Lifestyle dictates vehicle type in Summit County
Since the bygone days of $2.50 a gallon, reporters have labeled sport utility vehicles and other large gas guzzlers as unsellable. Sales trends nationwide have leaned toward smaller, more fuel-efficient models.
Local dealers are also seeing a slump in sales, but blame it on the economy, since large vehicles are still selling fine in Summit County.
"People up here are a lot more active, they want to be able to haul bikes, skis and dogs," said Peter Player, general sales manager at Park City Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. "I don’t think things have changed, they just put them on hold. Active people with kids aren’t going to be able to get a Honda Civic and do what they want to do."
Phil Torkelson, business manager with Mike Hale Chevrolet, said he sold a pick-up on Tuesday morning and a few Tahoes and Suburbans over the Labor Day weekend.
"The trend (toward smaller vehicles) is true, but not to the extent seen in cities," he said. "People who need a large vehicle are still buying it."
Torkelson said he used to sell two or three smaller vehicles a month, now he’s selling four or five with gas prices higher, but that’s all.
Robert Crandall, owner of Crandall Ford and Mercury, said he’s seen the same thing with car sales, but that SUV’s and large trucks are still selling as well as ever.
"If people need to tow, they need to tow," he said.
Overall sales are down, however, since people aren’t rushing in to buy the new models like they used to. With the economy slowing or making people nervous, they’re waiting to make large purchases.
"It’s true of Realtors and lots of other types of business. It’s what gas prices have done to the economy overall," Player said.
He also finds presidential election years to be slower since people seem to worry about the future more. Once a new president settles in, things go back to normal.
Diesels are also selling poorly, with the price of the fuel higher than regular gasoline, he said.
People who were driving diesel, or large vehicles in general, out of choice and not necessity are now rethinking their transportation strategy, Crandall said.
But people who have 4-wheel drive to get up Parley’s Canyon, or even their own driveway, in the winter aren’t about to down-grade, Torkelson mused.
Torkelson said he thinks the large vehicles get an unwarranted bad wrap. Fuel efficiency on large vehicles especially SUV’s has improved dramatically over the last few years. Also, he’s been able to maintain his own fuel budget by changing the way he drives instead of what he drives.
Player said he thinks trading in a gas guzzler for a smaller car is a huge mistake since the money lost on the trade can never be made up with fuel savings.
The current situation reminds him of the oil crisis 30 years ago.
"People were trading in V8’s for half of what they were worth, but over time the economy changed, then the mind-set changed, and their value went back up," he said.
None of the dealers predict SUV sales will go down unless the snow stops.
"Our vehicles have to be more specialized for mountains, snow, climate and the things we’re trying to do with them," Torkelson said.
Another issue is safety. As more people in the valley purchase smaller cars, Torkelson fears more accidents in the canyon. He worries people are sacrificing safety for fuel economy, which is going to be an issue in the winter.
Park City Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge
2700 Rasmussen Rd.
Mike Hale Chevrolet
2190 Rasmussen Rd.
2175 Rasmussen Rd.
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Court report: Week of June 22