Sales of automobiles are down across the board -- except for the segment of small, fuel-efficient vehicles.
"The smallest, cheapest, cars are the biggest, brightest spot in the dreary auto market, reflecting continuing buyer flight to fuel economy and lower prices.
Sales of all types of small cars in March were at year-ago levels, Autodata says - a big success in an industry that sold 12% fewer vehicles overall than in March 2007. The small-car segment was the only one not showing a loss.
Within that group, the so-called lower small cars, the smallest and lowest-priced, boomed. Sales were up nearly 27% from last year. "And last year was a strong year," notes Tom Libby at Power Information Network, a unit of consultant J.D. Power and Associates.
Standouts: Toyota Yaris (up 70%), Honda Fit (up 61%), Kia Spectra (up 41%). Their starting prices are $12,000 to $14,000. Their mileage ratings are low to mid-30s on the highway. "Yaris - I've never seen a model in that segment with sales that high, ever," Libby says."