Hey, Consumers: You’re Paying Record Prices For Many Cars And Trucks

The auto industry reported strong sales in March, and for some auto companies, the news was even better.

Buyers at General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan and Hyundai paid record amounts for new vehicles during May, according to True Car.com, which tracks statistics about buying habits.

True Car bases its calculations on transaction prices: the final amount people pay, after incentives, bargaining and trade-ins. The numbers include the whole range of vehicles that the companies sell, such as  cars, sport utilities, pickups, and minivans.

Transaction prices are way up since the beginning of 2010. Take a look at this chart by Meg Cramer of Changing Gears, which shows the industry average and what consumers at major carmakers are paying.

Transaction prices are rising because automakers have aligned their production with customer demand, eliminating the necessity for big incentives, said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights at True Car.

“The auto manufacturers have found their sweet spot,” Toprak said.

Higher transaction prices are good news for Midwest communities that have car and parts plants, because it generally means steady or increasing sales. If transaction prices were to drop dramatically, it could mean problems for the industry that might translate to production slowdowns or even layoffs.

Overall, consumers paid an average of $30,091 for a vehicle in March, just a little below the record set in November. That’s up $1,977 from a year ago, and up $143 from last month.

At GM, the average transaction last month was $33,289, according to True Car. That’s a big jump for GM compared where it was two summers ago, before it had introduced vehicles like the Chevrolet Cruze and Volt, and while it was still closing some of its factories.

Chrysler’s average transaction price, $29,842, is the latest leap for the company, whose sales essentially stalled when it was dealing with bankruptcy three years ago.

For Nissan, its $28,322 March transaction price is up almost $2,000 in just a year. Nissan is on a sales roll, and has gotten plenty of attention for its electric Leaf.

At Hyundai, buyers are paying less than at the other players, an average of $21,717 in March. But that still puts Hyundai into the $20,000 and up category, after months in which its vehicles sold in the teens of thousands.

If anything, the chart is good news for car dealers and communities, and maybe not such good news for bargain hunting consumers. But, True Car and plenty of other sites on the Web offer car buying tips.

Have you been car shopping recent? What’s been your experience on prices?



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