It goes to figure that the moment gas in the US eclispes the $3 a gallon mark, every starts to look at small cars in a different light (from the Automotive News via Autoweek):

Rising fuel prices are prodding the U.S. market toward smaller, European-style cars and forcing automakers to consider much more efficient engines, industry executives agreed here last week.

While Hurricane Katrina caused a spike to the $3-plus per gallon range in the United States, it was the steady climb in gasoline prices in the months preceding the killer storm that caught the attention of automakers.

GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz says higher fuel prices, if sustained, inevitably would push Americans toward smaller cars.

“If U.S. fuel prices start equaling fuel prices in Europe, we will have the same vehicle type over time that Europe does – a very large B-class at the bottom with the vast majority of people driving Cobalt-sized cars,” Lutz said in an interview at the Frankfurt auto show.

…Tom Purves, CEO of BMW of North America, says he already sees evidence of pump-price-influenced shopping – at the company’s Mini brand.??

“I can’t tell you I have any hard evidence,” Purves said. “But I can tell you that in the last month, Mini dealers have been inundated on Saturdays by SUV owners saying, ‘I’ve had enough of this.'”

[ Small Cars Gain a Big Interest ] Autoweek

Photo courtesy Amanda Harwood