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Fuel price worries don’t stop SUV popularity

Published March 1, 2013
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More than half of all respondents to an online survey at tomorrowsgaspricetoday.com cited that fuel economy is their biggest concern when buying a new car.

Reliability/warranty came in second at just under 29 per cent; style/colour and domestic vs. import both weighed in at about 6 per cent, and insurance cost and cheapest deal both fared about 3 per cent. Safety ratings were last on the list, at just 2.6 per cent. (Survey is ongoing, so online results may change daily.)

Keep in mind this is an unscientific survey. Results may be skewed, since it’s obviously people concerned about gas prices who visit this website the most.

More: Does anyone care about pick-up truck fuel economy?

More: For once, gas price shopping in Toronto actually pays off

But if gas prices are a top concern among Ontario motorists, you wouldn’t know it from the number of large vehicles on our highways.

Rather than actually buying fuel-efficient compacts or subcompacts, everyone seems to justify why they need a bigger car: such as kids, cottage trips, etc.

My question for these rationalizers is: Why do you have two large vehicles instead of one small car for daily commuting and one larger vehicle for family trips?

In my Richmond Hill neighbourhood, oversized luxury SUVs with a single occupant and no visible cargo are commonplace. Do drivers truly need these gas-guzzlers, or do they choose them as an in-your-face status symbol?

Survey responses don’t always reflect a person’s true opinion, as evidenced by their actions. So how do actual sales numbers pan out?

With GTA gas prices now surpassing $1.30 per litre, interest in fuel-efficient cars has soared — but so have large SUV sales.

Ford Canada reports January sales of the Fusion jumped by 84 per cent and the Fusion Hybrid by 427 per cent (although the base number was small). However, sales of the huge Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator were also up 11 and 33 per cent, respectively, and truck sales overall were up from the previous year.

When gas prices soar, there’s often a spike in compact-car sales. But there’s no escaping the fact that North Americans love their large vehicles.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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