Americans And Big Rigs: Can This Toxic Relationship Continue?
I don't know if there's a marriage counselor in the world who could solve the differences between the fuel-efficiency crowd and American consumers.

Fuel-efficient, small cars may be the answer to combating high gas prices and environmental woes, but the answers to what most American consumers, the people whose wallets can return U.S. automakers to profitability, are big trucks and SUVs – no matter how high gas prices rise. Don't believe me?

Running on Empty
In 2008, we saw gas prices rise to $4 per gallon, which equates to a whopping $64 to fill a 16-gallon tank. However, according to Edmunds AutoObserver, sales rates dropped over 30% among all auto brands. The biggest seller of the year was the Ford F-series trucks.

According to the company, a 2009 Ford F-150 Supercab can achieve 14 mpg in the city and 16 mpg on the highway. If you drive 10 miles each way to work, five days a week, your monthly fuel bill would be around $105 per month. The non-supercab version gets 21 mpg on the highway. (Find out what determines the price you pay at the pump in What Determines Gas Prices?)

Did American consumers ever give in, at least a little?

The Tank is Half-Full
American drivers were trading in their trucks for more fuel-efficient cars in April of 2008, when gas prices hovered around $3.50. But the economy was much better than it is today. The trend was relatively short lived as, by December, car buying was truckin' along back to heavy car machinery. Truck sales rose towards the end of the year when gas prices shrank, and rebates and dealer incentives increased. This is in spite of government tax breaks on hybrid vehicles.

Building small cars alone isn't going to cut it when it comes to profitability among car makers. If the fuel-efficiency crowd and consumers are ever going to have a lasting relationship, either gas prices will have to stay above $3 per gallon for months on end, or they'll have to unite to push for more cars like the hybrid Cadillac Escalade and hybrid Ford F-150. Then - and only then - can they drive off happily and comfortably into the sunset, or to the nearest gas station for a fill-up. (Learn some tips that will save you money in Getting A Grip On The Cost Of Gas.)

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