Sunday, March 08, 2009

Breathe Deeply, While You Still Can

The earth is showing the strain from combat between carbon emissions and the atmosphere that supports life. That isn't a surprise to those of us who pay attention to such things as the eastward advance of Texas' dry line, where desert starts.

In a community of progressive bloggers, where most of you readers and I spend a lot of time, we know that action is happening at last. We are so comfortable chatting with intelligent, informed, bloggers that we sometimes are surprised to learn that there is a large remainder of society that just doesn't care about the environment.

This morning a report on car sales in the area, carried in The Dallas Morning News, gave me a jolt. While you and I are working to cut emissions, a lot of drivers are going right back to the gas belchers.

Six months ago, buyers lined up five deep for the first Prius off a transporter truck. Now, with gas prices about half what they were in July, Priuses are piling up on local lots, their sales down about 35 percent – even with their first incentive ever, a $750 rebate.

That's also true of other formerly strong small cars such as the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Ford Focus, all of which have seen their sales drop 25 percent or more.

"Small cars are dead," said Jerry Reynolds, a former Ford dealer who hosts an auto advice show on Saturdays on WBAP-AM (820) and tracks the local auto industry. "Everybody hits the panic button when gas goes to $4 a gallon. But the first time they can go back to a truck or SUV, they will."

"For a while, anything small with a four-cylinder engine would sell quickly," said Ray Huffines, chief executive of Plano-based Huffines Auto Dealerships, which includes Chevrolet, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Hyundai and Kia outlets. "That's not true now."

Remember all that talk last summer about a profound consumer shift away from trucks and into cars? Today the hottest vehicle at Freeman Toyota in Hurst is a 2- or 3-year-old Tundra pickup.

"We're in Texas, and when gas prices are low, people are going to drive their trucks and SUVs," said Dane Minor, general manager of Freeman Toyota. "If I could get my hands on a hundred 2005-2007 Tundras, I'd buy them. We literally can't get them out of detail before some are sold."

In the Dallas market, pickup trucks and SUVs are the hot rides at wholesale auctions. Two-year-old trucks have increased in cost by $3,000 or more in the last 90 days, dealers say, restoring all of the trade-in value they lost last summer when gas was $4 a gallon. Car values have remained flat at best and in some cases have dropped more than $1,000.

But this surge in truck sales comes with a twist: It's occurring mainly with late-model used trucks as used vehicles become a growing alternative to new cars and trucks. The new-vehicle market nationally remained down 37.1 percent last month.

For now, "it's chic to be cheap," said Brian Huth, general manager of Sam Pack's Five Star Ford in Carrollton. "People are thinking: 'I'm a new car buyer, but I might be better off for now with a used car.' "

Sudden shift

The challenge for most dealers these days is just maintaining a supply of trucks – a dramatic shift from six months ago, when many dealers didn't even want them as trades.

"We're out of new Tundras, and it's very hard to find good used ones," said Pat Lobb, who owns Pat Lobb Toyota and Scion of McKinney. "It comes down to the guy who needs a truck needs a truck. There are no substitutes."

Meanwhile, Lobb and fellow Toyota dealer Minor each have about 60 Priuses on their lots. Both bought extra Priuses that other dealers didn't want, figuring that gas prices might go up this summer and that demand for the hybrid sedans could increase again.

The shift in consumer interest from small, economical cars to much bigger trucks was predictable, following the same pattern as in previous gas price swings, said Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and When gas prices are low, consumers buy big – even when smaller vehicles might be more practical, he said.

"I liken it to putting consumers in a candy store and encouraging them to eat broccoli," Nerad said. "It won't happen."

The heavy demand for trucks is driving up used prices so fast that the gap is shrinking between the cost of a late-model used truck and a new one. For example, clean year-old Ford F-150 XLT pickups sold in late February at an area auction for an average of $25,100 – nearly $3,000 higher than the truck's estimated value in a recently published used-vehicle price guide.

It's hard for me to comprehend that anyone would want a behemoth to wrestle around the roads. Yes, I had a truck back about twenty years ago, an old GM truck that I used to get hay and grain for the horses. It probably wasn't very conservation minded of me, but it was a necessity to my mind. Today I marvel at seeing the trucks in apartment parking lots, that Texas chachet like the former cretin in chief's obsession. It would take wild horses dragging me into a truck for me to get one, now.

The ominous facts that vehicles are back in general vogue that are dangerous to our environment is something of a shock, though. We have some work ahead of us to save this earth, and part of it has to be spreading an environmental conscience. Gardening is part of that for me, and this morning Chicago Dyke and I had a little exchange on the subject of how it spreads a little consciousness in the community.

From Monkeyfister - along with much, much more about the general disaster we are dealing with;

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Last One For The Road...

For the sake of all things good and proper-- no matter what your personal condition turns out to be... ENCOURAGE COMMUNITY where you are. Take care of your neighbors. GARDEN EVERYWHERE. Share food, clothes, and shelter. Help one another to live. Get to know your neighbors-- they are who you have. Support your Food Bank-- "Plant A Row For Hunger" is a GREAT program.

There are ways we can help, and driving a low emission car, gardening, supporting environmental groups and writing about the earth's peril are some of the ways. I'm interested in any other suggestions.

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Anonymous darms said...

Ruth, your line at the masthead contains A place for a tired old woman to try to figure things out so that the world makes a bit of sense.

Seems to me you've reached a "teaching moment", similar to the one I reached last Nov. when Cornyn beat Noriega w/a 16 point lead. The majority of Texans are short-sighted, greedy & ultimately quite stupid. 'Acting in one's best interests' seems to have gone the way of 'common sense'. I'm ashamed and embarrassed to be a native Texan and unfortunately, the bad things that happened to us are our own damned fault. The best thing about being 52 is that I only have a few more years left...

1:50 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Dear heart, I am retired, and a native Txn. I worked for Sen Ralph Yarborough in the 60's, so I have seen a lot of really worthwhile fellow Txns and think we're redeemable. Like the rest of the world's population, there's not enough of the principled and enlightened ones, but when the rotten ones go too far, enuff of the general public sees that something's terribly wrong, and stops following the procession into degeneracy. That time seems to be here for us, now. As always, I wish it were the torture that had made the difference, but it seems that robbing the public and leaving them destitute has finally opened up that window that lets in the light. It hurts, but as you say, there are those 'teaching moments' for everyone.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous darms said...

I appreciate your optimism and yes, agree that once there were good effective leaders in TX politics at one time. Even Texans themselves were for the most part sensible and thoughtful. But something changed. And for the most part Texans are now proud to be #50 in social services & #1 in executions. Your story about the unsold Priuses, Cornyn's 16 point lead and the many others of which those are but two examples, lead me to think we're still very far from that moment where the average Texan turns off the hate media and finally starts paying attention. Given that in this day of MRSA & its new super-super bug companion, VISA, important people such as our Education Commission chairman still insist that evolution is only a theory, I sadly don't think that moment will ever arrive and certainly not within my lifetime.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

And I still believe the wingers are doing so much damage that even those who are caught up in social/family/religious groups that are determined to follow along cannot stomach the disaster they have brought on, for everyone.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Truck Sales said...

Hybrids have just started coming out, reducing emissions by 30%, a lot of areas have replaced bus' with gas powered bus'

9:44 PM  

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