Wealthy Drivers Are Trading Down to Cheaper Autos

It's hard to forsake luxury, but recession-pinched buyers are discovering that tight credit and dim prospects mean less expensive cars

Trading down is becoming chic. The word "frugalista" has crept into the lexicon. McDonald's (MCD) McCafé sales are up, while Starbuck's (SBUX) are down. Subaru and Hyundai are hotter brands than BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The recession, flirting with becoming a full-on Depression, is reshaping consumer buying habits, as well as the product plans of companies ranging from Ford (F) to Mercedes-Benz, Burberry (BBRYF), and Coach (COH).

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