Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Small Cars; Get Big Push

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Small Cars; Get Big Push

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Karoub Associated Press

Among the many shiny models vying for attention at Detroit's North American International Auto Show are the revamped Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Veloster and Kia Forte.

But cars - particularly small ones - are having a tough time getting buyers to look their way as SUVs grow in popularity.

Car sales are expected to hit a record low this year after steadily declining for several years. SUVs surpassed cars for the first time in 2016, and the gap only widens: Auto shopping site Edmunds.com forecasts the utilities will make up 43.5 percent of new vehicle sales this year, while cars will fall to 34.5 percent. (Edmunds regularly provides content, including automotive tips and reviews, for distribution by The Associated Press.)

The reasons are plenty, including relatively low gas prices, growing millennial families and small, attractive SUV models that are becoming more fuel efficient and affordable.

The small car slump and utility boom has spurred industry changes: Ford is converting a Michigan plant that currently makes the Focus for Bronco SUV production. The automaker plans to move Focus production to China.

So why the big push to make - and market - cars as the demand dwindles? There are economies of scale, since many cars are sold globally, including in overseas markets where small cars are more popular. Then there's the "gateway" effect, according to Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst for the car buying site Autotrader.com.

"A small car is likely the first new vehicle a young person buys," she said in an email. "So it is particularly important to make a good impression so that person sticks with a brand and moves up the size and price ladder."

Despite the sales drops, the U.S. small car category is still "huge," Krebs said, representing 2. …

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