Why Buy a Subaru When You Can Treat Yourself With German Engineering

Winter is right around the corner. Many in the northern regions of the United States have received their first snowfall of the year, and that means we’re getting closer to unplowed roads and treacherous driving conditions. In the Northeast, Subaru has a monopoly on the AWD market in New England, as they’re the most relied upon brand to get people to and from work safely when it snows. But what if I told you that there’s another alternative for AWD vehicles around or under $30,000 that combine German engineering, luxury, technology, and AWD to enhance your winter driving experience this year?

Yes I know what you’re thinking, “Subarus are cheaper to maintain and they can be purchased new instead of certified used so why would I want to buy a German car?” It’s a fair argument, but you and I both know that it’s crossed your mind. A Mercedes Benz, Audi, or BMW for year round driving, luxury interior, and only a blizzard could stop Quattro, 4Matic, and X-Drive AWD technologies. Let’s put it this way, just like gingerbread, Lindt chocolate, and all the pastries you’re going to stuff yourself with this holiday season, owning a German car is a temptation that can’t be ignored.

Mercedes Benz

“The Best or Nothing” says it all. Why settle for a Subaru with a CVT transmission that makes driving mundane, when you can go with Mercedes Benz that provides AWD and comfort. There’s a few options to choose from, all under $30k, and best of all, still under warranty.

C-Class 2012-2014

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The Mercedes Benz C300 that’s still under warranty and certified used can go anywhere between $22k and 30k depending on the mileage and number of previous owners. A great way to step into luxury, the C300 was the gateway to bigger and better vehicles by Mercedes Benz prior to the CLA hitting the market.

The C300 comes with a V-6 engine that produces 248 horsepower, so when it’s not snowing you can have some fun on the roads. For features you’ll get a navigation system and backup assist, bluetooth, power seats for both driver and passenger, and automatic temperature control. While the C-Class would be in the same price range as the Legacy, you’d receive better interior features, more power, and because it’s used, you won’t experience the big depreciation hit after driving off the lot.

E-Class 2011-2013

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Believe it or not, you can also decide to go with the E350, which prices will vary. Hovering right around $30k, you’re now behind the wheel of the mid-level model in the Mercedes Benz lineup. This is where class and luxury come together to create one incredible sedan. With the option of wooden panels on the dash and small touches that distinguishes the E-Class from the C-Class will no doubt have an effect on how you carry yourself. There’s no walking with your head down in the office when you’re showing up in an E350.

With a V-6 engine, your E350 will get 302 horsepower. Just like the C300, you’ll have a built-in navigation system and backup assist, bluetooth, power seats, memory seat and head restraints, and automatic temperature control. The E350 is a step up from the C-Class, and with AWD, this car makes the perfect winter warrior, while also being a head turner.

GLK-Class 2014

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC

You can also find a certified pre-owned GLK 350 for under $30k. Unlike the C and E-Class, the GLK will provide versatility and cargo room. Similar interior features, along with wooden panels is another nice touch by Mercedes Benz that will set you apart from a Subaru Outback. It’s perfect for the family on the go who need to get to school or other extra curricular activities. Old man winter won’t stop those in a GLK, and even during the warmer seasons, you’ll have an SUV that fits any situation.

BMW

“The Ultimate Driving Machine” can also being your ultimate winter daily driver. With X-Drive you have another formidable AWD system that won’t let you down.

320/328 2013 – 2014

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BMW’s answer to the C-Class. Priced anywhere from $22k to $30k, you have a choice between going on the cheaper end with the 320i or going more expensive with better interior options by choosing the 328i. With a difference in power by about 60 horses, the 320i is really an entry level sedan that will introduce you to the brand, but still offers the comfort and features of the more powerful 328i. When choosing between such as BMW and Mercedes, it really comes down to personal preference and taste in luxury interiors.

You’re still getting a navigation system, wooden trim depending on the options that come with the car, heated and memory seats and automatic temperature control, but you won’t have backup assist. The major difference is engine type between Mercedes Benz and BMW. On the 3 Series you’ll get a 4 cylinder intercooled turbo engine that will get you either 180 hp or 240 hp depending on whether you decide to go with a 320i or 328i. You’ll also get slightly better fuel efficiency in the city and highway by going with BMW.

