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Online Searches for Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Decrease with Price of Gas

9 October 2006

Carscomsearch
Top ten increases and decreases in new-car searches on cars.com. Click to enlarge.

US consumer searches for fuel-efficient vehicles have started to decline. According to the most recent Cars.com Consumer Search Index report, cars such as the Toyota Prius, Toyota Yaris and Honda Insight top the list of new and used vehicles with the largest decline in search volume over the past month.

While searches for fuel-efficient vehicles have declined, searches for large luxury SUVs have increased significantly. The Hummer H2 and H3, Infiniti QX56, Cadillac Escalade and BMW X5 all made the list of used cars with the largest increase in searches over the past month.

The recent drop in gasoline prices once again shows that consumers have a short memory when it comes to the effect that gas prices have on their shopping behavior. It has been less than a month since gas prices dropped below $3 a gallon, and we have seen a surge of consumers looking for SUVs on Cars.com.

—Patrick Olsen, Cars.com managing editor
Top 10 Increases in Searches, Aug-Sep
New car Used car
Model% change Model% change
Hyundai Santa Fe 17.28% Porsche Cayenne 15.13%
Chevrolet Avalanche 16.68% HUMMER H2 14.17%
Jeep Wrangler 12.88% Lexus LX 470 13.64%
Cadillac CTS 11.94% HUMMER H3 13.03%
Audi A3 9.52% Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class 12.73%
Honda CR-V 8.17% Infiniti QX56 9.06%
Acura MDX 7.48% Ford Bronco 8.42%
Chrysler 300 7.13% Mercedes-Benz CL-Class 8.35%
BMW 325 2.94% Cadillac Escalade 7.40%
Chevrolet Tahoe 0.14% BMW X5 7.29%
Top 10 Decreases in Searches, Aug-Sep
New car Used car
Model% change Model% change
Toyota Yaris -37.85% Honda Insight -30.65%
Toyota Prius -33.85% Toyota Prius -29.98%
Volkswagen Jetta -32.14% Toyota Yaris -27.91%
Hyundai Sonata -26.02% Chevrolet Prizm -27.23%
Toyota Corolla -25.64% Ford Contour -26.46%
Toyota Camry -23.07% Geo Metro -25.01%
Chevrolet Cobalt -21.62% Volkswagen Jetta -24.08%
Honda Civic -21.29% Volkswagen Beetle -22.91%
Honda Accord -18.78% Toyota Tercel -22.80%
Honda Pilot -18.64% Ford Focus -22.42%

The Cars.com Consumer Search Index offers a look at the internet search behavior of Cars.com visitors. The statistical information is compiled by tracking the more than 8.3 million unique visitors that log on to Cars.com each month and the vehicles that are most popular. The lists are based off a minimum of 10,000 searches for new cars and 15,000 searches for used cars.

October 9, 2006 in Fuel Efficiency, Sales | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Dog bites man.

Big dog bites small man.

No surprises there. Gas prices are down and consumers prefer powerful, comfortable cars to thrifty, small ones. Dealer lots are full and bargains available. The housing bubble is bursting but clearly, credit is still cheap. Few are high-minded enough to make sacrifices for the sake of the environment unless their neighbors have to as well (aka the free rider syndrome). Also, the hip'n'cool factor of owning a fuel-efficient vehicle wore off as soon as gas prices started falling - now, it's back to advertising your wealth/willingness to go even deeper into debt.

The problem with all this is that the long-term trend in the price of oil is still firmly upwards. For the sake of your household budget, please think twice about buying a gas guzzler this fall. Also, vote for higher fuel taxes and lower income taxes if you get the chance.

It's not clear if the study was limited to online searches by US consumers. The trend might be less pronounced in Europe and Japan, where prices at the pump are high and don't fluctuate as wildly.

Demonstrating that Americans have an attention span of about one month for major life-changing events.

I agree, it's a shame that we've quickly forgotten the pain of $3.00 +/gallon pricing. Maybe it's apparent that we need taxing to get us to conserve more. Like Europe, paying exorbitant prices for gas, forces them to budget for smaller economical cars. But then again, where are the electric cars???????I would rather buy one of those than another gasoline driven vehicle. Then I don't have to worry any longer of the price of gasoline.

Perhaps a percentage tax instead of a fixed one. As prices rise, so does the absolute tax. I have been interested in an oil import fee for quite a while as well. It does not make much sense to me to have tariffs on other things but not on imported oil.

Suckered by the pathetic political pols lowering prices until after elections - is this rocket science? OPEC got so bent by the flurry of fuel efficient activity they quit pumping a million gals a day to keep the price floating.

Unfortunately, the attention span is typified by the length of TV commercials. Two dollar gas means I look for the Hummer, three dollar gas requires a sacrifice - the Porsche... woof.

