Car buyers bring short memories to the dealerships

I filled the official vehicle of NewsCut with gas at a station in Plymouth yesterday afternoon. Total bill: $19.79. A few years ago that was near a $50 fill-up.

Driving a little over 55 mph on I-494 back to the safe haven of the East Metro made me realize — again — that asking Americans to solve big, complex problems is foolhardy because we’re not able to learn the lessons of the solutions. Even a car with an “Earth” bumper sticker went zipping by at near 70.

In a way, who can blame them? They’re practically giving gasoline away now.

But, still.

The demand for larger, less fuel efficient vehicles in on the rise.

Crain’s Business in Cleveland, for example, reported that December auto sales were through the roof with SUVs and trucks leading the way with double-digit growth.

It’s the same story in Minnesota, apparently. The Star Tribune reports today that large vehicles, with somewhat better fuel economy that the old beasts, are popular again.

People have short-term memories, and inevitably when prices are much higher in three or four years from now, they’ll be stuck with that vehicle,” Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at, told the Strib.

The trend is so pronounced that the average fuel economy of a vehicle on a U.S. road is going down, reversing a trend caused by previous pain at the pump.

“People right now are just saying, ‘Wow, it’s nice to fill up for half of what it used to cost,’ ” a dealer in Lakeville said.

“Gas prices are talked about and can be an inconvenience but … they don’t direct a consumer’s choice,” said Scott Lambert, executive vice president for the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association.

So you were probably imagining all the low MPG claims in car ads a year or so ago when we demanded someone do something about the cost of driving.