X1 2013 – 2014

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BMW’s smallest crossover SUV is another alternative to versatility and cargo space and can be found around $22k to $28k. Essentially the 3 series on stilts, the X1 provides a higher ride height, similar interior features, and the same engine as the 328i. Smaller than the GLK, the X1 is truly a crossover, so you may sacrifice in terms of interior, but you’ll be saving on initial cost of purchase and better savings at the fuel pump.

Audi

Many Audi owners have made the argument, and rightfully so, that Quattro is the best AWD system out of the three major German luxury car manufacturers. For the harsh winters of New England, Audis priced around or below $30k will make your winter weather driving experiences better this season, giving you the peace of mind when it starts snowing heavy during rush hour.

A4 2012-2015

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The A4, which competes with the C-Class and 3 Series, tends to be near the higher side of the $22 to $30k spectrum. Right now however, there are deals out there where you can find a 2015 A4 for just under $30k due to the new model year of 2017s that were released earlier this year. While the 2015 sports the outdated look, you’re not cheated out of the luxury aspects of the car, nor the performance.

With the A4 you’ll get a 4 cylinder intercooled turbo engine producing 220 horsepower, and since it’s an inline four, you’ll have better fuel economy that is in the same range as the BMW 3 Series, 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Like it’s competitors, you’ll get similar interior features such as power seats, automatic temperature control, and navigation system. More importantly with Audi, is the advantage of the Quattro AWD system. That’s what will get you home safely during a winter storm.

Conclusion

Buying a German car has it’s rewards, and it’s up to the individual as to whether they’re willing to buy a new Subaru, or go with the more luxurious German competitors by purchasing a certified used Mercedes Benz, BMW, or Audi. Either decision has it pros and cons, but there’s no doubt that you’d entertain the thought of buying German.

No matter what the choice is, the first priority is to get to your destinations safe this winter by having a reliable winter warrior. Subaru has proved time and again that they’re the best in their class, but if you want a side of luxury, the Germans are right there to grab your attention.

Auto Sales Get Decimated In October – A Sign Of Things To Come?

The month of October was not friendly to most car manufacturers, as overall sales in the United States dropped 6%. This sharp drop can be attributed to volume sellers who saw declines that haven’t been posted in quite sometime. Is this a reason for concern moving forward? Is a slowing auto market going to be the new reality that manufacturers will face for at least the short term? New car sales have been slowing over the past few months, but October’s sudden drop in overall sales is nothing that should be taken lightly.

It should be noted that October of 2016 had two fewer selling days than October of 2015, but with some of the percentages that were posted, not even two extra selling days could change the outcome of a bleak new car market.

Fiat-Chrysler Massacre

It has not been a good year for the Fiat-Chrysler group, and October magnifies the downward trend in sales for most of the brands. Chrysler posted a decline of 44.7%, Fiat down 24.3%, Dodge -16.4%, and Jeep -6.6%. Three out of the four brands listed are down on the year for new car sales, while Jeep is still maintaining an increase of 9.7%. With Dodge ending the Dart and Chrysler no longer producing the 200, sales figures being down was to be expected, but for the auto group as a whole, there’s not much excitement for any of the brands, besides Dodge which produces the Challenger and Charger.

BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo and Land Rover Experience Sales Decline

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Volvo and Land Rover, two manufacturers who are both up on the year in new car sales in the United States, saw sharp declines in the month of October. Volvo, a brand that has been revived thanks to the all new S90 and completely redesigned XC90, experienced a 14.6% drop in sales. Land Rover saw a decline of 23.2% in October. Despite the sharp drop in sales in the United States, Volvo and Land Rover are still having a fantastic year overall, and shouldn’t be too concerned about the final quarter of the year, unless lower sales figures overall in the automotive market becomes a trend.

BMW may be the biggest surprise for lower volumes in sales, not only for October, but for the year of 2016. Down 18.4% last month, and down 9% for the year, BMW is the only brand out of the big three luxury manufacturers in Germany that has experienced declines. Mercedes Benz and Audi are still strong, and while sales were flat in October, the loss of two sales days could be a contributing factor. Volkswagen on the other hand has not recovered from Diesel Gate, and with a loss of 13.5% on the year and another double-digit loss last month, it just continues to get worse for the German auto brand.

Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche Have Strong October

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Not everyone is reeling from the October blues, there are car brands that had a fantastic month with Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche having double and even triple digit increases in sales. The British are leading the way and Jaguar’s 226% sales increase can be attributed to the F-Pace and XE, which have both taken their respective markets by storm. The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first attempt at making an SUV, and so far it has been a great success, while the XE, which is the British’s answer to the BMW 3 Series, is seeing strong sales since it’s arrival to the market earlier this year.

