Sticker Shock May Explain Slumping Auto Sales

Bloomberg points to a $50K minivan, though others say industry is still fine
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2017 12:13 PM CDT
Does This Pricey Minivan Explain Slumping Auto Sales?
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited. A top-of-the-line model will set you back close to $50,000.   (A.J. Mueller/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles via AP)

The latest auto sales figures have triggered a flurry of negative headlines of the-boom-is-over variety. Sales fell 4.7% in April, which is the fourth straight month of declines and the first time we've had such a streak since 2009, reports the AP. Barring an unexpected surge, the US is on track for a drop in annual sales—the end of a seven-year streak of increases. But given that last year's mark of 17.5 million was a record, there's also a widespread sentiment that a dip isn't that unusual and no cause for alarm. Related coverage:

  • A post at Bloomberg pins a good deal of the blame on Chrysler's new Pacifica minivan and the trend it represents. A top-of-the-line model will set you back about $50,000, and the story makes the case that sticker shock is finally taking a toll on families hunting for new wheels.

  • A closer look at the numbers shows that they're actually great for Detroit, argues Matthew DeBord at Business Insider. The lack of growth isn't surprising given two years of records, and he writes that sales of trucks and SUVs, where automakers make their real money, remain solid relative to low-margin sedans. "As long as gas remains relatively cheap, credit is flowing, unemployment stays low, and wages continue to tick up without setting off inflation concerns, automakers are going to get fat and happy on their current vehicle mix."
  • More specifically, so-called crossovers continue to do well. The trend is illustrated by the fact that Toyota's RAV4 outsold its ever-popular Camry in April, notes the Los Angeles Times.
  • One notable outlier among automakers: Subaru posted a 4% sales increase, continuing its "relentless hot streak," per the Detroit Free Press. Hyundai and Volkswagen also posted increases, though smaller.
  • JD Power has specifics on each automaker, including BMW's 12% decline.
  • The New York Times says the slowing sales have already led to layoffs and idled shifts at plants, calling into question President Trump's reliance on the industry to add jobs. The story cites projections that sales will drop from 17.5 million last year to 17.2 million this year, then to 16.6 million in 2018 and 15.2 million in 2019.
(More auto sales stories.)

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