By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
With gasoline prices slowly descending like dust after an explosion, have customers been shell-shocked into buying smaller cars and less gas?
Around here, the market consists mostly of stubborn Texans who like their pickups impressive and their cars roomy, and they still have miles to go and promises to keep.
Among a sampling of local auto dealers, Bill Kliewer, co-owner of Patriot Pontiac Buick GMC, reported the biggest impact. He said sales of the bigger SUVs had been off about 10 percent since the first of September, and sales of small cars were up a corresponding amount.
Elsewhere, Freddie Adams of Automax Hyundai said he had noticed no difference in sales of cars, possibly because mileage with the larger and smaller models is about the same. Sales of SUVs had held steady, too, but the value of the larger SUVs had dropped $3,000 to $4,000.
Mike Lynch, general manager of Connell Chevrolet, said, Texans are a different breed. Theyre not affected by gas prices as much as people in other parts of the country.
The only time we saw sales slow down a little was when the price of gas passed $3 a gallon. That had a shelf life of about a week, and I dont think it was the price itself that put people off. That $3 figure was a magic number, and when it hit the news at 6 and 10 every day, it scared them into thinking there would be fuel shortages, and that got worse when they saw four or five cars lined up at the pumps to top off.
Other than that week, though, vehicle demand at his business did not suffer.
Kathy Gilmore of the fuel distributor Big Chief Distri-butors said demand for gasoline hasnt changed, either. People still have to go to work and pick up their kids and so forth, and theyve just kept on with it.
So the effect of the slow reduction in gas prices hasnt had much impact, either. The price of regular unleaded climbed slightly above $3 a gallon when demand rose because of fears of shortages and many Gulf Coast refineries were temporarily disabled, but it dropped to $2.29 at some Mickeys convenience stores and $2.27 at 7-Elevens by Friday. The Wal-Mart in Lampasas reported $2.15, and the price at the All-Star convenience store there was $2.18.
Supply has increased as more refineries get back on line, and demand drops in the autumn.
Statewide, the price dropped 15 cents since last week to $2.38 a gallon for regular self-serve. Corpus Christi had the lowest average at $2.17 a gallon. The national average was $2.45, down 12 cents from last week.
Pump prices have continued to drop as motorists demand for fuel decreases and inventories of crude and gasoline increase, said Rose Rougeau, spokesperson of the American Automobile Associ-ation. Barring any unforeseen problems, prices should continue to move lower during the next few weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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