||New Compact Cars Are Flying Off Dealer Lots, Study Finds
Compact cars are flying out of dealerships compared with this time a year ago as buyers snap up appealing new models and respond to higher fuel prices.
Automakers expect a new vehicle to spend about 60 days at a dealership before selling.
That's the industry average; faster is good, slower is bad. Quick sales -- fewer "days to turn" in industry jargon -- generally mean a model is selling well, at a good price and without much money spent on incentives and promotions.
Some of the days-to-turn champs right now include the Chevy Cruze, which is selling in just 32 days; Ford Focus, 54 days; Volkswagen Jetta, 40 days, and the Hyundai Elantra, which barely has time to get dusty in its average 12 days at the dealership, according to AutoObserver.com.
Those compacts are not only selling faster than the industry average, they all sold in less time in April than they did in March.
The average wait to sell for all compacts was 51 days, down from 63 in March. Compacts as a class and most individual models sold faster this year than in 2010, according to the data.
"The numbers are very telling," AutoObserver analyst and senior editor Bill Visnic said. "The shift to smaller cars is real."
Virtually all the cars that sold faster last month also sold in greater numbers this year.
The Focus is an exception, but production of the new model began very slowly this year. Ford's slick new compact should catch up with and exceed its predecessor this month.
The Jetta sells in small numbers, but its sales surge shows VW is on the right track with its strategy of cutting prices and features to compete head-to-head with American and Asian models.
The default choice
Surprisingly, the Toyota Corolla, by far the oldest of the big-name compacts, saw its days on the lot fall to 57. The Corolla apparently remains the default choice for many buyers.
They like it; they trust it; they see no need to compare it with newer, flashier models.
A few compacts slowed down in April. The average Mazda 3 takes a glacial 99 days to escape the lot, up from 94. The Honda Civic's days on the lot rose from 57 to 65.
"The momentum in the market is with the Elantra, Cruze and Focus," which have won widespread acclaim for their fuel economy, value and engineering, Visnic said.
A marginal player
The Mazda 3 has always been a marginal player, selling in minuscule numbers compared with behemoths like the Civic and Corolla.
It will be replaced by a technically intriguing new car within a year.
Mazda's limited dealer network and marketing budget may simply have been overwhelmed by the buzz around the brand-new Cruze, Elantra, Focus and Jetta.
Mazda 3 sales have slipped 5.8% this year.
The Civic's lengthening stay on the lot is surprising.
A new 2012 model hits the road shortly, but it's unusual for even an old version of the Civic to sit at the dealerships for more than two months.
Automakers will pore over the 2012 Civic's initial sales to see whether the challengers have reduced enthusiasm for the champ.
Incidentally, the Chevrolet Volt's days-to-turn rose, too, but they remain a blitz-quick 18.
However, Volt sales and production numbers are still so low that it's hard to infer any meaning from them.
(Source: Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, 05/22/11)
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