Bentley’s impressive gain of 158% in sales last month is all thanks to the Benteyga, which is Bentley’s first ever SUV. In October, the Benteyga contributed more than 33% of sales for the Bentley brand. While the British luxury car maker is down on the year by 6.8%, the entrance into the luxury SUV market has yielded strong sales figures, with the Benteyga making up about 50% of Bentley’s sales in the US since it’s debut on the market in August.

Maserati, much like Bentley and Jaguar, has seen strong sales numbers since entering the SUV market as well. The Levante, which also brought in about 33% of sales in October for Maserati, has received raved reviewed by journalists and consumers. Maserati has hit a home run with their luxury SUV, and that is starting to trickle down to other cars in the lineup. The Ghibli had a strong month alongside the Levante, leading to Maserati’s 11.8% increase in sales for the month of October.

Porsche had the best month out of all German brands in October, with luxury SUV’s again being the main contributor for strong sale. Up 10.7% in October and 3.2% for the year of 2016, Porsche has seen tremendous sales figures and it’s the Cayenne and Macan that is carrying the once sports car dominated lineup.

Strong sales across the board for luxury brands could be a good sign, despite the slowing of overall sales in the market. While Fiat-Chrysler, BMW, Volvo, and many others struggled in October, there’s no reason to panic just yet. If the fourth quarter of 2016 continues a downward trend and that transitions into the new year, then there would be a legitimate reason for concern. As for right now, we can only hope that October isn’t the start of a trend, and that the holiday season and the incentives that come with it could motivate consumers to buy in November and December.

The Boston Car Scene: Where Does it Rank?

With YouTube and Instagram being the catalyst for car scenes across the United States in the 21st Century, car culture has always been considered more prominent in California, Texas, and Florida. Due to our inability to have year round events in the Boston area with our harsh winters and very unpredictable spring and fall months, the summer is really the only time of year we can take our cars out with full confidence that rain will not cancel events. With that being said, where does the Boston car scene rank, and is it underestimated and overlooked to some degree in the car world?

As a Bostonian and having seen the transformation this city has gone through over the past decade, car culture and its relevance in the automotive world is directly linked to our local economy. Over the past few years Boston has attracted business leaders and entrepreneurs, which in turn has brought some very rare exotics to the streets of our historical city.

This year a Pagani Zonda S showed up to Tutto Italiano at Larz Anderson Auto Museum, which is the largest event for Italian cars in the Northeast. Also present was a Ferrari Enzo that drew a crowd immediately when it pulled in. Herb Chambers Lamborghini of Boston held a get-together for Lamborghini owners prior to the event, and when all 18 cars including four Aventador SVs showed up, the entire park and the spectators there flocked to see them park on the lawn to meet their Alfa Romeo counterparts.

It’s not just Italian exotics that have become more of a common sight in and around the city. 2016 has been the year of the Porsche GT3 and GT3 RS. At Cars & Coffee, you can fully expect to see at least 2 of each to show up, and on some occasions even more. With the addition of a McLaren dealership 20 miles south of Boston, and the Aston Martin dealership in the western suburbs, the British car market has increased in popularity as well.

Boston’s car scene may never grow to the size of Florida’s, California’s, or Texas’, but it’s one that deserves a lot of respect. Car events have become fun for many who attend, and with the sightings of Aventador SVs, McLaren 650s, newer Ferraris, and even a Pagani Zonda S, the car community has gained a lot of traction, which is now introducing a new generation of car lovers to brands such as Audi, Mercedes Benz, and BMW, which has a very strong and loyal following.

Bigger and better things are sure to come, especially with the growth that the community has experienced over the past year. Hopefully with the growing number of car photographers constantly posting on Instagram, Boston’s car culture will bring further awareness to car lovers in New England who are looking to be a part of something big, that Texas, California, and Florida has monopolized.

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Is Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz Styling Becoming Lazy?

Remember when you were walking back to your car with groceries and saw a Mercedes Benz and knew exactly what model it was? Have you seen two Audis parked next to each other and could distinguish the difference between the two from a distance? Do you also remember when BMW’s numbering system actually made sense? Those were the days. Now German automakers just extend or shorten the length of models, stick on a different number, and sell it with some added gimmicks or lower price tag. Anyone else see a growing problem from the German luxury market?

