Soaring Gas Prices Drive Vehicle Sales

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- With gas prices at record highs, car buyers are asking one question these days: How much mileage does it get?

Soaring prices at the pump have a direct impact on what kind of vehicles are selling.

As gas closes in on four dollars a gallon, hybrids and fuel efficient compact cars are flying off the lots, while gas guzzling SUVs are gathering dust. Car salesmen we talked with say fuel economy has surpassed safety as the number one customer concern.

"In my 26 years here, I have not seen as much activity on fuel mileage and concern," said Allen Toyota Sales Manager Mike Hall.

Hall says rising gas prices cause most customers to check these numbers closely: EPA fuel economy estimates. Miles per gallon figures are driving sales.

"Our Yaris with Toyota, 35. Our Prius, 42 to 48. Anything that sort of exceeds 35 is a very active car now," says Hall.

A single used Toyota Prius is the only one on the lot. Hall says they can't keep the popular hybrids in stock; everything is pre-sold. And the Prius popularity has caused car makers to take notice.

"More hybrids. Like a Hybrid Camry. A Hybrid Highlander. The Hybrid Prius. So, hybrid is the way we're trending now," Hall explains.

Johnny Walton is convinced. The Gulfport resident is about to trade his gas guzzler for a fuel efficient hybrid.

"The car I'd like to trade on is an SUV. It gets real poor gas mileage, and it also takes premium fuel. So, it's financially a much better buy," says Walton, "And I like the hybrid since it's got the gas or electricity. So, I think it's going to benefit me in the end."

Soaring gas prices are causing some car owners to consider the fuel economy of two wheels instead. Higher prices at the pump mean more motorcycle and scooter customers.

"They average 45 to 75 miles per gallon," said the owner of Suzuki City.

With such impressive fuel economy, it's no surprise a growing number of people are considering cycles.

Mike Nasakaitis owns the Suzuki City dealership on Beauvoir Road in Biloxi.

"Tremendous impact. A lot of folks are looking for fuel efficient vehicles now. Motorcycles. Scooters. We've been inundated the last two weeks or so on that," he said.