Detroit is roaring down the fast lane

FRESNO, California

It wasn't just American companies succeeding. Nissan and Hyundai set company records. With gas prices more than $4 dollars a gallon, smaller cars like the Ford Focus, Nissan Versa, and Fiat 500 are in high demand.

At only six months old, Fiat of Fresno saw the highest sales to date last month. Like many other smaller cars, their popularity is being fueled the cost of fuel. "They know as fuel prices go up, they know more and more people are sitting on the fence, thinking, 'I can make this work in my lifestyle,'" said Brian Finegan.

Finegan's family owns the Fiat dealership as well as the Chrysler dealership next door. Finegan said last month's sales are also a result of aggressive zero percent financing. It's just one way automakers are responding to the current economic climate.

It appears their efforts are working. In March, Chrysler saw the best month in four years with its 200 and 300 sedans doing very well. Nationwide, Chrysler saw sales increase by one third.

But what do the increased sales mean for the economy as a whole? University of Phoenix economics professor Scott Cain said they're a good sign of economic recovery. "It's a key indicator of economic growth. And so when you have auto sales increasing, it's a good precursor of things to come with the economy," said Cain.

While some economists worry the high cost of fuel could cause the economy to stall, Cain is a bit more optimistic. While he says fuel prices will likely remain high, the price won't likely be enough to hurt the economic recovery.

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