Local News

Gas prices haven't put brakes on SUV sales

Posted January 7, 2011 6:17 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2011 6:28 p.m. EST

— Despite rising gas prices, area car dealers say sales of vehicles commonly considered gas-guzzler haven't stalled.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $3.03 in the Triangle, up 15 cents from a month ago.

"At this point in time, we have yet to see a significant change in the buying habits of customers related to the price of gas," said Robert Glaser, president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association.

Statewide, sales of SUVs have remained fairly consistent in recent years, even with the recession and gas prices, Glaser said. Last year, SUVs and pickups accounted for 50 percent of vehicle sales in North Carolina, down from 53 percent in 2007.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, passenger cars average 22.4 miles per gallon, while SUVs average 18 miles per gallon.

"People still have to have automobiles. Americans are going to keep driving," said David Butler, general sales manager for Capital Ford in Raleigh. "Some sport-utilities now get better gas mileage than normal passenger cars."

Meredith Foster already owned a Ford Explorer, but she bought the latest model of the SUV last month and is eager for it to arrive at the dealer.

"I like (SUVs). I like sitting up high and driving," Foster said, adding that she did her research and found the gas mileage for the Explorer to her liking.

"(The rising price of gas) doesn't really make me feel happy, but I guess there isn't anything I could do about it," she said.

Glaser said North Carolina car dealers are still recovering from the 2008 recession. Although sales were up last year, they were still down more than 30 percent from the 13-year average.