Has the Death of the SUV Arrived?

It looks like the time has come for the SUV to be towed off to that great junkyard in the sky.

Rising gas prices -- and a greater understanding that fuel will probably never be cheap again -- appears to be killing off the gas-guzzling SUV.

Sales of the vehicles are plummeting, and those drivers who already have them are finding it increasingly difficult to sell or trade-in their old SUVs.

How Are You Dealing With Gas Prices? Tell ABC News

Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and kbb.com, has been asked for years about the future of the SUV.

"Up until now, we've said it's not dead," Nerad said. "But right now, it's probably on life support."

Just a few years back, SUVs, pickup trucks and other heavy vehicles were flying off lots and heralded for breathing new life into struggling U.S. automakers.

In September, the 2005 Chevy Tahoe sold for $19,750, according to kbb.com. Today, it sells for $16,400, a drop of 17 percent in just nine months.

But $4 gas has changed that.

All cars start to lose value the second you drive them off the lot. But recently, the prices of used SUVs have dropped faster than all other types of vehicles, according to several industry watchers.

For instance, take a 2005 Ford Expedition. In September, it sold for $16,350, according to kbb.com. Today, it sells for $12,400, a drop of 24 percent in just nine months.

Compare that to small used cars, which have actually seen an average 2 percent increase in value in the last year, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Even the Geo Metro -- never really a popular car -- is seeing a resurrection in sales, despite the fact that the tiny car was discontinued in 2001.

The value of a 1990 Metro -- which can get 40 miles a gallon or more -- was just $1,175 a few months back. It now sells for $3,000.

"When you're so far down, you only have up to go," Nerad said of the Metro, which he described as "a car that got no respect from anybody at any time.

"This climate of high and volatile fuel prices has put a scare into people," Nerad added.

And it doesn't look like a temporary change in buying habits.

The value of a 1990 Metro -- which can get 40 miles a gallon or more -- was $1,175 a few months back. It now sells for $3,000.

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner announced Tuesday that his company would close four truck and SUV plants in North America, and might even discontinue its Hummer brand.

To meet customers' shifting desires, thanks to rising gas prices, GM is moving forward with production of the Chevrolet Volt, a car that runs on an electric motor and could be in showrooms by the end of 2010.

"We at GM don't think this is a spike or a temporary shift," Wagoner said.

Ford's CEO Alan Mulally also believes that fuel prices are going to remain high.

In September, the 2005 Ford Expedition sold for $16,350, according to kbb.com. Today, it sells for $12,400, a drop of 24 percent in just nine months.

"That shift to small and medium-size cars and utilities … is going to be permanent," he told USA Today in a story this week.

Nerad said that GM's move to close plants is very telling.

"That really indicates that this isn't really a blip, but a shift in demand that they are going to see over time," he said. "I am a little surprised, because we have seen similar things in the past and we have seen the full-sized truck and SUV market come back."

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