Small Cars Haven’t Been This Big For Nearly 20 Years

October 12, 2012 7:00 AM

Small Cars Haven’t Been This Big For Nearly 20 Years

" Gas prices are soaring. Parking is pricey. The economy is recovering, but still shaky. Add all that up, and you’d expect small cars to be fairly popular in the U.S.

And you’d be right. In fact, small cars are on track to reach a market share not seen since Bill Clinton’s first inauguration.

According to the Wall Street Journal, sales of compacts and subcompacts have surged by a whopping 49.9% over the past year. In the first nine months of 2012, dealers moved 2,099,090 of them – 240,288 in September alone.

By contrast, midsize vehicles are up just 15.8% for the year, large SUVs are down 29.6%, and large cars are down a staggering 79.4%.

As AutoNews notes, small cars now represent 19.3% of new vehicles sold to American shoppers. Compacts and subcompacts haven’t represented such a huge portion of the U.S. market since 1993, when they hit 20.5%.

Why is small such big news?

The reasons for America’s fascination with small rides are numerous and varied. While some of the trend seems driven by fluctuating economic conditions, in other cases, it may stem from more permanent demographic shifts. Here are a few key factors:

High gas prices: It’s no secret that gas is expensive "

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