This Week in Car Buying: Strong results from holiday sales; Volvo touts XC40 subscriptions; Average prices peak; Maserati offers Nerissimo package
The seemingly ubiquitous Black Friday/Holiday Sales events by the manufacturers paid off in strong November sales with many makes reporting gains over last year. Two big winners were Honda and Ford, which posted respective gains of 8.2 and 7.6 percent over the same time last year. GM, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles all reported some slippage in numbers in the 3 to 4 percent range.
While some of the gains can be attributed to new model launches like the 2018 Honda Accord and 2018 Ford Expedition, richer incentives and a push to clear out stocks of 2017 models were mostly responsible for the uptick in sales. Decreased fleet shipments, particularly at FCA, are being cited for some of the decline in transactions.
J.D. Power reported that incentives were averaging $4,065 per vehicle in early November and that 2018 models account for about 44 percent of the model mix. Last year, new model year vehicles were 53 percent of the mix, indicating an increase in model year closeout activity. Also helping to push up sales is the proliferation of lease pull-ahead deals where customers are being offered incentives to turn in their vehicles early and roll into a contract on a new one.
"In November, many [automakers] added additional lease-pull-ahead-type incentives, as used-vehicle values continue to be very strong. For consumers with lease terms close to maturing, this has been a good incentive to get back into the market," Brad Korner, general manager of rates and incentives for Cox Automotive told Automotive News. "The pull-ahead incentives, however, are likely short lived, so buyers should act fast. As used-vehicle values normalize, we expect [automakers] to dial back on these programs.” Cox Automotive is the parent company of Kelley Blue Book.
Volvo touts XC40 subscriptions
As part of its launch of the all-new 2019 Volvo XC40 next year, the Swedish car company will be offering a way for buyers to subscribe to one for a monthly $600 fee that includes insurance, service and maintenance. The program, called Care by Volvo, includes a 15,000-mile-per-year allowance, tire and wheel damage coverage, wear-and-tear replacements including wipers and brakes and all factory-scheduled maintenance.
Care by Volvo also will feature 24/7 customer care and concierge service, including roadside assistance under the 24-month program. Subscribers can change cars and sign up for a new 24-month period as soon as they are a year into the program. Insurance in the program is provided by Liberty Mutual and includes $250,000 bodily injury coverage per person and $500,000 bodily injury total per accident along with $500-deductible comprehensive and collision coverage. The $600-per-month payment does not include local taxes and registration fees.
The program features two XC40 models: the T5 AWD Momentum with Premium Package, Vision Package, heated front seats and steering wheel, panoramic roof and 19-inch wheels; or, the T5 AWD R-Design with Premium Package, Vision Package, Advanced Package, heated front seats and steering wheel, panoramic roof, Harman Kardon Premium Sound and 20-inch wheels. Customers can subscribe now for vehicles that will begin deliveries early next spring.
Volvo also announced pricing on the 2019 XC40, with the T5 4-cylinder all-wheel drive model starting at $35,200. The vehicle will be available on a 3-year lease for $325 per month with $3,000 down. A less expensive T4 model with front-drive only will follow priced at $33,200.
Average transaction prices peak
The average price of a new vehicle hit $35,870 in November, up $554 or 1.6 percent over last year, while increasing $83 from October. That figure represents a high-water mark for the transaction price paid on average for new vehicles in the U.S. market.
“Transaction prices reached a new record high in November 2017,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Prices are being driven higher by the shifting sales mix away from cars, which now stands at just 34 percent is trending downward. Kelley Blue Book continues to see much of the consumer demand geared toward small SUVs, which saw prices rise by 3 percent, in addition to strong sales growth. This segment features many recent redesigns, and shows no signs of weakness despite the overall down market for new vehicles.”
Ford’s prices were up 3 percent largely on the strength of its F-Series Super Duty trucks, while Mustang also showed some lift with a similar boost in average prices paid. At Toyota, the overall 3 percent increase in pricing was driven in large part by the all-new 2018 Camry, which benefited from a 10 percent lift in ATP.
Maserati offers Nerissimo package
One way manufacturers have found to boost margins is to spice up their model lines by offering so-called Midnight packages that feature black chromed brightwork, dark wheels and ebony accents. Now comes Maserati with its Nerissimo package, which sounds a lot sexier than Midnight.
This black package is being offered on the Levante crossover SUV as well as the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans. Using Nero black exterior paint and black chrome finishing on the grille, side air vents, trident logo, side vents and other surfaces, the car’s sinister look is further enhanced by exterior carbon fiber accents and aerodynamic elements.
The Nerissimo package can also be specified in two other body colors, Nero Ribelle and Grigio Maratea on the Ghibli and Quattroporte, while still retaining all the other blacked-out elements of the package. Maserati also announced that the Ghibli sedan and Levante SUV will now offer new GranSport and GrandLusso trim packages. The latter features the availability of Emenegildo Zegna silk or full premium Italian leather upholstery as well as wood trim and wooden/leather steering wheel.
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