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Low gas prices boost SUV and pickup sales

Thanks to low gas prices, more Americans are buying big, gas guzzling pickups and SUVs. Sales of both jumped 10% this year, according to sales tracker Autodata. That's nearly twice the increase in overall vehicle sales.

Meanwhile, sales of some fuel efficient cars have plunged, even as the industry is on pace for record sales this year. Sales Nike Outlet Online of Toyota (TM)'s Prius, the hybrid that pioneered that market, are down 12% this year, while sales of the Chevrolet Volt, one of the first mass market plug in electric cars, are down 23%.

"Buyers seem quick to respond to changes in gas prices, both up and down," said Brandon Schoettle, a project manager studying fuel economy at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute. The average in November was 25 mpg, down about 1 mpg from the record high reached in August 2014, before gas prices started to slide.

Related: The nation's cheapest gas is in.

"I think most buyers assume, whether it's $2 a gallon gas or $4 a gallon, if they can get 25 mpg on a large truck or SUV, they're fine with it," Nike Outlet Store Online Shopping said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

Low fuel prices is also leaving more room in their budgets to buy more expensive vehicles than they would otherwise, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader. That's also helping boost sales of SUVs and pickups, which are often more expensive than sedans.

"When the economy is better and interest rates and gas are low, you're going to buy as much car as you can," said Krebs.

CNNMoney (New York) First published December 4, 2015: 3:45 PM ET

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