Toledoan John Derden liked his 2004 Ford F-150, but the retiree couldn't justify the extra money for gasoline and insurance for the full-size pickup.
This week the longtime truck owner, who worked 34 years at Ford Motor Co.'s Maumee stamping plant, traded in his F-150 for a smaller and more fuel-efficient 2005 Ford Ranger. And if the compact pickup is too costly to operate, he'll try something else, Mr. Derden said.
"It cost me $60 a week to fill this thing up," he said while removing items from the F-150. "It's just too much money to run this."
As gasoline tops $2 a gallon, some customers nationwide have decided to sell their big rigs and opt for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Big sport-utility vehicles such as Chevrolet Suburbans, Ford Expeditions, Chevrolet Tahoes, and even Ford Explorers have been hard hit, with U.S. sales of each falling more than 20 percent so far this year, according to figures released by automakers yesterday.
General Motors Corp. and Ford both reported lower vehicle sales last month, in part because the more gas-guzzling SUVs and light trucks took a hit. DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, the smallest of Detroit's Big Three, stood its ground, however, thanks to brisk sales of minivans and pickups.
Market leader GM said its total vehicle sales fell 7.7 percent. A 17.2 percent reduction in truck sales was offset by a 7.9 percent increase in car sales.
No. 2 Ford said its sales fell 5.1 percent in April, its 11th consecutive month of year-over-year decreases, and it had lower sales of traditional SUVs but bigger sales of crossovers and full-size pickups.
Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's top automaker, reported record monthly U.S. sales, up 21.3 percent from April, 2004. Car sales were up 36 percent and truck sales rose 4.8 percent.
Although pickups have largely remained unscathed at Mr. Derden's dealership, Mathews Ford Oregon Inc., sales of large SUVs such as the Expedition have been soft for about a year, said Tim Korhumel, general sales manager.
"It's probably not as practical as they though it was going to be," he said. "I just think it's going to be a big change in the next two years."
More customers at his dealership, he explained, are turning to cars such as the Focus
and Five Hundred.
Popular light trucks include the Escape, a compact SUV that competes with the Toledo-made Jeep Liberty, and the Freestyle, a seven-passenger vehicle that melds attributes of minivans and SUVs, he said.
The trend hasn't helped the Liberty or Toledo Jeep Assembly's other product, the Wrangler.
U.S. sales of the Liberty are down 4 percent this year at 55,138, and Wrangler sales have plunged 20 percent to 23,571, Chrysler said yesterday.
Some large SUVs have remained popular in the Toledo area. Jim White Toyota in Sylvania Township has a wait of up to a month for Toyota Sequoias, said Dave Wittenmyer, general manager.
"I only have one on the lot right now," he said.
Gas prices haven't had an effect on sales at Treadway Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Findlay, where April was the best sales month so far for the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee, said Kevin Sheehan, general sales manager.
Bigger was better, meanwhile, for Pat and Carole Thrasher of Lakewood, Ohio.
The couple traded in a 2001 Ford F-250 for a used 2004 Ford F-350 at Mathews Ford because they wanted a pickup with a bigger engine - which uses diesel fuel - to tow a fifth-wheel camper after he retires.
Others are joining Mr. Derden in the downsizing trend.
Rebecca Walters of north Toledo was going to let her son, Brandon, use her 1999 Expedition to attend St. John's Jesuit High School in south Toledo after he turns 16 this summer.
Instead, he will be driving a 1997 Ford Taurus, which uses only about one-third the gasoline of the Expedition she is trying to sell.
The Expedition, Ms. Walters said, gets even worse gas mileage than her Hummer H2, which is used mostly for local treks.
"Just to get him back and forth to school [in the Expedition] is $70 a week," she said.
- JULIE M. McKINNON
The Blade's wire services contributed to this report.