SUVs, Pick-Up Trucks Said to Survive Tougher Fuel Standards

Even increasingly-popular crossovers -- vehicles that look like SUV's but are built on car platforms -- won't do for such consumers, said Rebecca Lindland, an auto industry analyst with IHS Global Insight.

"If you live in Montana and get four feet of snow with no warning, the last thing you want at that point is a crossover or, even worse, a car," Lindland said.

But some say that even as large cars survive, their numbers -- and consumer choices -- will, in fact, shrink. That, experts say, will be largely due to automakers adapting to consumers' own preferences for cars that will bring them lower gas bills.

Analysts like Craig Fitzgerald, of Plante & Moran PLLC in Southfield, Mich., say the new CAFE standards will play a role too.

The sheer expense and challenges of making larger cars meet government standards is forcing automakers to shelve plans for new large car models and eventually may lead them to phase out existing models, including even some large passenger cars, he said.

"The CAFE improvements are really dramatic," Fitzgerald said. "The only way to get there is to restrict the range of vehicles with low mileage that are offered in the marketplace."

So what, if any, car models could get the axe? So far, the automakers aren't saying.

Whatever the changes to Americans' car choices, Lindland said the cars we drive will still be big -- at least relative to other countries.

"It's important to remember that we currently drive the world's largest cars," she said. "We have a long way that we can downsize before we look like Europe."

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