After years of big cars and even bigger sales numbers, forces are conspiring to turn the US auto market into something much more like its European counterparts, the LA Times reports. Fashion statement SUVs are giving way to more efficient, more reliable cars, analysts say, which people are expected to drive longer. After sales averaging 16.9 million a year since the millennium, under 10 million are expected to move this year. Even post-recession, some think they'll rebound only to about 14 million.
“You are starting to see signs that the US market is more rational,” says one Honda exec. Aging baby boomers soon won’t need extra cars for teenage drivers, and they’ll start trading in their big family cars. Tightening credit will prevent buyers from financing with home equity loans. And the new focus on reliable, long-lasting cars will depress future sales. But not everyone believes the change will last. One analyst says that as soon as the economy recovers, fashion buying will resume.