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Swapping SUVS for smaller cars, regular fuel
DAVID IVANOVICH and DAVID KAPLAN
Houston Chronicle


Houston-Jaime Rodriguez is borrowing his brother's Nissan Xterra for his sales runs because his own Chevy Tahoe costs too much to drive.

Milton Jordan is giving up those Sunday jaunts.

And while Ted Luna still cruises around in his Chevy Suburban, he's forking over $60 a pop to fill up the tank -- and struggling to pay for it.

"That means I've got to make more money somehow," Luna said.

With prices at the pump topping $2 a gallon, Houston motorists are scrambling to adjust. They're trading in sport utility vehicles for more fuel-efficient cars, skipping premium-grade fuel in favor of regular unleaded and cutting corners where they can.

Prices at Houston-area gas stations hit a new high of $1.87 a gallon Tuesday for regular unleaded, while premium pushed up to $2.04 a gallon. Nationwide, regular unleaded broke through the $2 threshold.

While today's prices are shattering records, they remain a far cry from the real cost of filling up back in 1981. Adjusted for inflation, gas prices back then were averaging the equivalent of $2.99 a gallon, noted Dave Costello, an analyst with the Energy Information Administration.

But that doesn't make today's pain any less real -- executives at retail giant Wal-Mart say consumers' buying power has dropped by $7 a week because of the higher fuel prices.

And some motorists are downsizing their vehicles to save money.

"We've experienced a lot of people trading in SUVs for passenger cars or cars with better mileage," said Nate Murphy, general sales manager for Munday Chevrolet.

Nationwide, sales of the larger SUVs were down 4.7 percent in April, Wards Automotive reported.

Instead, motorists are picking smaller SUVs built on car platforms, known in the industry as "crossover utility vehicles" or CUVs. Sales of these vehicles were up 13.3 percent in April.


And car buyers are getting on waiting lists to buy the new hybrid vehicles, which -- thanks to their combination of a traditional internal combustion engine and an electric motor -- get substantially better gas mileage. Take the Toyota Prius, for example, which boasts 55 miles to the gallon for combined city and highway driving. That's four times the fuel efficiency of some of the larger SUVs.

Of course, fuel economy isn't the only reason consumers pick specific models. Many consumers find crossovers easier to drive and park than the larger SUVs, while hybrids are popular in some communities because motorists can drive them without passengers in high occupancy vehicle lanes -- although that isn't the case in Houston.

But gas mileage is certainly on Houston motorists' minds.

At a Mobil station near the Galleria, where regular unleaded was selling for $1.96 Monday and premium was going for $2.16, Jordan was filling up his Toyota Previa van.

Jordan and his wife are talking about buying a smaller car as early as next month, because they plan to drive to Dallas frequently this summer.

Laura Fallin, a residential real estate agent, was there filling up her Infiniti I30 with premium gas. Rising gas prices have her thinking about replacing the Infiniti with a car that has similar luxury and uses regular gas.

With desire for large SUVs on the wane, auto dealers are getting creative. Munday Chevrolet, for example, has offered this deal: Buy a TrailBlazer, Tahoe or Suburban and the dealer will buy the gas for three years.

But for most motorists, buying a new car is not an option.

Rodriguez, a liquor company representative whose route can take him from Spring 65 miles south to Texas City on a given day, decided he couldn't afford to rack up the miles on his Tahoe.

"How many SUVs do you see on the road?" Rodriguez asked. "I guarantee every one of (those drivers) is complaining. It's crazy."

Full Article Here

 

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It's even worse here in Canada, with regular unleaded currently at $US 2.70 per gallon here on Vancouver Island, some people have left their vehicles parked, and gotten bus passes. Most of us haven't ( My Olds 88 runs on propane at $US 1.17 per gallon, and the other two gas cars we own have been parked a lot lately) but we've seen a lot less traffic in the last few weeks. I leave my 32 US gallon tank no less than 3/4 full, preparing for the price of propane to spike as well.
 

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this may be the only good thing about the gas prices. i've been sick and disgusted of SUV's for a good 4 or 5 years now. hopefully people will start thinking more about what they buy instead of just thinking they need the biggest damn vehicle on the road even if they don't have any use for it. (this of course does not apply to ALL SUV owners, only those who buy them for status rather than utitility, which seems to be a lot of people).
 

