Gas prices help refuel Knoxville SUV sales

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KNOXVILLE, TENN (WVLT) -- Knoxville car dealers say cheaper gas prices have refueled SUV and truck sales. Dealers say record high summer gas prices hit the brakes on sales by upwards of 30%. But now that gas has fallen below $2.00 a gallon, dealers say drivers are buying bigger cars with bigger tanks again.

However, the car shopping website still estimates overall November automotive sales will still be down. But just while Volunteer TV was Lance Cunningham Ford, the dealership sold two more SUVs Monday night.

Jerry Martin doesn't know how much gas his newly-purchased Ford Expedition can hold.

"I don't want to know. I don't want to know the mileage either,' Martin said.

Martin swapped his 2000 GMC Yukon for a 2008 pre-owned extended-length Ford Expedition Monday night. Because Martin says size matters, at least when it comes to safety.

"I see a lot of wrecks on the road and smaller cars getting hit. It's usually bad. This has a good safety rating," Martin said.

Martin's not only one super-sizing his ride.

"The market's back," said Lance Cunningham, owner of Lance Cunningham Ford.

Cunningham says higher summer gas prices put the brakes on his SUV sales by about 25%. Now gas has fallen below $2.00, drivers have started guzzling up gas guzzlers again.

"I would say compared to the summer, we're probably about a third better right now," Cunningham said.

In fact, Lance Cunningham bought nine pre-owned SUV's just a week ago. Now nearly half of them are already sold. expects overall nationwide November automotive sales to drop 30% compared to last year. That means big savings on the big vehicles.

"You're looking at about 10-thousand dollars in savings right now, compared to MSRP, and Ford has announced for only the second time ever employee pricing," Cunningham said.

According to Rick McGill's Toyota, between 25 percent and 30 percent of all its sales in the month of November have been from SUV's and large trucks. Salesman said that is about twice the amount from this summer.

"We've got zero percent, plus cash back so the deals are there," said McGill salesman Sam Hash said.

Lance Cunningham said gas isn't the only reason more drivers are up-grading the size of their vehicle. He believes more and more customers just want more room.

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