AKRON, Ohio — Largely sparked by the ongoing war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia, gas prices in Ohio have increased more than 50 cents over the past week and have come within striking distance of the state’s record high. The surging fuel prices have also directly led to an increase in interest and demand for hybrid and electric vehicles.
As is often the case, the demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles is directly correlated with gas prices at the time. That has certainly been the case the past four weeks as gas prices in Ohio hit an average of $3.83 a gallon, which is roughly $1.13 more than this point last year, according to GasBuddy.
Gavin Lake, the general manager of Great Lakes Honda in Akron, said consumer interest in more fuel-efficient vehicles, including Honda’s hybrid and EV offerings, began ticking upward in early February and has only intensified.
“We’re seeing a lot more people with their three-row SUVs and trucks,” Lake said. “A lot of customers are coming through and asking about the electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and fuel-efficient cars. They’re really just assessing their options.”
Honda, which has long been a leader in fuel efficiency, are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the shift toward more fuel-conscious buying decisions. However, with the continued supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic, new inventory at Great Lakes Honda has been harder to come by, Lake said. The pre-owned vehicle inventory has remained healthy though.
“Last year, we probably had 700 to 800 new vehicles on our lot. Today if you were to walk on our lot it’s down to 20,” Lake said. “We’re trying to do our best with all of the challenges that dealers are facing. We’re managing the best we can.”
The dealership currently has more than 200 pre-owned vehicles, which is closer to its pre-pandemic average of 250 to 280 pre-owned vehicles.
“The challenge is going to be is finding the new cars for those that want to trade out of their gas guzzlers, their trucks, and into the fuel-efficient vehicles,” Lake said.
For drivers like Denzel Ammons, his take-home pay doesn’t go nearly as far as it once did, due in large part to increasing inflation and higher gas prices. If he had the cash available, he wouldn’t think twice about purchasing an electric car.
“Gas prices definitely socks it to your pockets,” Ammons said. “I’d rather buy anything other than gas. I’m about to buy me a bicycle and use that instead.”
Although new inventory is still very limited, Lake said potential car-buyers can still contact dealers like Great Lakes Honda and inquire about potentially pre-ordering a new vehicle. Delivery times vary but have generally hovered around a few weeks, Lake said. Drivers may also be pleasantly surprised by the value of their trade-ins.
“I would say more people than not have equity in their vehicle. Whether it be a truck, a car, you name it,” Lake said. “If it has four wheels and it’s near new — anything between the last 2-5 years — they do have some equity.”