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AutoTrader.com Delivers Insights and Analysis of Car Shopper Behavior through the Monthly Trend Engine Report

November 10, 2010

 

Small and Mid-sized Cars Intrigue New Car Shoppers;
Trucks and SUVs Remain Strong Contenders in the Pre-owned Arena


ATLANTA – In a month where automakers’ sales figures show that the industry is on a steady road to recovery, everything from the increase in AutoTrader.com site traffic from a year ago to shoppers’ search activity point to positive signs for the economy. Using data gained from activity on the site each month, AutoTrader.com offers insights and in-depth analysis of shopper behavior.

“More people than ever are turning to third-party classified sites like AutoTrader.com to research and compare new and used cars,” said AutoTrader.com President and CEO Chip Perry. “By looking at the traffic on our site, we are able to see that shoppers looking for new vehicles are turning their attention to practical, but stylish cars, and low fuel prices continue to support interest in pre-owned trucks and SUVs.”

Notable Improvement for Many New Vehicles

The Toyota Camry was the most-searched new car on the AutoTrader.com site in October, reclaiming the No. 1 spot after a summer hiatus from the list and steady climb in the preceding months. The Camry was the second most-searched new car in September 2010 and the seventh most-searched during October 2009.

However, the biggest story coming out of this month’s top 20 most-searched new vehicle list appears to be the big movement for a number of small and mid-sized cars. Five of these new vehicles made big jumps month-over-month on the most-searched list in October, with four of the five being small or mid-sized cars. The Honda Civic moved up nine places from September, landing at No. 3 in October; the Volkswagen Jetta went from No. 25 in September to No. 11 in October, a leap of 14 places; the Ford Focus landed at No. 15 in October, up 12 spots from No. 27 in September; and the Hyundai Sonata took the No. 17 place in October, up 15 from its No. 32 spot in September. The only SUV to make a notable jump was the Honda CR-V, which leapt 18 places from No. 26 in September to No. 8 in October.

“October is a great time to purchase a new car, as 2010 models are incentivized to make room for the new 2011 models,” Perry continued. “As 2011 models begin dominating dealer lots, marketing and advertising for new cars ramps up—both in traditional media and online via social media and third-party sites like AutoTrader.com.”

In October, Honda launched a month-long social media campaign, Hyundai extended its “Uncensored” campaign to include the Sonata, Volkswagen touted the affordability of the Jetta and Ford leveraged rebates and heavy promotion to support its ongoing success.

Year-over-year comparisons showed that there were six vehicles in the top 20 most-searched new list that were not in the top 20 in October 2009. Ford made the biggest year-over-year top 20 improvement, with three vehicles that broke into the top 20 in 2010: the aforementioned Ford Focus; the Ford Fusion, up three places year-over-year and now at No. 19; and the Ford Escape, up eight places year-over-year, rounding out the list at No. 20. In total, Ford had six vehicles on AutoTrader.com’s top 20 list of most-searched vehicles—the most of any auto manufacturer. Ford also landed at No. 1 on the list of the most-searched new-car brands on AutoTrader.com, up from No. 2 in October of 2009.

The other three vehicles to make year-over-year top 20 improvements are the GMC Sierra 1500, which moved from No. 26 in 2009 to No. 14 in October 2010; the Honda CR-V, which was No. 23 a year ago and now sits at No. 8; and the Hyundai Sonata, which leapt an impressive 54 places year-over-year from No. 71 in October 2009 to No. 17 in October 2010.

Interest in Pre-Owned Trucks and SUVs Continues

Analysis of both the top 20 most-searched used and certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles did not show significant changes in the models searched month-over-month. Trucks and SUVs continue to hold the majority of places on these lists, with over half of each list being comprised of these popular vehicles. The continued dominance of trucks and SUVs is typically welcomed news for the auto industry and economy as a whole.

“Trucks and SUVs are a good indicator of the state of the economy because they are particularly sensitive to economic changes,” Perry said. “These vehicles are used by workers in numerous industries, so interest in trucks and SUVs points to the continued recovery in the health of the economy. Gas prices are another factor that affects interest in and sales of these vehicles. Although gas prices aren’t the lowest they’ve ever been, the prices are still in a range that doesn’t dampen shoppers’ interest. Those are two good signs all around.”

Average Asking Prices Strong for New, Used and CPO Vehicles

Across all three lists, average asking prices for the majority of most-searched vehicles increased. In the top 20 new-car list, average asking prices increased for 15 out of the top 20; in the used car list, 11 out of the top 20 posted increases; and in the CPO arena, 14 of the top 20 saw increases in average asking prices. Particularly notable is the rebound of CPO vehicle prices, which experienced a notable decline in September 2010.

