the Big Three are way out of touch with the consumers once again, as they were years ago when Toyota Corollas were selling like hotcakes when gas first hit the dollar mark, making Chrysler New Yorkers become fodder for junk yards.

And with current jobs paying far less, along with higher gas prices, well, what does one expect, then? And with more terror scares involving the airlines, well, folks are more want to drive, not fly, and so?

So, Big Three, it's dirt simple: Build smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. Gee, wasn't that so simple?