This Week in Car Buying: Sales up; FCA wants more trucks, less cars; Corvette, Elantra priced
Contrary to a sense that new vehicle sales had peaked, April’s results showed an increase 3.3 percent versus a year earlier and the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate rebounded from March’s 16.5 to 17.3 million. Sales were up 14.4 percent over last April at American Honda and 12.8 percent at Nissan. GM saw a 3.5-percent decline in its year-over-year numbers largely on a reduction of fleet sales, while its rivals Ford had a 3.6-percent increase in sales and Fiat Chrysler logged a 5.6-percent gain, though analysts pointed out much of the FCA upside is attributed to heavy incentive spending.
Both Honda and Nissan posted gains based more on their car lineups than the hot crossover segment. Honda’s Civic continues to sell well, passing 30,000 units in the month, while Nissan saw gains on its redesigned Altima and Sentra models.
“Following a disappointing March, we expected sales to get back on track in April with a SAAR in the mid-17 million range,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue book. “Increased fleet sales and rising incentive spending among automakers remain the factors to watch, but retail demand appears to be holding steady, signaling the industry’s strong run isn’t over quite yet.”
By segment, the hottest category is the new subcompact crossover/SUV category which is up 117.5 percent over the past April, due in large part to the flood of new entries. Luxury mid-size crossover SUVs grew at 15.7 percent, while compact versions of the same vehicles were up 11.9 percent. Mid-size pickup trucks continue to be strong, thanks to high demand for GM’s Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, with sales up 25.9 percent over last April. The largest decline was in high-end luxury cars, dropping nearly 40 percent from year earlier levels.
Transaction prices also edged up 2.3 percent to $33,997, up from $33,246 in April 2015 and $216 over March levels.
BMW sales off, luxury slowdown here?
Among the luxury car leaders, BMW posted a 7.4-percent decline in April sales over 2015 totals and has experienced a 9.4-percent decline so far this year, compared to rivals Audi, which is up 5.0 percent year-to-date and Mercedes-Benz, which has seen just a 2.2-percent decline.
As mentioned earlier, large luxury cars have gone down nearly 40 percent over a year ago, which is having a large impact on these German makes. Still, much of that decline has been offset by the popularity of crossover SUVs. But, while Mercedes’ SUV lineup continues to expand and Audi’s overhauled Q7 comes to the market, BMW’s lineup, which has also seen an all-new entry-level X1 and coupe-like additions in the form of the X4, it still lacks a true-full size SUV analogous to its 7 Series to complete its lineup. Perhaps that hole and slowing sales on the car side in general may be pointing to what could be tougher times ahead for luxury makers.
FCA to build more trucks, fewer cars
Although the company has not found a partner to build replacements for its Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart sedan, Fiat Chrysler is moving ahead with plans to retool the assembly plants that make those vehicles to produce more trucks and crossovers.
Speaking at the rollout of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, FCA Chairman Sergio Marchionne said work will start soon to retool the Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly plant that makes the Chrysler 200 to accommodate the body-on-frame construction of the next generation Ram 1500 pickup, which is due in 2018. Meanwhile, work is also scheduled to begin at the Belvidere, Ill., factory that makes the Dart to convert it over to more Jeep Cherokee production. That revamped assembly line is expected to go into operation in late 2017.
The nation’s wholesale auto auctions retailed 9.3 million vehicles last year, according to data from the National Auto Auction Association. That number was up 6.5 percent over 2015 and represents a total vehicle value of $90.6 billion, up from $81.8 billion. The previous record for dollar volume was $90.5 billion in 2007. The average price per vehicle increased slightly to $9,748 in 2015, up from $9,368.
Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, Hyundai Elantra Eco priced
Chevrolet’s track-ready 2017 Corvette Grand Sport has been priced at $66,445 for coupe models and $70,445 for convertibles, the GM division announced. Prices include destination. The lightweight Grand Sport boasts 0-60 mph acceleration of 3.6 seconds. The Grand Sport’s track-tuned suspension also is capable of pulling 1.05 g of lateral acceleration and up to 1.2 g when equipped with the optional higher performing Z07 setup.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hyundai announced pricing on its 2017 Elantra Eco model, which will start at $20,650 plus $835 delivery and boasts fuel economy of 32 mpg city, 40 mpg highway for a combined 35 mpg rating on the EPA test cycle. The vehicle is powered by an all-new 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with direct injection that’s teamed with a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Other standard equipment includes blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist, LED daytime running lights, heated front seats, dual zone automatic climate control and hands-free smart trunk. The Eco is the latest model in the Elantra lineup which was redesigned for 2017.
Porsche will have a new range topping trim level on its Cayenne and Cayenne S E-Hybrid models. The limited run 2017 Porsche Cayenne Platinum Edition will begin at $66,650 and the hybrid at $82,650.
BMW is touting greater range and new colors for the 2017 BMW i3. The improvements increase the distance between charges to as much as 114 miles.
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