NewsTalk

Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

Return of the gas-guzzler?

April 29, 2009
Americans are gravitating toward the kinds of vehicles theyâ??ll be buying for the next several years, says one of the nationâ??s leading automotive forecasters.

John Wolkonowicz, senior auto analyst at IHS Global Insight, says the dominant vehicle of the future will be the crossover, which looks like a sport-utility vehicle but is built on a car platform. Think Ford Escape, Toyota Highlander and Chevy Traverse.

Big SUVs and full-size pickup trucks wonâ??t make a comeback despite low gas prices, Wolkonowicz says. Thatâ??s because memories of $4-a-gallon gas last year are still too fresh and painful.

However, he adds, now that gas is closer to $2, Americansâ?? brief flirtation last year with small cars wonâ??t last. Americans have never liked small cars, and they still donâ??t.

Crossovers offer a car-like ride, reasonably good fuel economy (by todayâ??s standards) along with plenty of interior room and enough size to make people feel safe.

Improving technology will enable carmakers to meet the new, 35-mpg fleet average by 2020, predicts Wolkonowicz, who drives a full-size American car for safety reasons.

However, if the new administration follows through on some of Obamaâ??s statements, the fleet likely will need to hit 50 mpg by about 2025. That would force the nation to smaller cars â?? think Europe. Until then, he thinks Americans will buy the biggest cars they feel they can afford.

â??Weâ??ll stick with what we like as long as we can. Itâ??s what people want.â??

Is his crossover forecast on the mark? And how do you feel about big vehicles and fuel economy standards? Are the standards high enough?
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