The recent decline in gas prices has brought an increase in owner loyalty rates for pickup trucks and SUVS, which had been adversely impacted by higher fuel prices earlier in the year, according to real-time retail transaction data from the Power Information Network (PIN), a division of J.D. Power and Associates. To better reflect consumer demand for new vehicles, PIN data includes retail transactions only and does not include fleet sales.

Owner retention rates for the large pickup, large utility and midsize utility segments have all risen in the seven-week period from mid-August to early October -- the time period during which gas prices steadily dropped and averaged $2.66 per gallon -- when compared to the prior seven weeks, when gas prices averaged $3.04 per gallon. Owner retention is measured by the percent of owners in any given category who trade for another vehicle in the same category.

PIN data shows that at the model level, four of six high-volume large pickup models, four of five large utilities and seven midsize utilities all have experienced increases in owner retention during the same time period (mid-August to early October).

"It's early, but this data suggests there still is life in these segments," said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at PIN. "These segments are important because they include many high-volume, high-profit models. These findings are also relevant because Ford, General Motors and Toyota all have new products coming in these segments."

The large pickup, large utility and midsize utility segments account for almost one-quarter of new-vehicle sales -- a combined 23.5 percent year to date through September.