Amid Fierce Competition, Expect More Vehicle Refreshes and Deals

By

Managing Editor

As CarsDirect’s resident pricing expert, Alex offers must-know analyses of pricing & incentives to those looking to buy or lease a car. His consumer-oriented coverage of the latest trends and breaking news has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine, and more.

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, Managing Editor - January 22, 2015

If it seems like cars and trucks are getting better, it’s not your imagination. Automakers have been competing for market share on an unprecedented level and shoppers stand to benefit.

Crowded at the top

For the average consumer, market share may not sound important, but it has wide-ranging effects on the choices available to us and what we get for our hard-earned money.

Behind the scenes, the stakes have been increasing for automakers. According to researchers at IHS Automotive, the spread in market share between the top four automakers fell from 18.9% in 2000 to a narrow 4.9% in 2014 through October.

In addition to being crowded, it’s taking more to maintain automakers’ places. Consider that in 2009, a company needed to sell 104,000 vehicles to gain just 1% market share. To achieve the same in 2015, however, IHS predicts that an automaker will need to sell an additional 167,000 vehicles. The heaviest competition is among the top four automakers where even tenths of a percent matter: GM, Ford, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler.

Same battle, smarter weapons

With automakers in such a close race, you might think they would be piling on the incentives. The answer is yes, but the tools used by automakers are getting smarter. This month, CarsDirect analysts observed a big shift with GM involving scaled-back rebates and huge “conquest” incentives targeting non-GM drivers. One of the more impressive deals involves up to $2,500 on the 2015 GMC Acadia for non-GM lessees.

Compete but don't rock the boat

Should shoppers expect more daring designs as automakers try to distinguish themselves? Not necessarily, says IHS consultant Tom Libby. According to Libby, automakers are speeding up product redesigns but are also avoiding risky moves that could negatively impact sales. This could explain design tweaks like the toned-down face of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata.

Expect more mid-cycle changes like Toyota’s decision last year to upgrade the crashworthiness and infotainment system on the Camry sedan with the revised 2014.5 model. Volvo’s decision to replace nearly all models last year with 2015.5 models was no accident: they were gambling that an upgraded OnStar-like system called Sensus Connect would appeal to tech-conscious shoppers.

Take advantage with insider information

With automakers working so hard to maintain market share, we expect shoppers choosing a new car this year are in a unique position. However, keeping track of the latest vehicle changes and deals can be difficult- that’s why our analysts prepare tailored insights on over 300 models on our Pricing Insider page. Be sure to check it out to stay up to date, or get email updates each month as soon as the incentives change.

>>Read our buying insights on over 300 models

>>Learn more about the latest auto trends

, Managing Editor

As CarsDirect’s resident pricing expert, Alex offers must-know analyses of pricing & incentives to those looking to buy or lease a car. His consumer-oriented coverage of the latest trends and breaking news has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine, and more.

Follow On: Twitter

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