SUV sales have slowed in the second half of the year, while sales of crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) have soared, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. "Gasoline price increases, combined with increased uncertainty about future prices, seem to be changing the mix of light vehicle sales," said NADA chief economist Paul Taylor. Small car sales have increased in recent months, while large and medium-size car sales volume has dropped compared to the same period one year ago.

Ford SUV sales have fallen 8.6 percent, Chevrolet SUV sales were down 5.5 percent, and Dodge SUV sales dropped by 5.4 percent during the third quarter. As a group, sales of SUVs by the "big three" U.S. automakers remained flat in October, as GM's incentives pulled buyers from Ford and Dodge.

"Even more significant is the fact that this slowing trend in SUV sales was well underway long before the Firestone tire recall began in August," added Taylor. Sales of the Ford Explorer SUV reached only 29,611 units in October and 37,510 in September, down from 40,157 units in August and 39,550 in July.

Despite these relative long-term declines, "sales of more fuel-efficient CUVs, such as the new Ford Escape, Acura MDX and the Chrysler PT Cruiser have helped maintain the industry's record pace," Taylor said. CUV sales rose 118 percent during the first 10 months of 2000 and 121 percent during the last three months ending October 31, compared to the same period last year. "Increased sales of SUVs from Korea, Japan and Europe have also helped drive up market share," said Taylor. Honda's SUV and minivan sales were up 14.5 percent in August and 30.3 percent for the three months ending September 31. Sales of the Nissan Xterra SUV were up 21 percent in the third quarter compared to last year.

"Thanks to automakers' strong customer incentives, U.S. consumers have continued spending," said Taylor. As a result, franchised new-car and -truck dealers can reasonably expect to reach a new record of over 17.6 million light vehicles in 2000, Taylor predicted.

The National Automobile Dealers Association represents more than 19,400 franchised new-car and -truck dealers holding nearly 40,000 separate franchises, domestic and import.