Average new-car prices up more than 4 percent year-over-year

(February 1, 2019) IRVINE, Calif. — The analysts at Kelley Blue Book today reported the estimated average transaction price for a light vehicle in the United States was $37,149 in January. New-vehicle prices increased $1,481 (up 4.2 percent) from January 2018, while decreasing $643 (down 1.7 percent) from last month.  

"There are several factors contributing to strong average transaction prices, which climbed 4 percent year-over-year," said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

"First, Tesla has approached BMW and Mercedes-Benz U.S. sales numbers in recent months with even stronger transaction prices. Also, full-size trucks are more popular than they have been for over a decade, and the new Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Ram 1500 pickups helped drive prices up."

The shift away from passenger cars also is ongoing, and these buyers are either moving up to small utility segments or looking at used vehicles instead. While Cox Automotive expects new-car sales to slow in 2019, the good news for the industry is transaction prices remain strong without help from huge incentives.

Subaru had another strong month, as average transaction prices rose more than 5 percent, with the Crosstrek improving most at 7 percent. In addition, the redesigned Forester posted a 3 percent improvement year-over-year. The new Ascent SUV is helping the brand with average transaction prices close to $40,000. Finally, the Outback, now in the last year of its generation, was down 1 percent.

On the other hand, Hyundai-Kia prices fell nearly 1 percent for the month. Hyundai climbed 2 percent, but Kia dropped 1 percent. Hyundai was helped most by the refreshed Tucson, up 4 percent, and the new Veloster continues to impress, rising 9 percent. Kia was hurt most by the Soul, which was down 5 percent, as the next generation will be launching soon. The Genesis brand also fell 5 percent, following the introduction of the G70 sedan as the new entry point in its lineup.