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This Week in Car Buying: Makers hold line on 2017 pricing; Fiat, Mazda add features, trim prices; Toyota Mirai lease deal; Tesla pushes for more sales

In addition to incentives already showing up on 2017 models, manufacturers are looking at holding the line on model changeover pricing, limiting increases to only a percent or two on average, or in some cases holding the line or dropping prices and adding features.

So far, analysts at Kelley Blue Book have seen only an average 1.1-percent increase in prices announced for the 2017 model year.  Among the new features that are the most popular for the new model year are infotainment upgrades like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as driver-assist packages that include things like blind spot warning, lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking. Rear backup cameras are becoming more common standard equipment across the board and will be mandated on all cars by May 1, 2018.

Nissan exemplifies this trend by announcing that the 2017 Altima returns with no price increase at all. Altima 2.5 4-cylinder models remain at $22,500, the 2.5 S starts at $22,900, the sporty 2.5 SR begins at $24,470 followed by the SV at $25,460 and the SL at $28,570. The 3.5-liter V6 models start at $27,990 for the SR and $32,690 for the flagship SL model. Destination and handling is $835 on all.

Fiat lowers prices, adds content

For the 2017 model year, Fiat is repositioning its products by lowering prices, adding more features and reducing the number of option packages in order to give its sales a lift. Base prices on some models will be lowered as much as 5 to 10 percent, while on others, the discounts will be smaller, but the vehicles themselves will come with more content.

According to Automotive News, the mid-level 2017 Fiat 500L Trekking will see its price cut by only 1 percent, but will have heated leather seats, a BeatsAudio sound system and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with navigation, all previously optional on the trim level.

Although it is reducing the number of packages which numbered as many as 10 on some cars, three basic trim models will remain, entry level Pop, a mid-line Lounge version and the top-line performance Abarth variant. The 2017 Fiat 500 Pop will start at $14,995, a decrease of over $1,000 from last year, while the Lounge model will see a drop of $2,000 to open at $18,395. The 2017 Fiat 500 Abarth will start at $19,995, some $2,580 less than the 2016 model.

Fiat’s subcompact 500 has had a difficult time in the market as a result of low gas prices and the popularity of crossover SUVs. However, even the larger Fiat 500L and the new SUV-inspired 500X have found it tough to gain traction with consumers. Inventories of the two are a respective 148 and 132 days’ supply, which means it would take that long to exhaust existing inventory at the current sales rate.

Also: Class of 2017 - New Cars Ready to Roll

Mazda simplifies Mazda3 offerings

Along similar lines, Mazda announced that it is simplifying its 2017 Mazda3 lineup, adding some features including G-Vectoring Control to refine steering and handling, while keeping pricing in line with the current model range. The 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback Mazda3 will continue to be sold in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels, but instead of offering all models in either “i” or “s”, the former with a 2.0-liter and the latter with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, the Sport and Touring will now be sold with 2.0-liter engines, while the Touring 2.5 and Grand Touring will have the larger engine. Mazda will also be offering a 6-speed manual transmission on the Grand Touring model equipped with the Premium Package and i-Activesense suite of advanced safety packages.

“We are more than happy to give our customers what they want with greater available of the manual transmission,” said Robert Davis, senior vice president of U.S. operations for Mazda North America. ”Mazda3 has a nearly 15-percent take rate of its manual transmission, with most of these buyers opting for higher trim levels. Where so many competitors have retreated in the segment, we see an opening to engage those who enjoy the driving experience with compromise.”

Pricing for the 2017 Mazda3 Sport starts at $17,845 for the sedan and $19,085 for the 5-door, topping out at $24,195 for the sedan and $24,945 for the hatch in Grand Touring trim.

Toyota Mirai lease deal

In announcing its pricing for the hydrogen-fueled 2017 Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle, the Japanese automaker is holding the line on the $57,500 MSRP plus $865 destination. But, it is also offering a low lease rate slashing the previous $499 per month deal to $349 for 36 months with $2,499 due at signing. If you go ahead and buy the Mirai, you are eligible for a $7,500 rebate, 0-percent financing for 5 years or 1.9-percent financing for 6 years.

The fuel cell EV Mirai is also eligible for $8,000 in federal tax credits and as much as $5,000 back for California residents, as well as HOV lane access. Buyers and lessees of the Mirai are also eligible for three years’ worth of fuel and no-cost service for 3 years or 35,000 miles along with enhanced roadside assistance.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

Tesla’s sales push

Elon Musk is looking for Tesla to hit its quarterly sales projection and show positive cash flow as it seeks additional funding to ramp up production of the Model 3. That midsize sedan, which is being promised at a price of $35,000 with a range of 215 miles won’t launch until next year, but already it’s being challenged by the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which will offer a 238-mile range and a sticker of $37,495, which pencils out to $29,995 after a federal $7,500 tax credit is factored in.

As part of this sales push on the Model S and Model X, an EV website in the United Kingdom, electrek, is reporting that the company is offering discounts on and immediate deliveries of cars in stock. Previously, sales were generally done to spec off the company’s website with delivery times averaging one to three months. However, now the EV maker has introduced a new tool for the site where shoppers can browse inventories for immediate delivery and in some cases reportedly get discounts of up to $7,500 on select models.

The rundown

Yet another Volkswagen Beetle variant has hit the road as the German automaker introduces the 2017 VW Beetle Dune Cabriolet. Check out our First Review.

Also looking to cash in on the allure of open air motoring, the 2017 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet has also been launched. Our First Review took us to Brooklyn to drive this diminutive open-top two seater.

The 2016 Paris Motor Show will soon be underway with significant introductions that will affect the U.S. market. Get a preview here and come back for more as press days get underway.

In the market for a new car? Explore these useful tips on how to get the best deal:

Kelley Blue Book’s Complete Guide to Incentives

All you need to know about leasing

Which dealer services are right for you?

What to look for in your next economy car

Ten insider tips for new car buying


 

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