Needless to say, the interiors that Mercedes Benz offers is in a league of its own. A comfortable and welcoming environment could make the idea of living in an S-Class sound reasonable. Audi’s updated cabin that’s now noticeable in the 2017 Q7 and A4 will put them in the upper echelon when it comes to stylish and luxurious interiors. But when you take a look at the outside of most of the models the big three German manufacturers offer, you begin to realize just how lazy automotive design has become.

Starting with BMW, the 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series all had a slightly different face a few years ago. You could tell they were from the same family, but the siblings were not identical. Today with the recent addition of the 4 Series, the two door coupe and convertible are essentially the sportier versions of the 3 Series sedans. But it doesn’t stop there. With the 435i Gran Coupe, BMW has effectively created a dilemma where a four door has been given a number that was supposed to symbolize the difference between the coupes from the sedans. There’s no value proposition that the Gran Coupe offers, in fact you pay more for what is a 3 Series with an extended trunk.

Lately, car enthusiasts have had to ask themselves, “What is Mercedes Benz doing to their lineup?” There was once a time when the C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class were all distinctive. As recent as 2014, the C-Class and E-Class from front to back were completely different, with the C-Class clearly being more of an entry level sedan, and the E-Class having a very upscale presence, both in terms of the exterior and interior. Now with the 2017 models hitting showrooms, the C-Class sedan, and more noticeable with the coupe, have the same body style as the S-Class. The redesigned E-Class has become the middle child, having a very similar appearance to it’s bigger and smaller siblings. Mercedes Benz has defined the term “German luxury” for the past decade; there was no reason to make carbon copies of their models

Audi might just be he laziest of them all, despite BMW and Mercedes Benz attempts to claim the thrown on producing identical cars. Park an Audi A6 and A8 next to each other, same color and year, and you’ll have a 50% chance of guessing the correct model. If you subtract the A7, TT, and SUVs from the Audi lineup, you’re left with three sedans and one coupe that all have similar body styles and faces, but only differ in size. At some point, an executive at the corporate level must take a look at the lineup and think, “Maybe we need to stop being so mundane”.

The lack of creativity and originality is frightening to say the least. Yes the Mercedes Benz AMG’s, BMW M-Series, and Audi S-Line make our mouths water and we crave more power, but at the end of the day, the German automakers are beginning to lose their speciality. Right now we’re living in an era where the i8, R8, and GT-S are the only iconic cars that we’ll look back on and remember. Twenty years ago, the BMW M3 and Mercedes Benz 190E Cosworth were attainable sports cars that we could all enjoy. Today there’s not a special car within the reach of the average American.

German cars will always be looked at as the very best in luxury. However, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for a car that is unique. Jaguar and Volvo are beginning to find a foothold, and once their new and updated lineups are completed, the Germans will have stiff competition coming from Britain and Sweden.

Maserati and Jaguar Are Ready To Take The Stage

The perennial powerhouses, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz could be on the verge of a luxury market share war with the British and Italians very soon. For far too long, the big three German automakers have gone untouched, growing their lineups by adding vehicles that reach every market sector in the automotive industry. With models consisting of bigger or smaller versions of their siblings, the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, and A8, Mercedes Benz C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class, and BMW’s 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series, all have similar, or downright lazy styling in terms of exterior. The time has come for a fresh design from other automakers, and ones that aren’t based in Germany.

It’s Jaguar and Maserati’s time to shine, and with new models ready to hit the market this year for both automakers, the British and Italians are ready to make a huge splash. Maserati unveiled their new and first ever SUV, the Levante, which starts at $72,000 and we should expect to see Maserati’s newest addition to the lineup in September. Jaguar is only months away from offering the new XE and first ever SUV, the F-Pace, in showrooms across the United States, which is expected to be in June. It seems as though the pieces are coming together for Jaguar and Maserati, and once they’re in place, they’ll be off an running to take on much larger companies.

The new Jaguar XE will be priced starting at $34,900, which will immediately take on the Audi A3, Mercedes Benz CLA, and BMW 320i, which are all in the same price range. Since the XE can exceed a $50,000 price tag, it will also be a direct competitor to the A4, C-Class, and 3-Series. In terms of power, the XE will get a 240 hp 4 cylinder turbo engine and also a 340 hp supercharged V6 on the higher trims. This will put them right in line with their German counterparts, as the new Mercedes Benz C450 AMG will top the list with a 362 hp bi-turbo V8.

