DETROIT, March 28 (UPI) -- U.S. consumers are balking at purchasing vehicles with high fuel efficiency, despite federal goals to raise standards, industry analysts said.
"For consumers to really change their buying habits, they must believe higher gas prices are a long-term change and by long-term, they mean five years or more," said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
"Consumers," she said, "are the wild card."
"Americans have mostly chosen to buy larger vehicles. Crossovers accounted for 2.9 million sales last year, compared to 2 million for subcompacts and compacts together," she said, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.
Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive said U.S. consumers' interest in fuel efficient vehicles has historically lasted only for "literally three to four months," after a spike in gas prices.
Prices rise, but "three or four months later, we go right back to buying big cars," she said.
While the Obama administration has has proposed raising U.S. standards to 60 miles per gallon by 2035, the average efficiency of cars sold in 2010 actually fell from 22.3 mpg to 22.2, data released by Ward's Automotive Reports said.
Some fuel-efficient vehicles have sold well; others have floundered. Nissan sold 154 Leaf vehicles in January and February. General Motors sold only 602 Volt cars in the same period, the newspaper said.