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The Garage: Focus on autos

Sales of small trucks sputtering

July 07, 2007|Martin Zimmerman | Times Staff Writer

Are small pickup trucks headed for the auto graveyard?

No one expects the segment to disappear. But online trade site Used Car Sales reports that minor-league pickups haven't been pulling their weight lately -- to the point that some models may be discontinued.

Like those of their full-size brethren, sales of small pickups have been in the doldrums the last few years. Sky-high gas prices and the flailing housing market, both culprits in the falloff in full-size truck sales, are probably to blame for the drop in small-pickup sales as well.

Small trucks such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma don't get appreciably better gas mileage than similarly equipped big boys such as the Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra, according to the latest government figures. The price difference isn't huge either.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 11, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Autobooks-Aerobooks: An article Saturday in the Business section about Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank gave the wrong first name for the store's unofficial spokesman. He is Doug Stokes, not Dick Stokes.

The Ranger may be No. 1 on the hit list, according to the article, although Ford executives denied that they planned to discontinue the venerable pickup.

Recent figures don't paint a pretty picture. Sales of small pickups fell 11% last month and are down almost 9% this year. Ranger sales are off 12.5% year to date, while sales of the Chevy Colorado are off 9.2%, and the Nissan Frontier is down 17.4%. Sales of the segment-leading Toyota Tacoma are up 7.7%.

Although sales of new trucks are stalling, Kevin Collins, chairman of Ford's Dealer Council, said used Rangers were selling briskly.

"There are still a lot of people who need the bed for storage and hauling," Collins told Used Car Sales, "but not everyone needs as much space as a full-size truck provides."

Experts also noted that Ford had another reason for wanting to keep the Ranger around: It tends to act as an entry vehicle for buyers who later move up to the Ford F-150.

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Auto bookstore has new owners

Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank will host a "get acquainted" session with new owners Chuck Forward and Tina Van Curen on July 15 from 2 to 5 p.m.

The husband-and-wife team is taking over from former owner Chet Knox, who turned 80.

The bookstore, at 3524 W. Magnolia Blvd., features a wide selection of automotive and aviation books, models and memorabilia. But it is perhaps best known for its Saturday-morning Cruise-In, which attracts a variety of motoring enthusiasts and their cars.

"You never know what you're going to see," said Dick Stokes, the store's unofficial spokesman.

Special guests also are a feature at the store, which has been in the Magnolia Park area in one form or another since 1951. Corvette racing legend Dick Guldstrand is scheduled to make an appearance today. Courtney Hansen, author of "Garage Girl: Everything You Need to Know About Your Car," will be signing copies of her book July 14.

The new owners seem ideally suited to the store's dual constituencies: Van Curen is a hot rod builder and racer, and Forward is an aerospace engineer and the son of a Navy pilot.

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Next week in Highway 1

Looks like a mail truck, drives like a ... ? Dan Neil reviews Toyota's redesigned Scion xB in Rumble Seat.

Throttle Jockey columnist Susan Carpenter discusses plans for an important motorcycle crash study, the first in 30 years.

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martin.zimmerman@latimes.com

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