Will Americans buy more cars and use less gasoline? The March auto sales data says: "yes, indeed."
Indicating both that America's economy is healing and that it will be less oil-intensive, car sales hit 1.4 million in March, the highest monthly total since May 2008, and the sales of the Volt, Leaf, and Prius hit record levels, as demand for fuel efficient cars surged.
Proving that the reports of the Volts demise are premature, as were near-gloating reports about supposedly weak sales of the Prius, when it entered the market, Volt sales jumped to 2,289 in March; Leaf sales to 579; and Prius's sales to an amazing 28,711, up 54% from March a year ago.
The Prius is now one of America's and the world's most successful vehicles. And the Prius has blazed the hybrid trail, as Toyota alone sold more than 38,000 hybrid vehicles of all sorts in March.
Each month the new cars sold are becoming more fuel efficient than the new cars sold the month before. At this point, accoring to University of Michigan data reported in yesterday's Wall Street Journal on page B2, vehicles purchased in February of 2012 were 18% more fuel efficient than ones bought in October 2007.
Unlike during past periods of high gasoline prices, America's automakers have significant numbers of models that get more than 30 miles per gallon from which gas-sipping consumers can choose. As a result, General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford also saw significant volume gains.
This year car sales may hit 14.5 million vehicles, strongly up from the 10 million or so that were sold in 2009-2010, and heading back to the 16 million cars sold prior to the 2007-2008 economic meltdown. But America is now using less gasoline than during September 2001.
The combined trends of rising car sales and declining gasoline use are good news for America's economy, environment, and national security.