Home » Automakers Are Starting To Realize Their Cars Are Too Expensive

Automakers Are Starting To Realize Their Cars Are Too Expensive

Morning Dump Grand Wagoneer L
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When the number of cars for sale dropped rapidly during the pandemic it gave automakers a chance to reap huge profits by slashing incentives and prioritizing higher trim-level models over more affordable trims. That trick does not work forever.

There’s just a Costco-sized jar of data and info this week I want to get to and, as best as I can, I’m going to try and tie it up into a theme. That theme is: The cars are too damn expensive.

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Also, it’s Friday, let’s check in on the strike while we’re here. And maybe Chinese exports of graphite, because I love talking about graphite. Who doesn’t?

The Cars Are Too Damn Expensive

Eqs Safety Cell

Every month, car buying site CarEdge puts out Market Day Supply (MDS), which attempts to determine how long it would take to sell the current listed inventory by comparing how many cars are for sale and how many sold over 45 days.

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This data is extremely raw, and CarEdge, in spite of my complaints, doesn’t always do a good job of explaining why certain cars might have longer selling periods. For example, in the most recent data you’ll see that heavy-duty Ram pickups show a market supply of 460 days, which quite possibly is a result of the stop-sale for those trucks earlier this year.

Screen Shot 2023 10 20 At 10.37.38 Am

That caveat aside, the data (culled from public listings) is still pretty fun to look at and allows me to write articles about America having a 750-day supply of Jeep Renegades. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer is near the top of this list with a Market Day Supply of 336 days.

Why? The average transaction price of $104,821 probably has something to do with it. In fact, almost all of the cars on this list transact above the industry-wide average transaction price of around $48,000.

The only car that’s below it is the Dodge Hornet at $37,588 — a vehicle that recently went on sale and doesn’t yet have a high level of awareness. Also, honestly, I can’t see spending almost $38k on a Dodge Hornet when you could literally buy almost any other crossover.

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I’m also not surprised to see the EQS at a supply of 212 days and an average transaction price of $123,179. There’s an article worth reading from Automotive News this morning on exactly this issue, and it highlights my point from earlier that automakers are becoming victims of their own high trim levels, though this data shows a more conservative supply estimate:

Edmunds data shows Mercedes-Benz dealers in September took an average of 82 days to sell the brand’s battery-powered EQ models — more than double BMW’s 38-day turn rate and significantly above the luxury segment average of 57 days.

Mercedes retailers interviewed by Automotive News blame their bloated stockpiles on the product and on the brand’s unwillingness to respond to increased competition with sales programs. The dealers requested not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

[…]

Mercedes is responding to the discontent. Executives acknowledge an oversupply of the top-line EQS at the expense of the more affordable EQB and EQE crossovers, a retail source briefed on the matter said.

The automaker plans to slow production of higher-end EQ variants while dialing up allocations of lower-priced EVs, plug-in hybrid and full-combustion engine vehicles, the source said, noting retailers should see a difference in inventory by mid-next year.

As more proof of consumers starting to opt for attainable cars, the relatively affordable Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV shows up on the list of cars with the lowest supply at just 27 days and an ATP of just $57,272. In fact, the whole rest of the list of in-demand cars is roughly at or below the industry average.

Screen Shot 2023 10 20 At 10.37.27 Am

Carmakers are usually rational actors so it makes sense they prioritized profits during the pandemic with higher margin vehicles, but now that the pandemic is over it seems foolish to keep the same strategy.

Certified Pre Owned Sales Are Up

05 2024 Acura Integra Type S

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Just as consumers are looking for affordable new cars, they’re also looking for nice and affordable used cars. This is where Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars shine, offering warrantied vehicles from dealers at sub-new-car prices.

According to Cox Automotive, year-to-date CPO sales have crossed 2 million units, which is a 9% year-over-year increase. Luxury CPO, no shock, is up 12% thanks to brands like Genesis, Acura, and Lexus.

In fact, CPOs are outpacing the overall used car market:

CPO is outperforming the used-vehicle market so far in 2023. For comparison, according to Cox Automotive estimates based on vehicle registration data, total used-vehicle sales in September decreased 3.2% from August to 3.0 million units. The seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, is estimated to have finished September near 35.8 million, up from last September’s 35.1 million pace, but down from August’s upwardly revised 36.0 million level. Year to date, retail used vehicle sales are down less than 1% through the end of September.

What’s the catch? Well, because of the downturn in leasing during the pandemic, it seems there aren’t enough CPO luxury cars for supply to meet demand.

China Is Cutting Graphite Exports

Nio 6
NIO swappable battery.

Batteries need a lot of stuff to work, stuff like lithium, gallium, phosphoric acid, and graphite. Basically, all EV batteries use graphite for their anodes.

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Graphite, which is just crystalized carbon, is extremely abundant, but not many countries refine it to the level needed for batteries. Can you guess which country is, in fact, responsible for 90% of the world’s graphite for EV batteries? Yup, China.

