This Week in Car Buying: Buick adds LaCrosse model; Sales surge; Prices continue to climb; Volvo launches mobility brand
While sedans have seen their share dropping, Buick hopes to turn around the trend by offering up a sportier version of its flagship 4-door in the form of the 2019 Buick LaCrosse ST. This additional trim level is distinguished by its monotone treatment with a body colored grille surround, and side vents. Also adding to the sporty look is a small rear spoiler, black mesh grille insert, 19-inch Midnight silver alloy wheels and ST badging.
Power comes from a 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Five special colors including white, steel metallic, red quartz, quicksilver metallic and ebony metallic are being offered as part of the trim. The 2019 LaCrosse ST is priced from $40,295, including a $925 destination fee.
“The LaCrosse ST emphasizes the importance of design, while also complementing the safety, refinement and technology of our flagship sedan,” said Phil Brook, vice president of Buick and GMC Marketing. “The LaCrosse exemplifies what we mean by attainable luxury, offering Buick’s signature QuietTuning, spirited and efficient performance and the latest in-car connectivity all at a tremendous value to customers.”
Other enhancements to the standard 2019 Buick LaCrosse lineup includes two new colors and an air ionizer that’s optional on all models except for the Avenir where it is standard equipment.
June was a good month for the industry as sales surged 5.2 percent, aided by incentives, the popularity of light trucks and an extra weekend of sales, Automotive News reports.
“We’re in a good, old-fashioned bull market right now,” Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive, told Bloomberg News. “There’s been quite a bit of concern regarding trade and tariffs, but car buyers don’t seem to be worried yet.”
The uptick was the second largest gain of the year, led by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) which saw an 8 percent increase over year ago volumes. General Motors also was up 5.7 percent, a gain attributed by analysts to the auto maker’s hefty incentives which reportedly averaged $5,200 per vehicle. Honda saw sales grow by 4.8 percent, while Toyota was up 3.6 percent. Nissan grew by 1.2 percent and Ford was up 1 percent.
J.D. Power reported that early month incentives averaged $3,765 in June. Trucks continue to dominate the market accounting for 67-percent of June sales. J.D. Power says it is the highest level ever and truck penetration has stood above the 60-percent threshold for two years now. Meanwhile, fleet deliveries are holding constant at 20 percent of the market.
Prices continue to climb
Fueled by the popularity of more expensive trucks, the average transaction price (ATP) for new vehicles hit $35,511 in June, according to Kelley Blue Book data. That is up 2.1 percent or $736 from June 2017. Also, new vehicle prices increased month-over-month by $118 or 0.3 percent, reversing a trend that saw the average dropping.
“Helped once again by robust demand for SUVs and trucks, average transaction prices were up a solid 2 percent in June 2018,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “The mix of light trucks is estimated to be at 69 percent, up from 64 percent just one year ago. Last month was particularly strong for pickup trucks, as full-size truck prices rose 5 percent on new models and richer trim mixes. The underlying strength of trucks is best represented by the midsize truck segment, which despite no new products, saw prices climb 3 percent.”
General Motors and Ford both saw healthy gains in ATP, with respective bumps of 4.7 and 3.0 percent. Toyota saw a 2.6-percent increase with both Camry and Avalon contributing to the higher averages. Camry was up 9 percent, while Avalon saw a 7 percent gain.
Hyundai-Kia saw ATP drop, due in part to discounting on Hyundai Elantra and Sonata, as well as the introduction of the low-priced Kona subcompact crossover SUV. Kia’s prices were up slightly due to Stinger and Niro hybrid sales. The Genesis luxury division posted a 3 percent gain in ATP thanks to its new 3.3-liter Turbo Sport trim on the G80.
By segment, luxury full-size crossovers and SUVs posted an 8.6 percent increase in average price, while full-size pickups were up 5.3 percent. Performance cars also transacted higher posting a 5.2 percent increase. The average price of subcompact cars fell 1.2 percent for the month of June.
Volvo launches mobility brand
While M may stand for Motorsports at BMW, it will represent Mobility for Volvo as the Swedish car maker announced M as a new brand that will provide transportation services through an app. Slated to debut in Sweden and the U.S. next spring, M will provide on-demand access to cars and services and will also learn the needs, preferences and habits of its subscribers, which Volvo believes will lead to a more personalized customer relationship.
“Volvo Cars is becoming more than just a car company,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars president and CEO. “We recognize that urban consumers are rethinking traditional car ownership. M is part of our answer. We are evolving to become a direct-to-consumer services provider under our new mission ‘freedom to Move’.”
Bodil Eriksson, CEO of Volvo Car Mobility explains that the approach goes beyond just telling customers where they can pick up a car. “The services currently available mainly offer alternatives to taxi or public transit,” he said. “We’re focused on the way people use the cars they own, which sets us apart. We aim to provide a real alternative to that experience. It should enable us to live on our terms, getting things done and maximizing precious time. We see the opportunity to offer a premium experience.”
Volvo is already experimenting with alternative vehicle ownership models with Care by Volvo, where customers pay a flat monthly fee that includes maintenance and insurance on a two-year commitment. After a year, the customer is given the alternative of switching cars. It offers the program on its XC40 and soon-to-launch S60. Advance orders for 20 S60 T8 Polestar Engineered models were recently offered on-line for $1,100 per month starting next spring and were snapped up in 39 minutes.
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