For new vehicles, average asking prices have increased on 15 of the top 20, with four vehicles experiencing a price increase in excess of four percent: the ever-popular Ford Mustang gained 4.37% in asking price, moving from $32,794 in October 2009 to $34,227 in October 2010 and the Volkswagen Jetta increased 5.66% from $22,655 to $23,938 during the same time. The Hyundai Sonata and Chevrolet Corvette both saw average asking prices increase over seven percent, with the Sonata at 7.29% going from $21,965 to $23,566 and the Corvette at 7.85% going from $64,796 to $69,880 year-over-year.

Used and CPO vehicle prices remain strong, with the majority of average asking prices increasing slightly year-over-year. All of the used and CPO average asking price increases were relatively modest compared to the numerous double-digit price increases seen earlier this year.

“With the economic downturn, three major trends emerged for pre-owned vehicles that greatly affected prices,” said Perry. “People were holding on to their cars and not trading them in, the majority of people in the market purchased pre-owned instead of new and leasing practically dried up. All of these factors contributed to reduced inventory for used and CPO cars, which drove prices up significantly during the first three quarters of this year. The trend that we’re seeing now with prices appears to point to more stable inventory levels for these vehicles.”

Supporting the continued interest in pre-owned trucks and SUVs is a very strong price story for these types of vehicles. Of the eight trucks listed on the most-searched used vehicle list, six gained in price. Of these, the Dodge Ram 2500 posted the largest gain in average asking price, going from $23,828 to $25,097 in October 2010, an increase of 5.33%.

Four trucks gained over four percent in asking price year-over-year: the used Chevrolet Silverado 1500 posted a gain of 4.80%, moving from $19,024 to $19,938; the used Ford F-250 gained 4.64%, moving from $23,509 to $24,600; the used Chevrolet Silverado 2500 increased 4.58%, moving from $22,556 to $23,588; and the used Dodge Ram 1500 was up 4.37%, moving from $17,687 to $18,460. Only the used Toyota Tundra and used Toyota Tacoma saw a decrease in asking price, with each dipping slightly at -0.39% and -0.5%, respectively.

The used SUV price story is similarly rosy, with all three used SUVs on the list gaining over three percent in average asking price. The used Jeep Wrangler gained 4.70% year-over-year, increasing from $19,578 to $20,499. Similarly, the used Chevrolet Tahoe went from $24,459 in October 2009 to $25,561 in October 2010, an increase of 4.51%. Rounding out the used SUVs is the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which went from $16,030 to $16,572, a year-over-year increase of 3.38%.

Average asking prices for CPO vehicles showed the biggest improvement this month, a vast improvement over September 2010, where prices dipped for 15 out of 20 vehicles on the list. As mentioned earlier, prices increased for 14 of the top 20 most-searched CPO vehicles, with the CPO Toyota Highlander posting the biggest increase of 6.83%, moving from $23,941 in October 2009 to $25,577 in October 2010.

With the exception of the CPO Ford Mustang, all year-over-year average asking price increases over four percent were for either trucks or SUVs. In addition to the aforementioned CPO Chevrolet Tahoe, the CPO GMC Sierra 1500 gained 5.62%, increasing from $24,291 to $25,657; the CPO Ford F-150 gained 5.50%, increasing from $23,664 to $24,965; the CPO Chevrolet Silverado 1500 gained 4.86%, increasing from $23,389 to $24,525; the CPO Honda Pilot gained 4.29%, increasing from $24,301 to $25,344; and the CPO Acura MDX gained 4.12%, increasing from $31,294 to $32,582.

The strength in CPO asking prices on AutoTrader.com reflects the strength in CPO sales that many brands experienced in October and indicates that this segment should remain strong as asking prices can be a leading indicator of expected demand for CPO vehicles.

On the list of the most-searched used brands, Ford remained at No. 1, a position it held in October of 2009. Chevrolet came in as the No. 2 most-searched used brand and Toyota landed at No.3, positions both brands also held in October of 2009.

About AutoTrader.com
Atlanta-based AutoTrader.com, created in 1997, is the Internet's ultimate automotive marketplace and consumer information website. AutoTrader.com aggregates in a single location millions of new cars, used cars and certified pre-owned cars from thousands of auto dealers and private sellers and is a leading online resource for auto dealers, individuals and manufacturers to advertise and market their vehicles to in-market shoppers. The company also provides a robust suite of software tools for dealers and manufacturers to help them manage and market their vehicle inventory and display advertising on the Internet. AutoTrader.com continues to grow key business metrics, including revenue, profitability and site traffic. Today, AutoTrader.com attracts more than 15 million unique monthly visitors who utilize the site to review descriptions, photos and videos of vehicles for sale; research and compare vehicles; review pricing and specials; and read auto-related content like buying and selling tips and editorial coverage of major auto shows and automotive trends. AutoTrader.com operates two other auto marketing brands, AutoTraderClassics.com and AutoTraderLatino.com. AutoTrader.com also owns used vehicle management software company vAuto. AutoTrader.com is a majority-owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Providence Equity Partners is a 25 percent owner of the company and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is also an investor. For more information, please visit www.autotrader.com.

11/10/10

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