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The new F-Pace comes with two different engine types; A 180 hp 4 cylinder diesel, or a 340 hp turbocharged V6. Pricing starts at just over $40,000, which will take on the Audi Q5, Mercedes Benz GLE, and BMW X3. Because Jaguar is basing their SUV off the F-Type, the F-Pace is performance driven. This is not your typical soccer mom SUV, and in fact, dads can now have fun with the grocery getter, as the F-Pace is capable of going from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. While this is not advised, it can also reach a top speed of 155 mph, so the young guy in a sports coupe might not have such an easy time leaving you in the dust. On higher trims, the F-Pace can exceed $50,000, but thankfully the V6 can be paired with any trim level.

As of right now, we don’t know the performance that the Maserati Levante will have. We can only speculate that it will receive a similar engine to the Maserati Ghibli, which would be a 345 hp twin turbo V6 on the entry level trim, and possibly the 404 hp twin turbo V6 on the higher trims, but that’s purely speculation. The Levante is set to take on the BMW X6 xDrive50i and Mercedes Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe which are beginning to roam the streets. Another automaker which hasn’t been discussed that will also get their turf impeded on by the Levante is Porsche. Still more of a niche manufacturer, Porsche and it’s compact SUV the Macan, will now have to take on a new competitor in its class. The performance SUV market is going to get real interesting by the end of this year, and it will be exciting to see who ends up on top after this is all said and done.

Jaguar and Maserati can no longer be looked at as small time players in the high-end luxury market. While Maserati will stay above $70,000 on all their models, Jaguar will now be entering new territory by offering a model within the $35,000 – $40,000 price range. Soon, consumers will be able to choose from other countries besides Germany to find the best the luxury market has to offer. As it turns out, Porsche’s decision to introduce an SUV to sports car only lineup, set the stage for other manufacturers to do the same. Now Jaguar and Maserati can compete on bigger scale and begin to take market share away from the German powerhouses.

Don’t Look Now But Jaguar Is On The Prowl

Jaguar F-Type
Jaguar F-Type

Across the pond, there’s a luxury car manufacturer ready to steal market share in the compact sedan and SUV markets. No, they’re not from Germany, but from a town in the West Midlands of England. Jaguar is back and with a vengeance as the 2017 XE and F-Pace are ready to shake things up in a German dominated automotive segment. Two vehicles that will put Jaguar on the map in the entry level luxury market in the United States are set to be released in 2016. Is Germany ready for another battle against Great Britain, this time being in the automotive world?

Starting prices for both the XE and F-Pace are extremely competitive with the competition, and the prestige that comes along with owning a Jaguar could have an affect on consumers’ buying decisions next year. The base model XE starts at $34,900, and the F-Pace, $40,900. Along with the badge, owners will also get performance to go along with luxury, as the compact sedan will get 240 hp, with the option of receiving 340 hp with the XE S. The F-Pace will come with a V6 and 380 hp on the higher trims, making SUV’s the ultimate grocery getter for the car enthusiast with a family.

British cars are often looked at being very expensive, prestigious, and high class luxury, and with these two new additions to the Jaguar lineup, some people question whether the lower prices changes the perception of the brand. One could argue that it enhances the Jaguar brand, as British luxury, performance, and styling, are now available at a more affordable price. Their tagline, “It’s good to be bad” is not just a jab at Aston Martin and James Bond, but it’s a mission statement and identity that reaches out to the younger consumer who wants to feel power, both literally and figuratively.

Good things are happening for the British automaker, as the F-Type is the foundation that created the XE and F-Pace. The engineering behind the two door sports car is now the soul of Jaguar, and they’re implementing that styling and performance into all their models. BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi better start looking over their shoulders, because the big cat is on the prowl, and now has the ability to pounce on its competitors.

You Have $15,000, Do You Buy Or Lease A Car?

If you have $15,000 in cash, do you buy or lease a car? Actually, I’m going to make it more interesting. If you have $10,000 in cash would you buy or lease a car?

Having scanned through forums and Reddit, there are many young, and even older consumers, who ask the same question, usually with the same amount of money in hand asking for car buying advice. Now, if your commute to work and weekend trips make your annual mileage higher than 12,000 a year, then buying is the better option. But what about those who are driving around 8,000 – 10,000 miles a year. Would you still be so hasty to buy instead of lease?

