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Small Cars Becoming A Cornerstone Of US Auto Manufacturing

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On: Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 5:18PM | By: Chris Weiss


Small Cars Becoming A Cornerstone Of US Auto Manufacturing

Once a rather unsexy part of the US auto market, hidden in the deep, dank corners of the bargain basement, compact and subcompact cars are enjoying a renaissance in the United States thanks to the unwavering high gas prices. With no end in sight to costly gas, these cars are becoming a more important product for domestic automakers.

According to a recent report in the Detroit News, US automakers, which once dismissed smaller, more efficient cars in favor of bigger, expensive models like SUVs, are now banking on those cars more and more. Sales of cars like the Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze are on the rise. Cars from the Detroit Big 3 made up more than a quarter of the US compact and subcompact market last year, leaping from 20 percent in 2010, according to cited statistics from LMC Automotive.

You don't have to look far to see the transformation. Watch TV for more than half an hour, and you're likely to see one of the Big 3 advertising a small car. Cars like the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus and Chevy Sonic have risen to stardom. Automakers are packing more thought, style and technology into segments formerly reserved for cheap, barebones transportation.

And it's paying off. David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut, said recently: "Subcompact cars were once collectively known as 'penalty boxes' for their noisiness, rudimentary interiors, uncomfortable rides, and weak performance. But now improved redesigns, combined with an affordable prices and impressive fuel economy, make a number of subcompact models good all-around choices for people looking to stretch their budget."

In that test Consumer Reports ranked the Chevy Sonic LT sedan one of its higher rated picks.

The lack of focus on small and efficient vehicles is one of the oft-cited reasons for the 2009 collapse of the American auto industry. Automakers were slow to adjust to changing consumer demands, and were still obsessed with SUVs while gas prices were reaching record levels.

It looks like automakers have learned their lesson and now consider small cars an increasingly important product. With gas prices expected to reach an all-time high by summer, the small-car trend should continue to gain strength. Small cars are expected to make up 19 percent of US auto sales this year, up from 13 percent in 2005.




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