I'd bet that if the same poll were taken up here in Canada, it would show we are pretty much the same. Memories don't get any longer when you cross the border, sadly.

I'm hoping because of this short memory that I can snag a cheap insight in the next year!

I'm sure Canada would be the same, based on living in the most Canadian state (Michigan) and visiting Canada all the time (not just Ontario either).

It seems like a gradually increasing fuel tax - at least on fossil fuels - would be in order.

The problem with all this is that the long-term trend in the price of oil is still firmly upwards.

No it's not. It's clearly downward, given that very large sources of alternate fuels can be produced at costs well below the current market price of the equivalent amount of conventional petroleum. The current high prices are not sustainable in the long term (at least until the coal, oil shale, etc. are exhausted.)

No it's not. It's clearly downward, given that very large sources of alternate fuels can be produced at costs well below the current market price of the equivalent amount of conventional petroleum.

Strange how that's had no effect over all these past 5 years.

Strange how that's had no effect over all these past 5 years.

Don't confuse the short term and the long term. Prices adjust on a fast schedule, but supply takes longer to adjust. OPEC's concern, I am sure, is that the lag in supply adjustment will make too much new supply come online, crashing the price.

Surprising to see Ford Bronco on that list as it has been out of production since 1996.I dont see Chevy Blazer on the list nor Dodge Ramcharger,Jeep Cherokee,GMC Jimmy...etc.Goes to prove that Bronco always was one of the most popular of SUVs,today it still is...Ford's decision to discontinue it hasnt stopped that.

Don't confuse the short term and the long term.

OK, so when is the substitution going to occur with the alternatives to petroleum, since they're "produced at costs well below the current market price of the equivalent amount of conventional petroleum"?

I'd like to see the highway fuel milage beside each of those names instead of just the percentage change. I mean is this a drastic shift or are people just looking at something that gets just a few less mpg?

OK, so when is the substitution going to occur with the alternatives to petroleum, since they're "produced at costs well below the current market price of the equivalent amount of conventional petroleum"?

When the companies involved are convinced the price will remain high enough in the future to recoup the investment. Right now, the smart money is on prices coming down, probably not because of these alternatives (although I find it instructive that the majors will not invest in an oil field where the cost of the oil produced would exceed $40/bbl, about where the CTL breakpoint is), but more because of bulging stockpiles, increased production of conventional petroleum and moderation of demand growth (as delayed demand elasticity starts to kick in).

Right now, the smart money is on prices coming down, probably not because of these alternatives

It's still not making sense if there's inevitable upward pressure on petroleum prices themselves in the absence of substitutes and the returns on the substitutes are as high as you claim they are at the petroleum price points you mentioned.

I'd just like to see some actual financials demonstrating this from some company or research group.

pizmo: I gave a reference to the CTL financials in a previous thread (the Nissan one). Did you look at the pdf?

It's still not making sense if there's inevitable upward pressure on petroleum prices themselves in the absence of substitutes

The alternatives I mentioned are an existence proof for a price ceiling. In other words, a sufficient condition for rejection of the proposition that oil prices will continue to climb. I am not claiming the specific alternatives I've listed are a necessary condition; oil prices may fail to rise for other reasons (such as, availability of sufficient additional supplies of conventional oil, or reduction in demand as energy-consuming capital goods are replaced over time with varieties that use less oil.) That's what happened after oil spike of the 1970s, after all, despite predictions oil prices would relentlessly increase.

It could very well be that in the medium term synfuels will not be able to compete with these even cheaper options. This doesn't mean CTL wouldn't be able to limit prices, only that there were even lower limits that dominate it.

pizmo: I gave a reference to the CTL financials in a previous thread (the Nissan one). Did you look at the pdf?

Sorry, I don't recall seeing that link.

The alternatives I mentioned are an existence proof for a price ceiling. In other words, a sufficient condition for rejection of the proposition that oil prices will continue to climb.

No, they'd be an existent proof if such ventures were actually operational and providing downward pressure on petroleum prices. As for now, it's speculative.

Just to clarify, I understand the basic economics at work, but I'm not convinced about the numbers specific to petroleum substitutes like CTL. More detailed financials (especially something like a prospectus for an IPO) tends to explain things in more detail (though still often speculative) including all the risk factors and/or uncertainties.

It juss seems like yesterday when i was 2 years old that i.... Nooooo... the title of the post doesnt have any relation to that kinda story... it's more like i lost my damn watch!! Arghh.. nah.. kiddin.. not that either... I'm juss thinkin' how much i've done today... and by the looks of it, it aint much... Woke up around 10ish... (or was it 10: 30).... thass one good thing about a day where u dont have work or uni.. u sleep till u please... well not really but a bit more than usual.. so yes, woke up... got...

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