Gas prices, parts shortages to cause consumer woes

It seems that every year, just as the weather becomes warmer and “road trip season” nears, the news media begin predicting how much consumers can expect to pay for a gallon of gas come Memorial Day weekend.  This year is no different; however, the problem is exacerbated by the Japan earthquake and tsunami devastation, the situation in the Middle East, and the rate at which our government is printing the dollar.

The fact is, the steady rise of gasoline prices combined with the anticipated parts and inventory shortages from Japan could make for a very uncomfortable scenario for consumers this summer. Analysts (and the media) are expecting gas prices to rise to $6 in the coming weeks.

As someone who has experienced the automotive industry from the consumer, dealership, and policy sides; I can’t help but contemplate whether the Administration believes that consumers will just sit back and accept  rising fuel costs. Perhaps the White House hopes that sky-rocketing gas prices will actually encourage consumers to head to their local car lots to buy highly fuel efficient vehicles like the government-backed Chevy Volt.  There’s no denying it would help President Obama meet his goal of one million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Normally, sending a slew of consumers to the dealerships would be a welcomed response from dealers who sell the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf among others, but the lack of parts coming from Japan has pinched dealers’ inventories.

I’m a strong believer in the marketplace driving what automakers produce, but it feels as though the government is (almost unabashedly) placing consumers between a gas pump and a hard place. How can consumers take control of the situation without being forced to purchase fuel sippers at the flip of a switch? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. MPGomatic at 8:57 AM

    Instead of pointing fingers, lets take personal responsibility.The Chevy Volt is a marvelous technological achievement, but vehicles like the Chevy Cruze Eco and FlexFuel Buick Regal Turbo have the potential to do more to reduce this country’s dependence on foreign oil in the short term.Relatively inexpensive vehicles – like the Cruze Eco – demonstrate what’s possible with aerodynamic smarts and a relatively simple change to gearing. Those who have been too lazy to shift for themselves would do well to rediscover the manual transmission. 🙂

  2. Melanie Batenchuk at 10:14 AM

    MPGomatic – Thanks for sharing your perspective. My intent was not to point fingers, but to point out that asking consumers to buy brand-new cars to solve the “gas” problem may not be the appropriate solution right now. Our economy is sill in recovery, and people in middle America may not have many options for public transportation. That’s why it’s important to look at “why” gas prices are so high, rather than throwing our hands up as consumers and saying, “Oh well, guess I’ll just suck it up.”I am definitely excited about the new technologies that manufacturers are exploring, but there are still refinements that need to be made. The Chevy Volt that takes 4-10 hours to charge and doesn’t get me far on electric-only power (http://gm-volt.com/chevy-volt-faqs/). It may not be the best solution for rural America (and it’s still difficult for city dwellers to have access to power supply).You are right, however, about consumers taking some personal responsibility. I am all for that! We can all do things like bundling our errands into one overall trip, keeping our cars well-maintained to maximize fuel efficiency, and just being smarter about how often and how far we drive. I think that higher gas prices gives us all reason to pause and think, “Do I really need to drive there?” But for many, that’s the only option. I’m fortunate to live in the DC area, where most stores are in walking distance from where I live, and public transportation is often more convenient than driving (and certainly more cost-effective).Thanks again for sharing your thoughts – it’s good for us to have these conversations!

  3. MPGomatic at 10:55 AM

    Melanie – There is no single technology solution to our continuing dependence on imported oil. We can find more answers when we look at things with a regional perspective.There is far too much emphasis put on electric vehicles (EVs) by the easily-led media. EVs are cool, but they’re certainly not for everyone. We need ALL the arrows in the quiver (including CNG, diesel, ethanol & other advanced biofuels). When partisan politics are put aside, it’s clear to see that Sec. Chu & the Energy Department are making some smart moves.Unfortunately, we have had it too easy for too long here in America, enjoying our fuel at a fraction of the cost of elsewhere in the world (nevermind our defense budget).Trade in that 15 MPG SUV for a Honda Civic GX running on CNG and you won’t just double your MPGs, you’ll slash the cost per gallon. Check out CNGprices.com and zoom around the country for a real eye-opener … CNG is under a dollar per gallon in Oklahoma, about a buck and a quarter in Utah, and roughly half the cost of gasoline in parts of California.The big WHY is why isn’t this on the evening news … 😉

  4. Melanie Batenchuk at 11:02 AM

    There are still challenges with fueling up CNG vehicles, but diesel is another great option. We are making strides, but in America, we’ll never be able to completely hide the politics. 😉 I don’t wholly disagree with what the Administration wants to do – I just want them to look at (and utilize) all options available to us here.But to your point about “why isn’t this what the media’s reporting,” all I can say is AMEN! 🙂

  5. MPGomatic at 11:17 AM

    CNG is a regional solution at the moment, no doubt about that.I dig diesel. It works, nationwide … we’d do well to move fleets off diesel onto CNG to free up availability of diesel for passenger vehicles.If Rudolf’s diesel had stuck with peanut oil, and Henry Ford had stuck with alcohol fuel way back when, it would be a different world today …