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ah people....... in mexico those prices have been since 40 years ago so stop complaining...... i pay 70 dlls for a suburban... $.70 the premium liter , $.60 the regular liter. This price NEVER goes down, just up and is set by the goverment and i see alot of people driving gas guzzling suvs and pickups. jsut get used to it.
 

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Ford seems kinda prophetic now with the Escape Hybrid coming online soon. They need to seriously reconsider the 20,000/year production run, because when it comes time to replace my Audi, I'm pretty much sold on buying one of those.

Of course, most people are going to continue to buy and drive SUVs and trucks. Until such time as it costs $100 to fill the 20 gallon tank of their SUV, they won't likely stop. When we reach the point of $60/tank for my car, then I'll trade in the Audi for the Escape Hybrid (right now it costs just a hair under $40/tank with Sunoco Ultra94). In Canada, it would already be around $55/tank (USD) for me. That's really going to hurt when I go up there for two weeks this summer, and if gas prices rise too much more, flying up will actually be cheaper.
 

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Originally posted by 3eb@May 19 2004, 10:53 PM
this may be the only good thing about the gas prices. i've been sick and disgusted of SUV's for a good 4 or 5 years now. hopefully people will start thinking more about what they buy instead of just thinking they need the biggest damn vehicle on the road even if they don't have any use for it. (this of course does not apply to ALL SUV owners, only those who buy them for status rather than utitility, which seems to be a lot of people).
I did "the swap" about three months ago, although it wasn't because of fuel prices. I just thought it was ridiculous that I was commuting solo in a Trailblazer.

Ended up picking up a M3; not only is it easier to park and better on gas, "just getting there" is a hell of a lot more fun! :lol:

-John
 

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All I can say is the oil companies are completely messing us over. In the British Columbia interior, regular unleaded gas jumped again to 70.37 cents US a litre (Or 96.9 cents Canadian). In perspective, with a US gallon being equal to 3.78540 litres (As per IFP Metric conversions) that is 2.66 a gallon. The most aggrivating part, there is a Husky refinery IN Prince George so there is barely any cost whatsoever in the way of transporting gas.

It is disgusting because I remember barely 5 years ago when gas was 35.9 cents Canadian per litre or 98.69 cents US per gallon. What Happened? Someone is getting greedy, sticking it to the consumer.

As it is, I might as well be driving a Z28 instead of my V6 Camaro because I'm paying out the rear for gas anyways.
 

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I just laugh at how the prices are still so low in comparison to
what I pay in Europe to tank up our Honda Accord. At 1.20
Euro's per liter that works out to be quite north of $4.00 dollars
per gallon, and $60.00 to fill the tank. People don't complain
when fuel goes up .70 cents per gallon as it has within the last
six months, they just take public transportation more. It's a
lifestyle change for me, as I lived my entire life in California
prior to moving to Finland one year ago. I find it relieves stress
and it's being responsible to drive less. It saves valuable
resources and is better on the environment. And yes I'm a car
nut, so at first it wasn't easy.

I'm an anti SUV person, and hopeful that the higher prices at
the pump in the US will move people into more efficient means
of transport. That will cut down on consumption, and eventually
the price will come down due to less demand.
If fuel costs in the US were simular to European costs I doubt
the lifestyle of bigger is better would continue to be popular.
 

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Here in San Diego, regular has hit $2.49 at most places, and as much as $2.79 at some. That means premium is already hitting as high as $3.00/gallon here.

I have a Camaro Z28, it "reccomends" premium fuel. I've run regular in it, and haven't seen any difference. Anyone else have a Z28? Anybody think it matters if I run regular in it?
 

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Originally posted by Mikkoo@May 20 2004, 06:13 AM
I just laugh at how the prices are still so low in comparison to
what I pay in Europe to tank up our Honda Accord.  At  1.20
Euro's per liter that works out to be quite north of $4.00 dollars
per gallon, and  $60.00 to fill the tank. People don't complain
when fuel goes up .70 cents per gallon as it has within the last
six months, they just take public transportation more. It's a
lifestyle change for me, as I lived my entire life in California
prior to moving to Finland one year ago.  I find it relieves stress
and it's being responsible to drive less. It saves valuable
resources and is better on the environment. And yes I'm a car
nut, so at first it wasn't easy.

