Slackening Demand for Traditional Cars Hurts Auto Makers

Slightly higher pump prices aren’t leading consumers to more efficient cars, however, and lower interest in cars such as the Ford Fusion or Nissan Altima is pulling down the broader market. Sales of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord tumbled 5% and 19%, respectively, in April. Both models were redesigned recently.

Sales of SUVs and pickup trucks are estimated to account for 67% of new-vehicle retail sales in April, the highest level ever for the month, according to research firm J.D. Power. Auto makers, realizing this switch in consumer preference is likely here to stay, are beginning to back away from sedans.

Ford Motor Co. said last week it will shift $7 billion in spending away from small cars and sedans and redeploy it to developing more higher-margin trucks and SUVs. It will only sell the Mustang and a crossover version of the compact Focus in the U.S. in the near future, aiming to eventually have 90% of its sales volume in SUVs and trucks.

General Motors Co. , meanwhile, will end production of the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact as early as this year and is considering discontinuing the Chevy Impala big sedan in the next few years, according to people familiar with the matter.

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