This Week in Car Buying: Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Impala Spared For Now; Sales Cool; CPO Sales Shift to Trucks; Lamborghini gets in on CPO action
Talk of the impending demise of the Cadillac CT6 and Chevrolet Impala has been put on hold. GM said both would continue to be produced at the company’s Hamtramck, Mich., assembly plant near Detroit until January next year. Both cars were initially slated to end production in June.
In the announcement, GM said it would continue production of both—the Cadillac to ensure the launch of the new 2020 Cadillac CT6 Blackwing high-performance twin-turbo V8 and the Chevrolet to meet steady demand. GM also indicated that keeping CT6 alive would continue the company’s leadership in offering semi-autonomous technology like Cadillac’s SuperCruise.
The company has already ended production of the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Volt at the Hamtramck plant due to slow sales of both. However, as the number of nameplates drop in the traditional car market, some analysts see the segment stabilizing. With output matching the new, lower level of demand, average transaction prices may begin to climb and already makers are seeing that there’s no real need for large incentives on these vehicles. As a result, there probably won’t be any traditional car fire sales during 2019 as the segment finds equilibrium.
For now, GM says as of next January the assembly plant building CT6 and Impala is considered unallocated, newspeak for being shut down. However, if demand, prices and margins hold up through the rest of the calendar year, there still might be another reprieve for these full-size sedans in the offing.
It’s been a colder than normal winter throughout the country and the same is true for car sales, which saw a near three-percent drop in February over last year’s results. The drop off in new vehicle activity also sent the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate to 16.61 million units, one of its lowest levels in several years.
Traditionally, February is a slow month for car sales and analysts had been predicting that the market was due for a correction. Volume was down at virtually all the major makers during a month that saw a drop of 2.9 percent in industry sales.
While GM only reports quarterly figures, estimates had volume declining 5.3 percent for the month, followed by a 4.4 percent drop at Ford and a 2.3 percent decline for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Among imports, Nissan saw a 12 percent retreat in sales, while both Toyota and VW Group fell by just over 5 percent each. Manufacturers seeing gains include Subaru, up 3.9 percent, Jaguar Land Rover climbed nearly 29 percent, Hyundai/Kia up 4.4 percent and Volvo grew 5.6 percent.
“With January’s government shutdown and record-breaking sub-zero temperatures in the rearview mirror, we expected a general upward lift in February," said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive, parent of Kelley Blue Book. "The results today suggest a much bigger story: The sales pace has finally shifted into a lower gear."
Incentive spending by manufacturers also continued to decline with J.D. Power reporting that spiffs were averaging $3,721 per unit, a $161 drop from year ago levels. The firm also reported there was also a slight increase in the average number of days it takes to sell a new vehicle, up from 70 to 73 days.
CPO sales shift to trucks
The volume of Certified Pre-Owned vehicles sold continues to climb, passing 2.7 million units last year, a 2.1 percent increase, according to numbers from the Automotive News Data Center. Cox Automotive research manager Zo Rahim is expecting further growth, and a shift towards trucks in the mix of vehicles on offer. Rising new vehicle prices and higher interest rates are attributed in the rise in consumer interest in CPO units.
Pushing those new vehicle prices higher are trucks and SUVs, which in turn may have more of those shoppers turning to the pre-owned market for the first time. These buyers will likely find more trucks to choose from. More of these vehicles, particularly crossovers, will be coming off lease this year. “So that [CPO] market is getting more and more light-truck oriented,” he said. Still, cars continue to dominate the bulk of CPO sales.
Cox data indicates that a greater number of leases will soon be reaching maturity and those vehicles will be heading back to the market. Last year, the number of lease terminations rose 11 percent to 3.85 million vehicles, a number that is expected to hit more than 4 million this year.
Among manufacturers, Toyota continues to lead the CPO charge, retailing 344,796 units last year, though that represents a nearly 7 percent decline over year earlier activity. Honda’s CPO activity grew 1.9 percent to 265,120 units followed by Chevy’s 1.7 percent gain to 241,765. Jeep saw a 21 percent increase in its certified activity to 124,637 units indicating the shift towards more trucks and SUVs coming to the CPO market.
Lamborghini gets in on CPO action
Demonstrating that Certified Pre-Owned activity is not confined to mass market or traditional luxury brands, Lamborghini has introduced its own CPO program for its lineup of exotics. Called Selezione Lamborghini Certified Pre-Owned, the new program is being launched at authorized Lamborghini dealers and service centers worldwide.
“This is an important new program to support the growing volume of pre-owned Lamborghini cars sold through the authorized dealer network,” said Automobili Lamborghini Chief Commercial Officer, Federico Foschini. “In line with our growing production volumes, an increasing number of clients are deciding to buy into the Lamborghini marque, both new and pre-owned models.”
The criteria for certification include no more than 43,500 miles or 7 years’ use on sports cars and 62,000 miles and 10 years’ use on the Urus SUV. Vehicles must have undergone regular scheduled maintenance as directed by Lamborghini service schedules and pass a comprehensive 150-point checklist of exterior and interior features of the car, mechanics, electronics, tires, rims and brakes. Full diagnostic and road tests are also carried out on the pre-owned car before it is sold.
CPO Lamborghinis will come with a 12-month warranty, extendable to 24 months with the balance transferrable to the subsequent owner if the vehicle is resold. The warranty also includes roadside assistance. The program, announced in February, will be rolled out globally during 2019.
Jaguar is getting the jump on the 2020 model year with a refresh of its XE sedan. The 2020 Jaguar XE, which goes on sale this summer, starts at $39,900.
Introductions ranging from the 2020 BMW 7 Series to the 2020 Polestar 2 EV are underway at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.
Tesla has finally opened up the order books on its entry-level $35,000 version of the Tesla Model 3. Also, Tesla is moving to online sales only, closing its retail stores.
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