West Bloomfield, Michigan – U.S. sales of hybrids and clean diesels are growing nearly three times as fast as the rest of the auto market due to rising fuel prices, according to industry analysts Baum & Associates.

In March 2011, hybrid and clean diesel sales jumped by 46 per cent compared with March 2010. Very small cars, which the company describes as vehicles such as the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta, grew to almost twice the rate of the market at 30 per cent share.

The company said that changes in the vehicle marketplace are now so dramatic that small, highly-efficient cars now account for seven per cent of market share, the same as “true SUVs,” the company’s term for truck-like, body-on-frame sport utility vehicles.

The used vehicle market, which represents a real-time snapshot of market preference, showed the greatest increase in value for the Toyota Prius and other fuel-efficient cars, with the previous-generation Ford Explorer and other “true SUVs” losing substantial value.

“The trends are clear,” said Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates. “Vehicle sales are strong, and customers want hybrids, small cars and crossovers, and are shying away from pickups and truck-based SUVs even as business fleets continue to support these products in line with an overall economic recovery.”

The company said that in March, car market share expanded as consumers chose the most fuel-efficient options. Car sales grew a third faster than either “car-like” or true light trucks, while small cars and small crossovers were the hottest market segments, growing at twice the rate of the overall market when compared with March 2010. Growth in the market “for what some people call SUVs” was actually driven by small, fuel-efficient crossovers, the company said.

The increase in the value of a three-year-old Toyota Prius exceeded all other vehicles from January to April 2011, while small used vehicles of similar age, including the Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Nissan Versa showed strong gains in value when compared to the overall used vehicle market.

“The bottom line is that automakers and consumers will move forward on all fronts based on corporate and consumer needs,” Baum said. “Hybrid and electric vehicles are a part of the solution, as are more efficient powertrains throughout the vehicle fleet. A wholesale change in the amount of vehicles produced in each segment is not required, but some shift may occur based on the will of automakers and consumers, as illustrated by Ford’s shift to smaller vehicles and consumer acceptance in doing so.”

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