AutoNation CEO: Don't bet on higher gas prices pushing consumers out of SUVs and trucks anytime soon

Key Points
  • Gas prices are creeping back toward a national average of $3 per gallon.
  • American automakers have been shifting more of their product mix toward SUVs and trucks.
  • Some question the wisdom of this move, but AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson is not worried.
AutoNation adds $250 million to stock buyback plan
AutoNation adds $250 million to stock buyback plan

Gas prices are creeping up again, just as major American automakers are saying they plan to shift toward making even more hot-selling trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

Ford said last week it will pare its passenger car lineup down to just two models — a hatchback-like vehicle called the Focus Active and the Mustang. The rest of its lineup will be all trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

Some observers are saying Ford might be shooting itself in the foot. Oil prices fluctuate wildly, and federal fuel economy regulations may remain in effect, despite talk the Trump administration may freeze them, said Bill George, a Harvard Business School senior fellow.

But AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson is not worried consumers will abandon SUVs and trucks any time soon.

"One, consumers really love their truck-based vehicles," Jackson told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. These vehicles offer a higher seating position that drivers seem to want, he said.

Furthermore, trucks and SUVs have become far more fuel efficient in recent years, he said, narrowing the gap with passenger vehicles.

And finally, while gasoline prices are approaching a national average of $3 a gallon, prices would have to go to $5 or $6 a gallon to really shift people out of trucks, he said. And U.S. oil production capacity makes it doubtful prices will be able to climb that high, he said.