U.S. auto transaction prices highest since '96-CNW

Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:28pm EDT

* Sub-prime credit new-vehicle buyers up 92 pct

* Early April sales indicate 14-pct gain for month

* Used small-car sales on the rise

DETROIT, April 11 (Reuters) - Automakers and dealers are getting the highest transaction prices in 15 years for vehicles sold in the United States, due to a high demand for a dwindling supply of new vehicles, CNW Research said on Monday.

The figures are based on early sales in April, when new cars and trucks sold at 87 percent of manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP), the highest percentage since 1996.

"Dealers are the primary beneficiary of these dwindling discounts since they are using fewer of their own dollars to close a deal than was necessary just a few years ago," CNW said.

Discounts of 13 percent from MSRP in early April are down from 23 percent under MSRP in 2009 when the U.S. auto industry sales hit a 27-year lows.

The gap between transaction price and MSRP may narrow further as new cars and trucks become more scarce due to auto parts supply issues related to the Japan crisis.

Consumers are looking for fuel-efficient cars and trucks in light of rising gasoline prices, CNW said.

Used cars are in thinner supply, particularly small cars, CNW said. Supply of used small cars has dropped to less than 40 days, half of the days of supply from last April and down from 50 days of supply in January, CNW said.

Early sales in April show that the U.S. new-vehicle market is tracking for 1.11 million units sold for the month, up 14 percent from last April, CNW said.

Credit is loosening also, which may help boost sales, and stands to further narrow the gap between actual selling prices and MSRP.

New-vehicle purchases by those with sub-prime credit is up a staggering 92 percent from last year, CNW said. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Derek Caney) (bernie.woodall@thomsonreuters.com; +1 313-416-4073))

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