Most people feel that leasing costs you more in the long run. But does it really? True, your car payments could be higher per month, but because it’s a new car, you won’t have to factor in major maintenance costs. At $10,000 – $15,000, you’re not going to end up with what you want. Certified pre-owned, you’re looking at the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, or Toyota Corolla to name a few. Used can be a case of trick or treat. There’s always diamonds in the rough, but more often than not, you’ll end up with someone else’s problem. Mechanical failure is likely, factoring into the overall cost of the car, while it’s aging, and every year the resale value is slowly tanking. You either wind up with a money pit, or a decent car that will last you a few years before maintenance issues could arise.

Now let’s look to leasing. You have $10,000 – $15,000 in hand and you’re visiting local dealership websites comparing lease offers and deciding which one works best for you. You stumble upon a great deal. Your local Ford dealership down the street has a lease offer for a new Ford Escape SE; $4,173 due at signing, $159 a month for 24 months. If my math is correct, for those 2 years it will cost you a grand total of $7,989, not including oil changes and annual maintenance. You’re saving $2,000 in the long run, which will be two grand more saved up for your next lease. If you buy a $10,000 car, you’re looking at a world of unknowns.

So the choice. A new Ford Escape SE or an 8 year old car with 50,000+ miles on it. $8,000 overall in 24 months, or $10,000, plus maintenance that will inevitably happen sometime during your ownership of the car.

Another example; this time you have $15,000. Now I’m sure you can find some sweetheart deal for a 6+ year old Infiniti G35 or G37 or an older BMW 3 Series, but again let’s factor in unforeseen maintenance. But you decide, “I’ll lease instead because I want to drive a new car”. Here are the potential options you have. Let me just say this is all predicated on what the dealerships in your area are offering. Here’s a few from my neck of the woods.

Audi A3: $2,694 downpayment, $299 a month for 36 months = $13,458

BMW X1: $4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604

BMW 320i X-Drive: 4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604 (Same offer as the X1)

Infiniti Q40: $1,499 downpayment, $229 a month for 39 months = $10,430

Lexus IS 250: $1,599 downpayment, 349 a month for 36 months = $14,163

These are just some of the deals that are out there. They all cost under $15,000 within the three year window you have the car. Most come with leather seats, heated seats, bluetooth, navigation, and electric sunroof. So think about it for a minute. You can have a luxury car for the same price, or less than if you bought a certified pre-owned Honda Civic. There are even better offers out there if you don’t want to spend $15,000.

After seeing this, would you still buy or would you lease?

Lower Gas Prices Are Still Not Enough For Consumers To Buy Big SUV’s

Cadillac Escalade SUV
Bruno Rs / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The national average for gas is below $3.00 a gallon which has affected different markets in the automotive segment of the economy. Electric and hybrid cars have seen lower sales figures since the recent nose-dive oil has taken the past few months. However, with these lower gas prices, sales figures for large SUV’s still hasn’t improved, and just as the sports car market, the bigger SUV market may never recover.

Ian Robertson, a Sales Chief for BMW said recently that the age of the sports car is coming to a close and that we’ll probably never see that market recover. While he only mentioned two-door coupes, it appears that the recession has also put another segment of the auto industry on life support. Larger SUV’s such as the Cadillac Escalade and the Chevrolet Tahoe are only maintaining a 7% share of the market, which that number has flatlined since 2009. Not even lower gas prices are helping this segment. Since the recession and the days of $3.00 a gallon, car companies have had to adapt to a new economy, one in which the consumer is very careful about spending and expenses.

The crossover SUV’s have taken a bite out of the traditional SUV’s market share which could explain why we’re not seeing improving sales figures. Crossovers and small SUV’s such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, BMW X1 and X3, Mazda CX-5, Audi Q3 and Q5, Ford Escape, Volvo XC60, and Honda CR-V, are all eating away at the sales figures of their bigger siblings. Car companies aren’t just stopping there, they’re continuing to grow the crossover segment as Mazda already has a CX-3 in the works, and seeing the competitiveness of the Germans, who knows what they’ll think of next.

Consumers have also adapted to the new economy that we’ve lived in for the past seven years. They’re learning that they don’t need a huge SUV to get around and that even with a smaller vehicle, they can still carry their groceries, drive their kids to school, and while doing that, saving money at the pump. Smaller SUV’s and crossovers have become the new practical. While Americans won’t admit it, they’ve become more like Europeans since the recession, as Europe has been living with high gas prices way before the economy had it’s downturn.

