Small Sales + Small Cars = Headaches

Unsold 2007 Prius hybrid sedans sit on the lot of a Toyota dealership in Boulder, Colo., on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. Hybrid vehicles are on track to achieve record U.S. sales this year despite signs consumer interest in hybrids is waning, an auto information company said Thursday.(
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file
At Hollywood Henderson's Ford dealership in Dallas, home of the pickup, they're finding size doesn't matter as much as it used to, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports.

The main thing that the customers there have been requesting? "Can I get a deal on something fuel-efficient?" Normally, the first question would be "can I get a truck?"

It's the same story across the country. Sales of Ford's popular F-150 are running on empty - down 18 percent from last month over April of a year ago.

Plummeting truck sales mean huge problems for Ford. The automaker will idle some plants three weeks longer than usual this summer ... and today's reports of more layoffs mean tougher times ahead.

"If fuel prices weren't high and the economy got soft, they might be OK," said Joe Weisenfelder of Cars.com. "If fuel prices went high but the economy was still pretty strong, they might be OK. But all these different factors together really leaves them with losses at every turn."

To make matters even worse, struggling U.S. automakers are getting squeezed by suppliers. The cost of steel used to build cars has jumped in just six weeks from $830 a ton to more than $1,000.

And while it can cost almost as much to make a small car as a truck or SUV, small cars are a lot less profitable.

On average Ford makes an enormous profit, nearly $12,000 on every full size pickup, but only $861 on an economy sized car.

Just a few years ago, Americans bought 17 million cars a year, this year's forecast is only about 15 million. For carmakers, small sales and small cars add up to a big headache.