Sports car wave takes hold after dip in gas prices

Sports cars are selling like hot cakes, and lower fuel prices has a lot to do with it, new analysis suggests.

Though easy on the eyes, sports cars can be hard on the wallet, often costing thousands of dollars more than traditional family vehicles that seat several instead of two. They can be particularly pricey when it comes to the pump. Convertible two-seaters are rarely classified as gas sippers, despite coming in smaller packages.

This may explain why more Americans are deciding to purchase the car that they've always wanted than the one that's more practical, a newly released report suggests

Thanks, in part, to more affordable gas prices, sports cars are selling at a faster clip than other car segments, a recent study from vehicle valuation firm Kelley Blue Book found.

Gas prices have averaged less than $2 this year

Several years ago, when a gallon of unleaded cost motorists more than $4 in some states, few thought they'd see the day when gas prices were back below $2.50. In 2016, they've averaged even less than that. For the week of May 2, the average was $2.24, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That's roughly 43 cents less than what it was a year ago.

Sean Foyil, Kelley Blue Book Analyst, referenced how fuel prices have dropped 14% over the past 12 months. It's because of this that high performance vehicles and sports cars have sold well among the consumer public.

"As a result of low fuel prices, consumers are less concerned with fuel efficiency as a factor when choosing their next vehicles and more concerned with other aspects, such as performance," Foyil explained.

He added that this also better explains why green vehicles – specifically electric and hybrid – aren't resonating with the public quite as much as they have in the past.

Ford Mustang gallops to top selling sports coupe title

From the luxurious Porsche, popularized in the James Bond film series, to the more economical Mazda Miata – which sells for a reasonable manufacturers retail suggested price of $24,915 – sports cars are the play toys of the automotive marketplace. But when it comes to the sports car that outsells its segment peers, nothing compares to the Ford Mustang. The Ford Motor Co. announced in April that the Mustang was the world's best-selling sports coupe in 2015, with 110,000 purchased globally over the 12-month period.

Erich Merkle, a sales analyst at Ford North America, noted that the Mustang has stiff competition, given the likes of foreign nameplates like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Jaguar.

"U.S. consumers have enjoyed interesting foreign sports cars for decades, so it was time for the Americans to return the favor with the worldwide launch of the new Mustang," Merkle said. "Global markets have responded in a huge way. Ford Mustang was the only sports coupe in the world with more than 100,000 units registered last year."

He further stated how the type of Mustang buyers pursue has largely varied depending on where buyers live. For instance, on the West Coast, buyers have veered toward Mustangs that boast 2.3-liter EcoBoost engines. Beyond the U.S. borders, however, the V8 engine is the most preferred.

Though the Ford Mustang is a veteran in the North American market – galloping onto the scene in 1965 – it's a rookie across the pond. The United Kingdom just started selling the Mustang in the closing three months of last year, with north of 3,500 Mustangs snapped up before Dec. 31, based on Ford's sales data. In nearby France and Germany – two countries where the Mustang has long been available to new-car buyers – the Mustang was the best-selling sports coupe in March, as reported by the Association Auxiliaire de l'Automobile and German Federal Motor Transport Authority.