Prices of the old Honda Civic were rising even before the launch of the 2012 model.
Good new or bad, it depends on whether you’re making or selling a car, but one thing indisputable is that the price of the typical new car, truck and crossover has been rising fast this year.
Motorists, used to finding great deals during a long and deep recession, will likely be surprised to see vehicles not just costing more than a year ago, but in some cases several thousand dollars more than just a few months ago, based on industry tracking data.
The biggest and most immediate factor is the vehicle shortage created by the natural disaster that struck Japan on March 11. But makers are also beginning to pass on some of the higher costs they are paying for essential commodities and – in some cases, simply betting that an improving U.S. automotive market will allow them to reduce incentives and raise prices.
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“The current environment will set the industry up for very strong pricing,” said Rod Lache, auto analyst with Deutsche Bank. In April, he estimated, U.S. automakers were already getting from $700 to $1,000 more than they did the year before.
The makers will take the extra money any way they can, though they have generally held back on outright price increases. Toyota, for example, put in place a relatively modest hike, at the beginning of May, running to just over 2%. But according to data from TrueCar.com, some of the maker’s models, such as the Prius, are delivering Average Transaction Prices, or ATPs, of as much as $3,000 more than what they went for at just the beginning of 2011.