They're small, they dent easily, and they're not even close to cool. "When I was younger I wouldn't even think about buying one. Wouldn't want to be seen in one," said Geo Metro owner Robert Vasquez, "Because I always drove the cool cars. But you know what? It's really changed my way of thinking quite a bit."
The Metro is a car even its owners joke about, but with gas prices on a steady rise, the Metro's value is hitting high gear.
"There is a renewed interest in these automobiles," said Fresno City College economist Henry Nishimoto. "They've been off the radar screen for a while. They're dirt cheap and the parts are readily available for them."
Nishimoto also buys and sells cars. He says he's getting a lot of requests for Metros and other small cars. He says SUVs, giant pickup trucks, and Camaros are all losing popularity. "A lot of people have talked about getting rid of their big gas guzzling SUVs and pickups and going the way of some of these older cars that were getting 30 to 35 miles per gallon," said Nishimoto.
Postings on the Craig's List website highlight the trend. People are offering all kinds of trades for Metros, so they might not be such a bargain for long. The Kelley Blue Book value is about $3,000 for a 1997 metro. But a Fresno car dealer listed one for just under $6,000 and he thinks he'll sell it quickly.
So now Metro owners aren't joking about the car, they're laughing at other people filling up. "I see one on the road passing by and I think, 'He's got something there.'," said Vasquez.
Nishimoto says the days of cheap gasoline are gone. He expects the price per gallon to hit as high as $4.50 a gallon by mid-summer.