"This is buyer's remorse," said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, "What they said in the study is they want a bigger car. They bought a fuel efficient car, but now they're saying, 'It does what I want, but it doesn't have what I want. It doesn't have the features, the power, the room, and next time I'll opt for a bigger car.' "In general, I think the auto companies expect that gas will be more expensive in the longer term, and with the 35.5mpg CAFE standards coming for 2016, will be pushing small cars more aggressively than ever.
In the AutoPacific study, based on more than 32,000 new car and light truck buyers in the United States, 30 percent said they wanted more power than they have in their current small car, 25 percent wanted more cargo room, 18 percent want more room in general, and 25 percent want more technology. In addition, 22 percent wanted a softer ride, and 18 percent wanted more safety.
What this research tells us is that in order to have satisfied small customers, carmakers need to offer cars that are comfortable, have good cargo space, good acceleration, and lots of gadgets. In other words, well equipped smaller cars. Which is exactly what the carmakers are working on.
Over the next few years, we will be seeing mainstream European style small cars in this country, such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Volt, Ford Fiesta and Focus, Fiat 500. These will be fun to drive, solidly built, and well equipped.
And, in a departure from what most consumers are used to, the new crop of small cars will not be cheap. We can expect to be seeing $20,000 price stickers for our "econoboxes" in the future.