I'm an anti SUV person, and hopeful that the higher prices at
the pump in the US will move people into more efficient means
of transport. That will cut down on consumption, and eventually
the price will come down due to less demand.
If fuel costs in the US were simular to European costs I doubt
the lifestyle of bigger is better would continue to be popular.
It's all well and good in Europe where the transit system is well established or everything is easily within walking distance. However, the trouble is that not everywhere is like that. Where all is not established from centuries of development, vehicles are a persons livelihood. Without, it means the difference between earning money to put food on ones table for another two weeks or going without. Every day, I drive 20+ km across town to get to work. Taking the quickest routes, I can make it there in under half an hour, so I can be there for 8:00. However, if I were to take the public transit system, I would need to wait until 9:00 when the busses begin running, get 2 transfers, wait for the transferring busses and also wait at every other stop where someone needs to get off. As a result, chances are that I would be three hours late. In addition, car pooling is not an option for me due to the fact no one I work the same shifts with lives anywhere near me.

SUV or not, the consumer is being gouged by the oil companies, forcing people into sometimes desperate situations. Tripling the price of gas in the last 5 years is simply obscene.
 

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I have a Camaro Z28, it "recomends" premium fuel. I've run regular in it, and haven't seen any difference. Anyone else have a Z28? Anybody think it matters if I run regular in it?


My 2000 Z28 would ping on anything less than premium. If yours
doesn't ping on regular or mid-grade why pay the extra cost of
premium.
 

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It's all well and good in Europe where the transit system is well established or everything is easily within walking distance. However, the trouble is that not everywhere is like that. Where all is not established from centuries of development, vehicles are a persons livelihood.

Yes Rob that is true about the transit system in Europe, however there are other options. One can
move closer to work where it might be possible to bike or
only have one bus to catch. Also if your state gives you
a tax break for driving a hybrid vehicle, that might be
an option too.
 

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We almost bought a Trailblazer 2 months ago but opted for a Montana instead mostly because of the power sliding door convenience and price (deals on Montanas are unreal). Gas is now U$2.60 / gallon up here in Toronto and the 27 mpg I'm getting on the highway makes me really feel like we made the right choice.

Still would consider a TB in the future but GM needs to get DOD type technology in there to boost mileage ASAP or sales will fall with these new gas prices.
 

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One of the reasons people like their cars up here in Canada is the space we have to travel. Very spread out country, whereas europe is not, and as mentioned, Europe has much more developed transit systems. Trains to get around up here?? Good luck. Moving closer ot work because gas prices are high is a little nuts, lets sell the house and move so I can save 1.00 a day on fuel for the job that may not be located there tomorrow??

What really gets me is the that 43% of the price of fuel (here anyway) is federal taxes. They're all getting rich on the little guys back, what else is new??

I'm sure the greenies love it.

later
Tim
 

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This is the stupidest statement in this article.



Houston-Jaime Rodriguez is borrowing his brother's Nissan Xterra for his sales runs because his own Chevy Tahoe costs too much to drive.





Chevrolet Tahoe V8 4 speed automatic 16 city/19hwy

Nissan Xterra V6 5 speed manual 17city/20hwy


OOOOOhhhhhh, big time gas savings. Remember that the Xterra is a V6 too, and the Tahoe is a V8, so with the Xterra your getting none of the power and none of the savings, and a smaller rougher riding vehicle to boot.

Smart move.

Neither of them offer great MPG, but really if you look at what you get with the Tahoe, for one MPG less, it's a no-brainer.

The problem is that most people equal smaller cars and smaller motors with much better gas milliage, which is not always true. Compare Chevrolet Aveo with a 1.6litre 103hp 4cylinder, it gets 27city and 35 highway, A 4 cylinder Chevrolet Malibu, with a 2.2 litre 4 cylinder with 145hp gets 24 city and 34 highway, the Saturn ION sedan with the 2.2 litre 4 cylinder and 140hp gets 26/35 mpg.

I think that the time might be right for GM to consider offering diesel engines in some of it;s cars and trucks again, GM does have a great lineup of diesel engines already available in Europe and the Duramax 6.6 in trucks overhere.

Pehaps a smaller displacement turbo-diesel V8 for ligher-duty trucks like the Tahoe, Silverado 1500, and Trailblazer, and their GMC ilk, maybe a 5 to 5.5 litre diesel V8, mated to a nice 5speed automatic, I think something like this would add significant MPG improvements to GM's medium and large trucks and utilities, and help keep GM in the profitable truck market. Offering diesels as well as Displacement on Demand, should help, perhaps even the option of hybrid energy.

