Cheap Oil Won't Help Detroit Sell Gas Guzzlers

The most obvious upshot of oil's Black Friday sale -- that falling prices at the pump will stimulate demand for gas-guzzling pickups -- may well prove to be dead wrong.

Dead man driving.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

U.S. auto sales boomed on Black Friday as huge discounts pushed volumes to more than 17 million units on an annualized basis, the highest level in 11 years. But even with big price cuts pumping up deliveries of new cars -- likely at the expense of fourth-quarter profit margins -- the biggest discounts of the holiday weekend were actually on crude oil. With OPEC apparently trying to wage a price war against North America's shale oil boom, U.S. consumers can look forward to cheap motoring for at least the short term. But even a dramatic change in the price of oil is unlikely to undo major trends in the U.S. auto market, and what effects it might have on new vehicle demand could be downright surprising.

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