And now China reportedly doesn’t want to share. Per Reuters:

China’s commerce ministry said the move on graphite was “conducive to ensuring the security and stability of the global supply chain and industrial chain, and conducive to better safeguarding national security and interests”.

It added that it was not targeting any specific country. Top buyers of graphite from China include Japan, the United States, India and South Korea, according to Chinese customs data.

Under the new restrictions, China will require as of Dec. 1 that exporters apply for permits to ship two types of graphite, including high-purity, high-hardness and high intensity synthetic graphite material, and natural flake graphite and its products.

This is happening against the backdrop of a world at the brink of war and, currently, some governments trying to keep China from exporting their EVs en masse to Western markets.

No End In Sight For Strike, Layoffs Continue

Uaw Striking Workers
Photo: UAW

Today is Day 36 of the United Auto Workers strike and it’s not clear how, when, or why it’s going to end. Though the UAW has said it wasn’t going to make Friday its big strike announcement day, it does seem like the UAW might announce more strikes today.

While this is going on, automakers are beginning to expand layoffs in response, as reported by The Detroit News:

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Stellantis on Friday said it was laying off an additional 100 employees at its Toledo Machining Plant in Ohio effective Monday, increasing the total laid off there to 170, because of the strike at its nearby Toledo Assembly Complex, which makes the Jeep Wrangler off-road SUV and Gladiator truck. The machining plant, which employs more than 400 hourly workers, has reached its maximum inventory level for components supplied to the assembly complex.

Stellantis now has 1,530 employees on temporary layoff stemming from downtime at its assembly plant that is on strike.

Ford Motor Co. also said it had laid off another 150 workers at its axle plant in Sterling Heights as a result of production impacts of the strike.

Sterling Heights makes axles for the Kentucky Truck Plant that the UAW decided to strike.

The Big Question

These questions have been a little one-note lately, so let’s have a fun Friday hypothetical: Let’s say you developed an incredibly addictive word-based game and sold it to The Washington Post for $20 million. You want to go racing. Do you:

  • Join a rich-person racing program like Ferrari Challenge or Porsche Carrera Cup?
  • Get a TCR car and try your hand at IMSA’s lower class?
  • Fund a NASCAR truck team?
  • Buy a vintage Mini Cooper and be one of those people at vintage races that’s 10/10ths all the time?
  • Buy a $500 LeMons car?
  • Other?

 

 

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GertVAG
GertVAG
7 months ago

I would take the money, buy a big garage for the collection and then use the rest to rally an old Ford Sierra in the local rallies here in Belgium and north of France. Or another silly old RWD to rally amidst the quick hot hatchbacks and the EVO’s.

Myk El
Myk El
7 months ago

If I had a few million to go racing: hill climbs. I don’t like how competitive I can get in direct competition. But hill climbs are in my wheel house. We’re all racing against the clock not each other directly. I can gauge my improvement against my own results.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
7 months ago

Lawn mower racing. Is there any other answer?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GTZ8K27t8A

Church
Church
7 months ago

20 million isn’t really enough for anything other than the mini circuit or lemons, so I vote lemons.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
7 months ago

$500 Lemons car
Also: Demolition Derbies, all racing w/ trailers (boat, etc), RV/Bus racing, tractor pulls, go-kart racing, etc

Thomas The Tank Engine
Thomas The Tank Engine
7 months ago

You want to go racing. Do you:”

* Other.

Being in the U.K. and having access to cars that aren’t sold in the US, I would buy a Citroen C1 and enter the BRSCC City Car Championship

It’s a variation on the “buy a classic Mini Cooper and race at 10/10ths” but with a more modern car that’s also cheaper.

Citroen C1 : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citroën_C1#First_generation_(PM/PN;_2005)

Racing Series Website : https://brscc.co.uk/formulae/nankang-tyre-citycar-cup-championship/

There’s also an endurance racing series, with races lasting up to 24 hours : https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/24-hour-racing-citroen-c1-most-fun-race-earth

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

The EQS isn’t selling quickly because it’s the ugliest car on the market at the moment.

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
7 months ago

The sedan is fine, the SUV is not.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
7 months ago
Reply to  Bork Bork

I read a review that the EQS looked like a wireless mouse. I can’t unsee that and it’s not exactly an aspirational Halo car for Mercedes.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
7 months ago

For the Big Question: I would go with the 24 hours of Lemons and pocket the rest of the cash

Brent Bevis
Brent Bevis
7 months ago

Put $40k into a 2012 Golf R and take it to tracks to totally embarrass Ferrari owners.

Lightning
Lightning
7 months ago

I’d go to rally school at Team O’Neil or Dirtfish and modify one of my Subaru wagons for rally, then look at what type of race(s) I could dabble in without a co-driver and without needing to travel from one of my two home bases. Realistically, I wouldn’t want to get in too deep because my time is already fully used up playing outdoors athletically (running/skiing/mountain biking, etc.) with my family and dogs.

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