How do you deal with an economy showing few signs of improvement? One method is to downsize -- and consumers are doing just that with their cars. Interest in compact cars increased considerably this year, according to a compact car segment report recently developed by Jumpstart Automotive Group, a consortium of auto-related websites.

The company said that from April through August 2010, the compact segment’s share of shopping activity on dealership lots grew an average of 12 percent per month versus the year-to-date average. Compared to the same time period last year, compact shopping’s share increased by an average of 23 percent during the spring and summer months.

What's more, compact cars’ share of activity on automotive websites was 87 percent higher in August than in January. Among primary vehicle segments, the compact car sector is the only to show any significant growth in share over time. Most popular segments show little year-to-date growth. But while compact sales have increased gradually this year, they haven’t improved nearly at the pace of shopping activity in the segment.

“While we’re seeing significant compact share of shopping growth, actual sales share has been flat or down all year,” said Joe Kyriakoza, Vice President of Marketing Communications at Jumpstart. “This starts to allude to the potential of pent-up demand in the segment.”

Kyriakoza says the last four months of the year could potentially drive a heftier share of market towards compacts if the current shopping demand yields results.

Many factors have driven this potential demand for smaller cars. These include many new products, heftier marketing support, noticeably better products (like the new Ford Fiesta), and the CAFE standards set forth by the Obama Administration. While domestic automakers have previously been underrepresented in this segment, Kyriakoza said he expects shopper interest in domestic compact cars to increase going forward.

Tom Ripley Driving Today Contributing Editor Tom Ripley writes about electric cars, the auto industry and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France.



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