This Week in Car Buying: 2019 Acura ILX priced; VW Arteon delayed; Sales drop 5.6 percent; Average transaction prices continue rise
Acura released pricing on its facelifted 2019 Acura ILX compact luxury sedan, which sees a $2,200 price reduction on base models. The entry level ILX is priced from $26,895 including $995 destination. The facelift includes Acura’s new signature Diamond Pentagon grille, interior and technology upgrades including standard AcuraWatch driver assists and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
All 2019 Acura ILX models are equipped with a 201-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed dual clutch transmission with steering wheel paddle shifts. Deliveries are expected to begin October 10.
"The critical mission of ILX is to bring new buyers into the brand, and our entire product and pricing strategy reflects that focus," said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president and general manager. "We believe that what we've done with ILX from a design and technology standpoint, together with aggressive pricing, will strengthen its position as our gateway sedan and as a segment leader in terms of attracting millennial buyers."
The 2019 ILX with a Premium package starts at $28,645. Technology package-equipped models will cost $30,545, while models with the Premium and A-Spec packages are $30,645. At the top of the line, ILX models with Technology and A-Spec packages are priced at $32,545. All prices include $995 delivery. That top 2019 version is $3,550 less than a comparable 2018 model.
Volkswagen Arteon delayed
The 2019 Volkswagen Arteon, which made its U.S. debut last February at the Chicago Auto Show, will be delayed until early 2019. The vehicle was scheduled to go on sale late this year. According to Automotive News, VW said the delay is being caused by a backlog in the European worldwide emissions testing program called WLTP, which stands for Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure. As a result, it’s taking longer to finish U.S. certification work for the sedan.
The trade paper said that VW’s test benches have been overloaded from its work to resolve the diesel emissions scandal by recertifying its entire vehicle portfolio to the new standard. The backup is affecting a wide range of models including the Golf, which still hasn’t gotten its European certification.
The 2019 Arteon was introduced two years ago in Germany and is designed to replace the CC as VW’s flagship sedan. The Arteon is bigger than the CC, measuring nearly 5 inches longer and is powered by a 268-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission. While midsize car sales are down, VW is counting on the new Arteon with its liftback body style and high level of equipment to outperform the CC. With the delay, VW won’t announce pricing until closer to the Arteon’s revised launch. The CC, last sold as a 2017 model here, was priced from $34,475.
Sales drop 5.6 percent
The much anticipated second half slowdown in the market is underway as September sales dropped more than 5 percent over year ago levels. Analysts say that last year’s September sales saw a surge for replacement vehicles in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Last month’s Hurricane Florence did much less damage, so there wasn’t the same storm-related surge in sales.
Almost all major makes were down except for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The downturn did beat industry estimates that predicted a 7 percent drop in sales. Demand for traditional sedans continue to lag, dropping 20 percent, while trucks were down only 2 percent.
FCA’s saw a 15 percent jump in sales and outsold Ford for the first time since 2015. Part of that result is attributed to a high percentage of fleet sales (up 25 percent) combined with Ford’s volume dropping 11 percent during the month. GM is estimated to be off by about 16 percent (the auto giant no longer reports monthly sales, only quarterly—it reported an 11-percent decline for the previous three months).
Sales were down 10 percent at Toyota, 12 percent at Nissan and 7 percent at Honda. Subaru’s sales continue to climb, growing 3.5 percent in September over year ago levels. The other big gainer was Volvo, which saw sales climb 10 percent.
Higher interest rates and gas prices are partly to blame for the softening market. “There’s no question the Fed’s actions this year are impacting car buyers,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for KBB parent Cox Automotive. The Fed recently raised rates for the third time this year. “It will not get better for consumers or the industry from here. Clearly, the Fed isn’t finished, as they have indicated an additional increase will come in December, with more expected in 2019.”
Despite softening sales, manufacturers are holding the line on incentives. According to J.D. Power, incentives averaged $3,910 per vehicle during early September, down from $4,061 a year earlier.
Average transaction prices continue climb
According to Kelley Blue Book data, the average transaction price for light vehicles in the U.S. hit $35,742 in September, up 2 percent or $687 over a year earlier. Month-over-month, however, the prices remained nearly flat, dropping less than a half percent.
“While September sales are expected to decline, average transaction prices remained strong, rising 2 percent year-over-year,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “With interest rates on the rise and manufacturer incentives at a healthy level, thanks to tighter production, monthly payments for consumers are immediately impacted. If gas prices stay high in the fourth quarter, affordability will likely be a concern for new-car buyers and could lead to fewer sales at year-end.”
Both GM and Honda saw gains in ATP, growing 4.0 and 4.6 percent respectively on the strength of redesigned products hitting the market like the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and continued strength of crossovers for Honda with the CR-V and Pilot. Lincoln’s average prices continue to climb, going up 12 percent, largely due to the Navigator’s stunning 33 percent in average transaction price.
Nissan is looking to take some market share away from its rivals, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, with a revamped 2019 Nissan Altima. We get behind the wheel in this First Review.
See how the 2019 Honda Pilot and the all-new 2019 Subaru Ascent stack up to each other in this two-vehicle comparison.
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