The crisis in higher gasoline prices is causing drivers to seek more economic cars - up to a point.
Rather than trading their sport utility vehicles, mini-vans and large trucks in for sedans with better gas mileage, customers are opting for smaller versions of what they already have.
SUVs continue to be a hot seller at Geweke's five auto dealerships in Lodi, but General Manager Mike Glover predicts that customers will not move toward sedans, but to smaller SUVs that get gas mileage over 20 miles per gallon.
"The manufacturers have really moved consumer's minds toward the positives that come with SUVs (over the past 10 years) - reliability, safety, size," Glover said.
If the current gas prices remain over $2 a gallon for the next six months or so, Glover said, then customers may trade in their gas-guzzling SUV for a smaller version of the same vehicle. The challenge for his dealerships will be to re-sell the low-gas mileage trade-ins.
However, customers are beginning to find hybrids - vehicles that run on a mixture of gasoline and electrical power - an attractive choice because they get 50 to 60 miles per gallon.
Ford is about to market its first hybrid car, but Geweke's Toyota dealership sells them faster than they come in, Glover said. Geweke gets only two Priuses - Toyota's hybrid - per month.
There's a waiting list for the Prius, which gets 59 miles per gallon, he said. The base price for a Prius is about $20,000, while a Toyota Corolla is about $16,500, Glover said.
Lodi resident Bob Warren fills up his Ford Ranger on Friday at the Quik Stop Market at Lockeford and Church streets, where regular unleaded gas sold for $2.05 per gallon. (Ross Farrow/News-Sentinel)
Lodi Honda offers a hybrid that gets 48 miles per gallon. The sticker price is $21,290, which is only about $3,000 more than its equivalent gasoline-powered car, the Honda Civic EX, said General Manager Allen Police.
Police estimates that the difference in Honda's hybrid and Civic price will pay for itself in three to four years given the savings accumulated in gasoline purchases.