Is it the end of the road for the gas guzzler?

SUV Prices Drop
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CHICAGO - American drivers are beginning to do their part to conserve. CBS News national correspondent Dean Reynolds reports the heyday of the gas guzzler may be over.

On the roller coaster ride of energy prices, gasoline is going up again. But lessons learned since the last spike in 2008 are cushioning the blow.

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"Fuel efficiency as a whole has become more important to every customer," said James T. Farley, Group VP of Marketing Sales and Service at Ford. "Even full-size truck customers."

Gasoline consumption in this country peaked in 2007 at 390 million gallons a day. But it's declined ever since, and last year the figure was 379 million gallons. That's a difference of nearly 11 million gallons, every day - even with more cars on the road.

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"There are a lot of models now that are considerably more efficient than they were just four or five years ago," said Joes Wiesenfelder of cars.com.

Wiesenfelder says the public got smart. "People have learned 'next time I buy a car - I'm not going to be in a situation where my SUV costs $100 to fill and it's re-sale value goes way, way down and it leaves me stuck with this vehicle.'"

In 2004, 65 percent of vehicles sold by Ford were trucks or SUVs. Today, that number has almost completely flipped, with cars and cross-overs dominating sales 60-40.

Farley added, "People are down-sizing and they're buying nicer-equipped, but very fuel-efficient vehicles."

At Grossinger Autoplex in Chicago, 40-50 percent of Toyata sales in March were hybrids. Brian Weinberg, the general manager there said, "our hybrid sales and small car sales have been pretty much going through the roof." But the earthquake in Japan has disrupted supplies. "Unfortunately as we get less, the prices are going to go up on the hybrid vehicles."

What's different today though is that customers have a far wider array of choices - especially U.S. products - that can help them weather the wild ride at the gas pump.

  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.