We live in a new world. The economy may or may not have recovered, or some sectors have while others are still lagging behind. But one thing is for sure, the auto market will not change the direction it’s heading in unless there is a major swing in the markets and on Main Street. In 5-10 years, we may look back on the recession as the killer of the big SUV and sports car markets as we once knew them.

Acura Going AWD To Compete With Subaru and Audi?

CIAS 2013 - 2014 Acura RLX
MSVG / Foter / CC BY

According to a report by Automotive News, Acura is looking to make AWD standard on all their models and go the route of Subaru and Audi. But is it too late for the Honda-owned luxury car manufacturer?

While going AWD creates benefits for the consumer, Acura has to distinguish themselves from Subaru and Audi first. What is the Acura brand? Who are they marketing to, and are they a luxury car company, or more similar to Subaru who market to consumers that need AWD to deal with snow and difficult terrain?
Subaru has already built up a strong tradition of manufacturing durable and long lasting AWD sedans and station wagons, and their Impreza and Legacy are in a league of their own that’s very difficult to break through and compete.

Audi on the other hand is pure luxury that offers AWD as standard, but their cars are predicated on luxury more than off-road capability. Their sedans and smaller crossovers are competing against BMW and Mercedes Benz, and it would be a mistake for Acura to jump into the fray and compete against the best the automotive world has to offer.

Acura needs to change their image, or promote the brand that displays a definte direction so consumers know exactly what they’re buying. Introducing a crossover SUV wouldn’t be a bad place to start, and then figure out where their sedans compete in the automotive market. 

AWD is the right answer, but to the wrong question. Consumers don’t know where Acura fits in the luxury market, and they have no idea whether it’s a luxury brand or not, especially with the changes they’ve made to their lineup by getting rid of the TL and TSX. Acura has a lot of questions to answer and evaluate where their brand stands among its competitors, but when it comes to standardizing AWD on all their models, they’re on the right track.

Is Luxury Taking On A Whole New Meaning In The Automotive World?

If someone walked up to you fifteen years ago and said that Subaru, Honda, Mazda, and Toyota were making four door sedans that rivaled the Germans, would you believe them? Or better yet, if that same person told you Audi, Mercedes Benz, and BMW were offering smaller vehicles with starting prices near $30,000, would you think they were joking? The reality is, in the year 2014 the Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord and Civic, Mazda 6, and Toyota Camry and Avalon are all on par with German luxury vehicles, but for a fraction of the cost. While the big three German auto manufacturers are entering the cheaper luxury markets, the Japanese and even the Americans are meeting them with top notch vehicles that might make you question your bias towards a certain car brand.

The fact that any car can have an LCD monitor, leather seats, a spacious interior, and great fuel economy, really begs the question on whether it’s worth spending $10,000 – $20,000 more to get the same package and luxury you’d find on what used to be inferior car brands. For many, the dream of owning a Mercedes Benz or BMW will never go away, but when we were kids, who could have foreseen a Honda, Toyota, Mazda, or Subaru with a luxurious interior? What was once exclusive to those who were affluent, can now be found on most cars that were seen as average. Luxury really has taken on a whole new meaning, but it doesn’t stop there. Performance is also another feature that can be found on four door sedans that were 15 years ago, a family oriented vehicle.

You can own a Subaru Legacy with a 265 horsepower V6 engine for around $32,000, almost $8,000 less than the Audi A4 that has a turbocharged four cylinder engine with 220 horsepower. I must ask the question again, is it worth spending the extra $8,000 on an Audi when you can own a Subaru with the same comforts and styling? The Chrysler 200 has a V6 option which supplies a whopping 295 hp, completely blowing away any of the Japanese or German four door sedans in the price range of $30,000 – $35,000.

But at the end of the day, all the driver really wants is reliability with a combination of some form of luxury, and Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota can offer that. These brands speak for themselves as they’ve been known for reliability for years, but now that they’ve put in nicer interiors, leather seats, and performance for competitive prices, it’s hard to see why you’d pay extra for a car that offers the same. The only major difference is the badge on the front of the car and the recognition that brand has that catches the eyes of bystanders.

Heading into 2015, the consumer is going to have a boatload of options in the four door luxury sedan market in the $30,000 – $35,000 price range. Luxury is what you make it; the auto manufacturers are just making cars that help steer you into their direction. Owning an Audi, Mercedes, or BMW is a major feat, but when you see cheaper options that may offer more, it’s hard to say no.