The Cambridge Energy report cites some fundamental shifts in consumer behavior that suggest the beginning of an enduring trend. The report noted that in California, where gasoline prices have historically led the rest of the country, gasoline consumption has declined for two consecutive years and hybrid vehicle sales are rising.
Now the rest of the country seems to be following. Sales of pickup trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles have fallen below 50 percent of new passenger vehicle sales this year for the first time since 2001, the report says, as consumers turned to smaller vehicles in favor of fuel economy.
“It’s kind of stunning,” said Aaron F. Brady, a co-author of the report. “It was over 50 percent as late as February and by May it fell under 44 percent. It’s like falling off a cliff.”