Pump shock 

High gas prices have made SUVs unsellable and driven people to bikes, scooters and buses. For now? Or forever?

PAIN AT THE PUMP: Skyrocketing prices.
  • PAIN AT THE PUMP: Skyrocketing prices.

It's a familiar cycle by now: In the wake of some cataclysmic event like Hurricane Katrina, Gustav or Ike or 9/11 — or sometimes apparently just for the hell of it — oil industry experts get on TV and start preparing us for a fast and hard rise in gas prices.

We, in turn, freak out, complain, think about changing our driving habits, and watch the prices go up higher than we'd ever imagined possible. Then, after awhile, they ease off a few dimes a gallon — still significantly higher than when the whole process started, but far enough below the peak that we resume our gas-guzzling feeling like we're getting a bargain again, and, in my imagination anyway, the oil execs lean back in their giant office chairs and laugh and laugh and laugh, until they start planning for the next round.

But maybe not this time.

Maybe, this time, the price of gas got high enough for long enough, and with no obvious cause, that the change in America's ways will be something closer to permanent.

The reason for hope: This time around, a significant number of us have actually invested money in saving gas.

So many of us have traded in SUVs that even the few chumps who've bought them for a song are on the losing end of the deal because their value continues to drop so fast. We have bought out the nation's supply of hybrids and the local supply of Honda Civics, and brought the Big Three automakers to their knees because they haven't been able to produce enough of the small cars we want now. We've bought motorcycles and scooters, placing 85 mpg above safety and convenience. Occasionally, even in Little Rock, we have filled city buses to standing-room-only. We cut back so much on gas consumption last summer that for once, the supply/demand equilibrium tilted in our favor.

“I've got [used] '08 Tundras out here that have devalued $6,000 or $7,000 since I traded for them,” said Chris Brown, general sales manager at Bale Honda. “… It's no longer cool to have the big nice SUV, the $40,000 to $50,000 SUV. Now it's cool to drive a four-door Civic around.”

Cool, sure, but not practical for all of us — just try fitting two rear-facing car seats in the back of a Civic or hauling a trailer full of construction equipment behind a Chevy Aveo. Brown said he thinks the technology will catch up with demand in a few years and we'll see bigger vehicles with markedly better gas mileage. But those who can't hold off buying a behemoth until then? Brown says they're pretty much screwed, even with prices so low they seem like they must be typos.

“It's getting ridiculous,” he said. “I heard yesterday that the Nissan Armada, their full-sized truck — they're discounting those almost 50 percent. You're talking about a $40,000 truck selling for $22,000. You think you're getting a good deal, but now all of a sudden it's worth $15,000 on the street. They're going to be dinosaurs. They're worthless right now.”

He said the drop in value on big, expensive vehicles is hurting the credit industry just like the housing crisis.

“We've got people driving Tahoes that they owe $30,000 on and it's worth $15,000,” he said. “They've got $600 payments, plus $200 in gas — they can't afford it.”

Meanwhile, in late July Brown had no Civics on his lot, and no Fits — Honda's new subcompact hatchback. Want a Civic hybrid? Hope you can wait a couple of months.


Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Jennifer Barnett Reed

  • Learning to love North Little Rock in Park Hill

    Any description of North Little Rock's Park Hill neighborhood will eventually, inevitably, include a comparison to Hillcrest, its better-known cousin south of the river.
    • Dec 28, 2011
  • A reason to splash

    Fun rain gear and more at InJoy.
    • Mar 12, 2009
  • Pick up some spice

    And we ain’t talking about tarragon.
    • Feb 26, 2009
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Faith of our felons

    • He's a monster with monsters who aid his unholy lust

    • on October 22, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation