This Week in Car Buying: Fewer sedans, more crossovers; Cars by subscription; Honda trims Ridgeline range; 2018 Chevy Traverse priced; Tesla drops entry level Model S
Slow sedan sales are causing manufacturers across the industry to rebalance their portfolios by trimming back traditional 4-door models and coupes as they add new crossover SUVs. Case in point is Cadillac, which currently has 4 sedans—ATS, CTS, CT6 and XTS—and only two SUVs, the XT5 and Escalade. GM’s luxury division is looking to add at least one and more likely two more SUVs its lineup while paring back its sedan offers to just three, by combining ATS and CTS in a new CT5 model, continuing with the CT6 and XTS for now, according to a report by Reuters. The division also has an eye on replacing the latter with a new entry level sedan smaller than the current ATS and priced to compete with the Audi A3.
Cadillac has already dumped its plug-in hybrid ELR coupe, CTS coupe and wagon and will not likely replace the ATS coupe when it combines that model with CTS in the new CT5. Even returning mainstream models, like the all-new 2018 Honda Accord, will see a more streamlined model range with the elimination of the coupe variant.
While some manufacturers are betting big on the midsize sedan market with all-new or significantly upgraded models like the 2018 Toyota Camry, Accord and Hyundai Sonata, there are rumblings that some time tested full-size models like the Chevrolet Impala, Buick LaCrosse and Ford Taurus may be on the chopping block. Sedans aren’t necessarily going to disappear from the market, but shoppers can expect fewer choices from the competitors who do remain players in this arena. The scenario will not be that much different than what has happened to the minivan market. At the height of that vehicle’s popularity in the 1990s, nearly every manufacturer had one in the lineup. However, declining sales saw a number of makers drop out, leaving only a few with enough volume to continue minivan production.
Cars by subscription
As the average cost of a new vehicle continues to rise, now averaging around $35,000, the idea of subscribing to car services as a longer-range solution to ride-hailing or vehicle-sharing services is beginning to take hold. Cox Automotive sees the landscape of these subscription services as falling into two, very different camps and is backing ventures in each. (Cox Automotive is KBB’s parent company).
The most likely candidates to use such services are either subprime borrowers who find that qualifying for a loan or a lease results in a car payment beyond their budgets or high net worth individuals who want the flexibility of being able to use a variety of vehicles with the convenience of concierge delivery.
As a result, Cox Automotive is backing two vehicle-subscription services designed to appeal to both segments. The first, Flexdrive, is an app aimed at lower income users and is a joint venture between Cox and Holman Automotive Group of Mt. Laurel, N.J. Available in Atlanta, Austin, Texas and parts of New Jersey, subscribers pay $150 to join and then pay weekly or 28-day fees which vary by vehicle. Subscribers are allowed to change vehicles as often as desired and the units themselves are typically late model 2- or 3-year-old vehicles from the dealer group’s off-lease inventory. Typically the payments range from $200 to $250 per week. While that factors out to a high monthly payment, the flexibility allows the subscriber to pay for the car when only they need it. The sum includes insurance and maintenance.
Clutch, which is geared to the other end of the market, requires $250 to join and payments range from $450 to up to $1,450 per month depending on class or type of vehicles. Clutch, which involves luxury and near luxury vehicles, is being tested in Atlanta and Winston-Salem, N.C. Typically drivers change out their vehicles 2.5 times per month. It currently involves about 600 participants driving 650 vehicles from 19 different brands.
Honda trims Ridgeline range
Honda’s entry into the midsize pickup market, the Ridgeline, which was reintroduced last year after a two year hiatus, enters the 2018 model year with a slimmed down lineup. Honda has dropped the RTS trim, which was a step above the entry level RT. In addition, Honda has dropped optional AWD from the now front-drive only RT and with the elimination of the RTS AWD model, the least expensive model offering all-wheel drive is the Sport, which starts at $35,070. This is a significant boost from the 2017 Ridgeline RT AWD’s $31,375 price. The 2017 RTS was $31,515 for front-drive and $33,415 for AWD.
Overall pricing is up slightly, with the RT and Sport seeing a $155 bump in base price to a respective $29,630 and $33,170, while RTL and RTL-T have been bumped $150 to $33,930 and $36,080. All-wheel drive is $1,900 extra on the models that offer it and all prices exclude $940 destination charges.
2018 Chevrolet Traverse priced
The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse has been priced and will start at $30,875 when deliveries commence later this year. This is the first all-new version of this 3-row full-size crossover SUV from Chevrolet in nearly a decade. It will again be offered in L, LS, LT and Premier trims as well as two new variants, a sporty RS and range topping $52,995 High Country AWD model. The LS starts at $32,995, the LT at $35,495 and Premier at $45,395. Pricing for the RS has not been announced.
“The all-new Chevrolet Traverse has a bold, new look that complements the full functionality our SUV customers demand. It’s designed to help make life on the road easier and to look good while doing it,” said Steve Majoros, director of marketing for Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers.
Tesla drops entry level Model S
The rear-drive version of the Tesla Model S 75, at $74,200 the least expensive variant in that model range, has been dropped by Tesla ostensibly to put more distance between the flagship and all-new Model 3. That model starts at $35,000, but will likely have versions costing between $40,000 and $50,000. The all-wheel drive Tesla Model S 75 D is priced from $80,700. Tesla has been slowly ratcheting up the price of its big sedan since it dropped the lower-output Model S 60 variant which started at about $60,000.
The 2017 model year will be the last in America for the Infiniti QX70 crossover SUV. Nissan’s luxury arm said it is looking at developing a replacement we may see in two years’ time.
The all-new 2018 Honda Accord has been shown with some of the boldest styling yet. We talk to the company’s exterior and interior designers in this exclusive interview.
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