At the New York Auto Show, USA Today reports that many of the newer models making their debut are “larger and thirstier, reflecting a new era in which the Trump administration may ease gas-mileage targets and slow the adoption of other regulations.”
And as one of the stated goals of the current administration moves forward—promoting job growth and the U.S. auto industry in particular—the U.S. will likely continue its transition from smaller cars to light-duty vehicles. With current fuel economy standards under review, the outcome could result in automakers no longer feeling the pressure to meet government regulations that advance and promote technologies such as hybrids, electric vehicles or event hydrogen fuel cells.
USA Today notes that U.S. small-car sales fell 6.2% in 2016 to 2.9 million units, as vehicles such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic suffered. That represents 16.5% of total industry sales, down from 19.2% in 2012, according to Autodata. During the same time period, sales of crossovers and SUVs increased from 29.7% of the industry to 38.4%.
“Consumers have made it pretty clear that they prefer crossovers,” said AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan.
While small cars and sedans aren’t big movers with consumers, thanks to lower gas prices in recent years, automakers believe small cars entice entry-level buyers or cost-conscious consumers to their brands.
“There are still people who want to buy them,” said IHS Automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley, adding that automakers “are going to respond to how consumers are behaving.”
USA Today notes that Trump has not indicated what his views are on self-driving vehicle regulations, although some analysts say his action would likely be favorable to the auto industry. In terms of autonomous development, however, if the regulatory process stalls—for every single government regulation enacted, Trump signed an executive order that two regulations must come off the books—advancement of autonomous technology in the U.S. could be ceded to foreign competitors.