This Week in Car Buying: Big truck discounts; GMC shows 2019 Sierra Elevation; Mercedes-Benz launches subscriptions; Volvo's next-gen roadside assistance
With the introduction of the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup and impending sales of new half-ton pickups from Chevrolet and GMC, discounts have been ramped up on previous generation models as FCA and GM look to clear out stocks of these older vehicles. And by boosting incentives, the two makes are putting heavy pressure on Ford to discount its F-150.
According to a survey by Reuters, discounts are ranging from as much as $12,000 on 2018 Ford F-150s to $16,000 on 2018 Ram 1500 models. Incentives are said to be about $13,000 for some 2018 Chevrolet Silverado models.
"The walls are not crashing down on full-size trucks," Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions in Chester Springs, Pa., told the news agency. The strategy is to maintain volume on pickups, which delivers some of the highest margins in the industry. Automakers "giving up a little of the profit is the cheapest way to do it."
Despite these incentives, the average transaction prices for full-size pickups continues to rise. According to Kelley Blue Book data, the ATP for these models stands at $48,213, a 3.8-percent or $1,754 increase over year ago levels. And while discounts expressed on manufacturer websites can range from as low as $2,000 for the Ford F-150 to 20-percent off retail on the Chevy site, Reuters said local incentive spending has contributed to the higher discounts. It cited James Collins Ford in Louisville, Ky., offering discounts of up to $12,215 on the 2018 F-150 XLT SuperCrew 4x4; Quirk Chevrolet selling the 2018 Silverado 1500 Double Cab at $13,000 off sticker, and Gurnee Chrysler-Dodge-Ram-Jeep outside Chicago marking down the 2018 Ram 1500 Harvest Crew Cab 4x4 by up to $16,000.
GMC shows 2019 Sierra Elevation
As part of its rollout of the all-new 2019 GMC Sierra pickup, GM’s truck division unveiled a new model that showcases a new turbocharged 2.7-liter 4-cyinder base engine. The new trim level designation for 2019 GMC Sierra Elevation features monochromatic bumper, grille surround and door handles offset by black treatment of the grille insert, tow hooks, window trim and standard 20-inch alloy wheels.
“The 2019 Sierra Elevation conveys a youthful, athletic presence that demonstrates GMC’s tailored approach,” said Rich Latek, GMC marketing director. “With inherent truck capabilities and functionality, Elevation is able to take you off the beaten path along with your gear while standing out from the pack.”
Based on the double cab configuration with four doors, the Elevation is available in 2- or 4-wheel drive. GMC says the new model boasts a gain of over three inches in rear legroom. The base model will be powered by a 310-horsepower 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which replaces the previous generation truck’s base V6. Buyers can also opt for a 5.3-liter V8 and later on in the model year, an inline 3.0-liter 6-cylinder turbodiesel with a 10-speed automatic will be offered.
The 2019 GMC Sierra Elevation will also be equipped with the latest tech, including Apply CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility through an 8-inch touchscreen. The Elevation will go on sale this fall with pricing announced closer to its launch.
Mercedes-Benz launches subscriptions
The German luxury car maker has jumped into vehicle subscriptions unveiling a program called the Mercedes-Benz Collection. The pilot program will have three price tiers designed to undercut pricing from rivals like Cadillac, Porsche and BMW.
Subscribers can get access to 30 model variants under the monthly fee program that is offered in three tiers: Signature, Reserve and Premiere, with monthly payments ranging from $1,095 to $2,995 per month. The two-year pilot in Nashville and Philadelphia is a joint arrangement between the Mercedes’ American car sales arm and its financial division, Mercedes-Benz Financial USA.
The monthly fees of Mercedes’ program undercuts BMW’s program, which has prices ranging from $2,000 to $3,700 per month. The two German makes subscription pilot programs are going head-to-head in the Nashville market. Porsche’s subscription service also offers tiers priced between $2,000 to $3,000 while Book by Cadillac has a $500 initiation fee and a flat $1,800 per month charge.
Like the Cadillac program, those subscribing through the Mercedes-Benz Collection are required to pay a $495 activation fee. The models included in the collection are sedans, coupes, convertibles, crossovers and SUVs. The higher tiers are reserved for performance Mercedes-AMG models. A smartphone app is used to access the collection and subscribers can drive any vehicle within their tier with no mileage caps. The subscription also covers insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. Vehicles will be delivered and picked up through a concierge service administered by local dealers.
Mercedes expects the subscribers to change vehicles as much as two or three times per month and estimates that it may take a year to 18 months to reach profitability. If the program is successful, Mercedes promises to roll it out to other markets.
Volvo’s next-gen roadside assistance
While good product is the foundation for a successful auto brand, makers are turning more and more to enhanced services that promises their customers peace of mind if things go wrong. Volvo is introducing a new generation of roadside assistance that it believes will improve response time to customers who need help. This latest service is part of an expanding roster of connected car technologies that the Swedish car company is making available to its customers.
This latest iteration of its roadside assistance features an app inspired by ride-sharing services by allowing the user to track the location and estimated time of arrival of roadside assistance vehicles. Also, Volvo says the information can be shared with Volvo Customer Care agents who can assist drivers with the roadside assistance on a 24/7 basis.
“Our next generation roadside assistance provides complete transparency to the affected customers,” said Bill Casey, Volvo’s director of customer care. “Real time tracking will allow customers to know exactly when help will arrive and who to expect. It will dramatically cut down on the response time, setting a new benchmark for the industry.” The enhanced roadside assistance program launched June 1.
Audi has a new flagship in its SUV range. It took the wraps off the 2019 Audi Q8, a 5-passenger, 2-row luxury SUV that goes on sale before the end of the year.
Almost concurrent with the Audi announcement, comes the unveiling of the 2019 BMW X5. This redesigned luxury SUV is expected to make its official debut at the Paris Motor Show this fall.
Porsche has bumped up the power in both its Boxster and Cayman mid-engine sports car in the form of the 2018 Porsche 718 GTS. We get behind the wheel in this First Review.
You are all set to buy a new or used vehicle, so what do you do with your current ride? We have the answers for you in this latest Inside Car Buyer’s Tips: Trade, sell or donate.
In the market for a new car? Explore these useful tips on how to get the best deal: