Car dealers: Fuel efficiency important to buyers, not always the biggest factor

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EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - With gas prices reaching $3.83 per gallon in Eau Claire Thursday, area car dealers said both car drivers and builders are moving towards fuel efficiency, but for some, size and function still make the difference.

Mariah Christensen of Elk Mound decided it's time to make a change.

"We're definitely ready to trade in our clunker for a fuel efficient car," Christensen said. "Gas is about $4 (per gallon) and with the rising costs, we really can't keep up with the gas prices, and something cheaper would be helpful for the long run."

Christensen said came to the Eau Claire Automotive Group to lease a new Dodge Dart Thursday, increasing her mileage from around 17 miles per gallon, to around 40.

"It's number one (priority) for us right now because we have a Ford right now and it's really expensive for gas."

Area dealers said she's not alone.

"If people definitely have a choice, they're leaning towards the more fuel efficient vehicles," Automotive Group General Sales Manager Scott Moore said.

Dealers said fuel efficiency as a priority has been a trend for about five years, but those who need a truck aren't discouraged by paying a little more to drive it.

"People need four-wheel-drive, they're gonna get four-wheel drive," Ken Vance Car City Honda Sales and Leasing Consultant Kevin Klinkhammer said.

"They find the vehicle that's best for them, I think within that segment, fuel efficiency is one of the top things they're looking at for their purchase," Moore said.

"With regard to $5 per gallon gas, it's not a question of if but when. Eventually the price of fuel will go up, and people make decisions accordingly. The good news is the manufacturers have responded, with much bigger safer cars that don't sacrifice performance and still deliver terrific fuel economy," Klinkhammer said.

Some dealerships in California have started charging people to do test drives, but Eau Claire dealers said there are no plans for that there.

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