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American consumers beginning to favor compact, not midsize cars

Bucking historical trends in a big way, Americans seem to be moving towards smaller cars.

In years past Americans spoke with their wallets and opted for midsize sedans more than any other size car - by a wide margin, but so far in 2011 sales show a major shift in consumer favor.

Many argue that the biggest driving force behind the lack of sales for compact and subcompact cars in the U.S. has been due to the lower quality and fewer features found in the cars, which may be playing a role in the return to small cars according to the latest J.D. Power and Associates forecast on compact car sales in the U.S.

Americans have favored midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry for decades, but with Chevrolet's hot-selling Cruze compact, Hyundai's redesigned Elantra and other loaded-to-the-gills options in the segment, Americans are on the verge of displacing the midsize segment as the most purchased as early as this year.

Although impossible to definitely say, it is likely that it is the total change in the market and economy driving the migration, with the economy down and budgets tightened, gas prices up and improved options in the compact field, the time is ripe to downsize without compromise.

If the trend continues it could prove favorable to automakers who have traditionally developed larger offerings for the crucial North American market and its lust for large, while the rest of the world feasted on smaller cars - meaning at some point in the future automakers may abandon or at least lower their investments in large cars and focus on the globally sought after small cars.

Will consumers grow tired of the cramped quarters of their well-optioned small cars? Only time will tell, but for now it appears that consumers can't get enough of the cars once viewed as econoboxes and budget-mobiles.