Analyst: SUV Sales Growth "Absolute Proof" of Short Attention Spans

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(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) SUV sales are up, as we reported below. Preliminary data shows some of the fastest car sale growth in May of 2010 over a year ago, May 2009, was in the light truck division.  Toyota reported a drop in May sales in its car division, but light trucks sales, driven by the RAV4 and Highlander SUVs, were up 14 percent. Unlike domestic automakers, Toyota's sales are more reliant on the consumer market than on the business, or fleet market, says analyst Bill Visnic.

Overall, according to data supplied to WNYC by Autodata Corportation, light trucks have 48 percent of the market share, up from 43 percent two years ago.

"This is absolute proof we have the shortest attention spans on the planet," says Bill Visnic, Senior Editor at Edmunds AutoObserver.com. "Just two summers ago, you couldn't give away an SUV."  Then, gasoline was approaching $5.00 a gallon.  The economy was tanking, and by the fall of 2008, a decades-long steep rise in vehicle miles traveled had screeched to a halt.

But now -- compared to a year ago, Visnic says, gas is a relatively cheap $3,00 a gallon, and even with the BP oil spill in thee gulf, consumers are still being signaled that prices will stay low over the summer.  Interest rates are low, there's pent up demand, and "people like big vehicles," Visnic says.  "Given the opportunity, they will buy them."

Visnic says there are other factors:  dealers have offered incentives for SUV purchases, as economic fears ease,  and many companies have added to their fleets after months or even years of putting off purchases.   And it's unclear whether this trend will continue. "A lot of things are swirling around to create this moment in time," Visnic says. "If one thing goes wrong in the formula, the bottom drops out."