This Week in Car Buying: Slowing sales set stage for big deals; Mind the gap between new and used car payments; Toyota bans below invoice ads
Even as sales continue along at a 17-million unit clip for 2015, Kelley Blue Book expects to see a 4-percent decline in year-over-year sales for August primarily due to the strength of sales 12 months ago, but also because of the uncertainty in financial markets.
"While the outlook for August remains bright, we must keep an eye on the financial markets which have declined precipitously in the last few weeks on uncertainty in international markets, namely China," said Alec Gutierrez, a KBB senior analyst.
The slowing sales pace may also be fueling the year-end deals manufacturers are ramping up on 2015 close-out models. It could mean that this year's traditional Labor Day sales may have some hefty bargains. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have rebates ranging from $500 to $2,500 across the board coupled with cut-rate financing. Ford's 2015 spiffs range from $500 to $3,000, while GM cash back also runs from $500 to as much as $4,000 off the Cadillac XTS.
Among imports, Toyota has $500 to $3,000 cash on its lineup while Nissan and Infiniti have rebates of up to $2,500. There are also select 2016 models on the market with incentives, including the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander with $2,000, while the Lancer and Outlander Sport have $1,500 cash offers.
Monthly payment gap widens
The difference in monthly payments for new and used cars has reached a historic high, according to Experian Automotive. The average monthly price for a new car in the 2nd quarter of 2015 was $483 versus $361 for used vehicles, the largest since the company began recording these figures in 2008. The difference in the amount financed is also large, with the average new car loan hitting $28,524 versus $18,761 for used vehicles.
The widening gap plus the high number of cars coming off lease and going into the used-car market could further reduce prices for pre-owned units. And with new-car transaction prices continuing to climb, that gap between new and used payment could grow even more. Eventually, a glut of used cars could mean even lower prices on them, which in turn could put pressure on new car sales.
"As the price of vehicles continues to rise and the gap between monthly payments for new and used vehicles widens, we see more and more consumers looking for ways to keep their vehicle payments affordable," said Melinda Zabritiski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance. "This could be especially true for consumers who have the financial ability to pursue a new vehicle but may have sticker shock at the rising prices and don't want the accompanying high monthly payments."
Another byproduct of the widening gap is the growth in loan terms. Used vehicles financed for 73 to 84 months reached 16.1 percent, a 15-percent increase in volume, while now nearly 29 percent of new cars are financed for the same period. Leasing is also up as buyers look to contain monthly payments. In addition to growing to record levels, contract terms are also getting longer, dropping the average lease payment by $13 per month to $394 from $407.
Toyota takes on below-invoice ads
According to Automotive News, Toyota Motor Sales may soon ban dealers from advertising below-invoice prices on vehicles in stock, an approach embraced by rival American Honda. Some dealers are in favor of the policy saying it will help increase margins, while other dealers oppose the move saying below-invoice advertising boosts volume.
Earl Stewart, owner of Earl Steward Toyota in Lake Park, Florida, opposes the move, telling the trade paper "This is not in the best interest of the consumer," while others, like Erich Gail, chief operating officer of 14-store Cardinale Group, believes he will "see transaction values hold and appreciate." He characterized the cut-rate price advertising as a "race to the bottom" where dealers of the same brand end up competing with each other rather than rival makes. While some believe it's a way to eliminate bait-and-switch practices, others, like Stewart, believe it will undermine no-haggle pricing because the below invoice sticker on his vehicles is his best price up front.
Connecticut offers EV rebate
A new state program in Connecticut is looking to give a boost to EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles by setting aside $1 million for consumer incentives. Called the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) program, the rebates range from $750 to $3,000 and are in addition to the federal tax credits that range from $2,500 to $7,500.
With only 3,000 registered EVs in the state when the program began in May, CHEAPR is expected to give the market a lift. Through July about a quarter of the money allocated to the program has been redeemed. It is the first tiny step the state has taken towards reaching its goal of having 300,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road in the state by 2025, but in order to reach those levels, it's likely that a larger and more expensive rebate program may be needed in light of falling oil prices.
There won't be any 2016 Mirage hatchbacks in the Mitsubishi lineup as the 5-door will take a model-year hiatus with the a refreshed version of the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage bowing in the first quarter of next year during the Chicago Auto Show in February.
The pony car wars are heating up with a redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Camaro on the way. Chevy has announced pricing for the Mustang fighter with base prices starting at $26,695. The base 1LS model has been dropped while the LT and SS trim levels return.
Ford is also gearing up to counter the new Camaro with its high performance 2016 Shelby GT350 version of the Mustang, which began rolling off its Flat Rock, Michigan, assembly line last week. The 526-horsepower coupe opens at $63,495 including destination and gas guzzler tax.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is raising the prices of its popular Hellcat-powered 2016 Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT, which will sell for $69,640 and $65,190 respectively, an increase of up to $4,200. Dodge cancelled the remaining 2015 orders on hand, but gave those buyers the original pricing on the new models.