The news is full of reports this week about a decline in auto sales, and about a shift in purchasing behavior. The almighty SUV is no longer the vehicle-of-choice. As a matter of fact, you can hardly give the beasts away. According to Bloomberg, U.S. vehicle sales may plunge to their lowest in more than 15 years this month as soaring gasoline prices leave dealers with too many big trucks and a shortage of fuel-efficient small cars, analysts said.
Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache stated, "Dealers report they are now suffering from a mismatch between what consumers want to buy (small cars), and what they have in inventory,'' (pickups and sport-utility vehicles).
While Popular Mechanics may not be viewed as a business publication, or as a leading indicator, the magazine noted long ago that when it comes to the American road, bigger isn't always better. Popular Mechanic's April 1954 cover story featured the Metropolitan—what was then the country's smallest car. Manufactured by Nash Motors (later the American Motors Corporation) and produced in Longbridge, England, the Metropolitan was designed to offer American buyers an economical transportation alternative. "It is, at least for this country where cars seem to keep getting bigger and bigger ad infinitum, a new approach to the personal transportation problem," PM wrote. Despite its small size, the Metropolitan passed a vigorous endurance test, running for 24 hours straight (stopping only to refuel and change drivers) on the Raleigh Speedway, averaging 61 mph and 41 mpg. It was perfect for short trips and driving in city traffic, PM noted, as a result of its diminutive size. PM writers never expected the two-seater Metropolitan to be "the family car of tomorrow," but compacts are quickly becoming one of the most important cars today.