For all the bad news that seems to come out daily about the automobile industry, it's a boom time for some manufacturers and their dealers.
Honda dealers are reveling in the stampede of buyers looking for fuel-efficient cars. Sales of the subcompact Fit sedan are up 53 percent over a year ago, and the Civic was the best-selling car in the United States in May.
Toyota is doing equally well with its Corolla and, of course, its Prius.
Some dealers are reporting that they have almost no backlog of fuel-efficient cars and that it's not unusual for cars to be snapped up on the same day they're unloaded from the transporter.
What this means for shoppers is that there are very few deals out there on these subcompacts, and the situation is likely to get tighter as gasoline prices continue to rise.
On the bright side, vehicles that aren't in such demand are being offered at unprecedented discounts, rebates and factory-to-dealer incentives.
It's no surprise that a fuel-thirsty Hummer H3 comes with a $5,000 rebate these days. Find an unsold 2007 Hummer and General Motors will throw in dealer incentives of $5,000 to $8,000. Deals like that will buy a lot of gasoline.
But most people aren't interested in a sport utility vehicle that reeks of conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels.
So what else is out there that can be bought at a sizable discount off the sticker price and still ease some of the pain at the pump?
- 2008 Saab 9-3. Rated at 26 miles per gallon on the highway, the 2008 version comes with $2,500 in dealer incentives. Find a leftover 2007 -- they're out there -- and the dealer incentives jump to $6,000.
- 2008 Suzuki SX4 sedan. Starts at less than $15,000, gets 30 mpg on the highway and comes with a factory rebate of up to $1,500. 2007 models get a rebate of up to $2,000.
- 2008 Mitsubishi Galant. Gets 27 mpg highway at a starting price of less than $20,000 -- with a $3,000 rebate.
- 2008 Mercury Grand Marquis. It's big and has a V-8, but it still can squeeze out 23 mpg on the highway. It comes with a $5,500 rebate.
- 2008 Hyundai Sonata. Starting at less than $18,000 and rated at 31 mpg highway, the Sonata's sticker can be reduced with a $3,000 rebate.
- 2008 Mazda B-Series pickup. If you need a pickup, the Mazda B-Series gets as much as 26 mph highway and carries a $2,000 rebate.
- 2008 Nissan Versa. This subcompact may not have the cachet of a Honda or Toyota, but it gets as much as 31 mpg on the highway, starts at less than $13,000 and comes with a $1,000 rebate.
The lesson here is that as long as you are willing to look beyond the most popular nameplates, there are deals to be had on vehicles that get more than 20 mpg.
While they may not be as efficient as a Toyota Prius, these cars are reasonable alternatives for buyers looking to get the most for their money.
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