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Kelley Blue Book: Optimism rises among car shoppers

More than half of those polled in the Irvine-based firm's May survey believe gas prices will remain the same or drop.

BY BRANDON RUSSELLPublished: June 07, 2011

As gas prices continue to fluctuate, so do consumer opinions. Fifty-two percent of prospective new- and used-car owners believe gas prices will either remain the same or go down in the near future, according to a May 2011 Market Intelligence survey conducted by Irvine-based Kelley Blue Book.

This is in contrast to the past several months, when gas prices had a greater impact on the automotive industry. In one month, the number of survey respondents who believe that the cost of fuel will affect their future vehicle considerations has decreased by 5 percent.

In addition, car shoppers are no longer delaying their purchases compared to previous months, down from 62 percent in January to 52 percent in May.

"Prices at the pump have halted their steep rise, and now gas prices are slowly going down in many parts of the country,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst of kbb.com, Kelley Blue Book’s website. “The latest kbb.com survey results show that car shoppers are taking note."

The rise in consumer optimism can also be seen as a sign of the economy’s slow turnaround. The number of consumers who rated their current economic situation as “poor” decreased by 6 percent since February, according to the survey.

"If consumers feel more optimistic about the near-future state of gas prices and more confident in their personal economic situations, this will bode well for the automotive industry, though declining home values present a continuing concern,” Nerad said. “Vehicle availability issues caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami also could blunt gains to be expected from increased car-buyer confidence."

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