A Colorado or Canyon with a small 3.0 to 4.0 litre 4, 5 or 6 cylinder diesel engine and a 6speed manual or 5 speed automatic would also make a great combo for a small work truck.

I would also not mind seeing some of GM's european diesels brought over here

Like the 1.7/1.9 litre, 100hp/150hp Turbodiesel ECOtecs which are available in the new Astra, so they should be a reasonably easy installation on the Cobalt, ION and Pursuit, maybe event in the Vibe. They could also be seriously considered for cars like the Chevrolet Equinox and the Saturn VUE.

GM also has a 3.0 litre turbodiesel 24 valve V6 in some of the larger european cars. I think that the combination of this engine and the upcomming 5 and 6 speed hydramatic automatics, installed in the Malibu or the next generation Impala could make for a 40+ MPG family car, the regular 3.4 V6 Impala with the 4speed automatic already gets 21city and 32 highway. I believe that with the either one of the 4 or 6 cylinder diesels, a 5 or 6 speed automatic and then the combination of some sort of hybrid drive, GM should have no problem offering a 50 to 60 MPG family sedan this decade, if they really want to.

These engines could also be installed in cross-overs and min-vans, imagine a 35-40 mpg 7 passenger crossover like the Buick Rendezvous. which currently gets 19/26 with the 3.4 OHV V6 and with the 18/24 with the 3.6 DOHC V6, Imagine GM offering the first diesel/hybrid mini-van/CSV.

Now imagine the combination of the 1.3 Litre ECOtec with 70hp in something like the Chevrolet Aveo, which already gets 27 city and 35highway with the gas engine.

A move like this would put GM on the leading edge of fuel efficient cars in the US, by leveraging it's vast worldwide resources.
 

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Originally posted by MCGARRETT@May 20 2004, 04:12 PM
This is the stupidest statement in this article.



Houston-Jaime Rodriguez is borrowing his brother's Nissan Xterra for his sales runs because his own Chevy Tahoe costs too much to drive.





Chevrolet Tahoe V8 4 speed automatic 16 city/19hwy

Nissan Xterra V6 5 speed manual 17city/20hwy


OOOOOhhhhhh, big time gas savings. Remember that the Xterra is a V6 too, and the Tahoe is a V8, so with the Xterra your getting none of the power and none of the savings, and a smaller rougher riding vehicle to boot.

Smart move.

I was going to jump on that too, and I wouldn't be surprised if real-world mileage was even closer than that. The Xterra's V6 is none too powerful and is going to be straining in real-world driving. The Tahoe won't be.

Xterra supercharged V6 - 15/19
 

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Originally posted by Mikkoo@May 20 2004, 07:14 AM
One can move closer to work where it might be possible to bike or only have one bus to catch.
Because everything is built so far apart, most of the time it is not possible to live close to work.

In reality, everything in America is geared toward private transportation.

I'm getting ready to move to Washington, DC. For the first time, I will be able to use mass transit to get to work, and I'm happy about that. I think most people would use mass transit if it were simply available.
 

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where i work (close to toronto, ontario) over half my co-workers travel 30 kms or further, through often-gridlocked traffic, simply because housing is so expensive in the area. many are young people fresh out of school starting familes and trying to buy homes. i hope to buy a home in a few years, but i'll probabaly end up buying something over 20 kms away, because i just can't afford to buy here. there is a decent light-rail system along this corridor, but it gets tricky the further you move away from the rail line, as the bus system is marginal in some areas.
 

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where i work (close to toronto, ontario) over half my co-workers travel 30 kms or further, through often-gridlocked traffic, simply because housing is so expensive in the area. many are young people fresh out of school starting familes and trying to buy homes.

Paul you make some good observations about a transit system,
and how there is less of it when you move to the suburbs. I
used to commute over 70 miles (100km ) each way to work
to find affordable housing outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.
I was in a vanpool and found it much cheaper than driving,
however you do give up your freedom to leave work when you
want too. I finally found a way to move back and settled on a
smaller house that was within walking distance of my workplace.
Not everyone can do that however.
 

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If Americans really are moving to smaler cars GM and Ford need to get the Astra and new Focus to the US STAT! Here in Canada the Mazda3 has become the best selling car in the country offering European small-car quality (but in a more stylish package and at a mre reasonable price than VW), yet it's selling at 1/10 the rate in the US since people there can't seem to think of small cars as anything ther than economy transport.

More nice cars? Less giant SUVs? I say hurray for higher gas prices! :D
 
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