RIP, Little Cars — American Drivers Are Moving On

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It's back to "bigger is better" as far as American car buyers are concerned. Here's why they are snubbing smaller vehicles.

You’ve likely heard this popular expression: “Go big or go home.” It seems the majority of Americans have embraced the whole “bigger is better” attitude in everything from their physical body size to the square footage of their family home and even the size of the car they choose to drive.

Americans’ obsession with all things big, coupled with cheap gas prices and a growing fleet of crossover vehicles, has left small vehicles in the dust in the United States, the Detroit Free Press reports.

According to Money, Americans’ tendency to “go big” has contributed to a growing list of small vehicle casualties.

Fiat Chrysler is canceling the small Dodge Dart and midsize Chrysler 200, Ford is pausing the Focus, and Toyota is killing off the small, fuel-efficient Scion brand entirely (selling the remaining stock as mainstream Toyotas). Other models have moved production from Michigan to Mexico, to cut costs in the tough market.

“There has been a permanent shift toward utility vehicles and pickup trucks,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said last month. “And we have seen, certainly in terms of our ability to meet market demand, some severe restriction in terms of the dexterity of our manufacturing system to accomplish that end.”

According to Money, Toyota’s Prius sales have plummeted. Electric car and hybrid vehicle models are also taking a beating. Cadillac recently announced it’s scrapping any future plans for its pricey plug-in ELR.

“Subsequent generations of the car will not be developed,” Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell wrote in an email to Autoblog. “It’s available currently as a 2016 model, and there’s no change to that status.”

It’s quite the change from the mid-2000s, when gas prices spiked and Americans largely turned their backs on their gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks.

“With fuel costs no longer nudging consumers towards small cars — their ‘practicality quotient’ only works when the savings is palpable — consumers are flocking to crossover vehicles, small SUVs, and pickup trucks,” Money explained.

This shift to big-vehicle purchases is a boon to the car industry, although it will hardly be the last time that Americans’ taste in vehicles changes, Money said.

My guess is that the next time gas prices climb towards $4 per gallon, Americans won’t be quite as excited to get behind the wheel of a big vehicle.

What do you think of Americans’ love for big vehicles and the fall of some smaller car models? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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