Are car buyers returning to lots? Some signs point to yes. Earlier this month, GM reported its first quarterly profit in three years, pushed in part by increased worldwide sales. Some expect this to continue.
"We're going to see improvement, but it is not going to be as robust a recovery as we had thought at the beginning of the year," says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights at TrueCar.com. "We'll get there, it's just going to take a little bit longer."
Potential buyers getting a head start may want to look beyond domestic cash-back rebates and Toyota's zero-percent-financing offers. That’s because even with incentives like these, some autos are worth less than their sticker price. Among them: the $19,030 Chevrolet HHR, $20,850 GMC Sierra 1500 and $31,575 Jeep Commander.
To find them and others, we looked at April market price figures. This data, supplied by automotive industry analysts at Vincentric, is updated each month to reflect marketplace inventory, demand, rebates and incentives, and to represent the price that a buyer actually pays for a given car. We ruled out any vehicles where the gap between market price and MSRP was less than 15 percent — a natural breaking point in the data that left a list of about 40 overpriced models (with trim variations making it 150 total vehicles) to pare down.
We then used 2010 customer satisfaction information from Consumer Reports to better determine whether certain vehicles meet the expectations their brands promise — essentially, whether they justify their sticker price.
The data considers a wide range of factors, including price. Vehicles that scored 65 or less (on a scale of 100) made our list. We then ranked the remaining 11 vehicles according to their market price vs. MSRP ratio.
The three most overpriced cars are the Ford F250 (worth 25.2 percent less than its $25,300 MSRP), Nissan Titan (worth 23.6 percent less) and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (worth 23 percent less).
Those trucks aren't necessarily bad vehicles; in fact, the Titan and Silverado are Consumer Reports recommended picks. They landed on our list because they didn't score as high in consumer satisfaction rating as some of their competitors — and they can be had for considerably less than their list price.
But they do indicate that trucks and large SUVs are the most overpriced segments on the market. (The $27,260 Chrysler 300 is the only sedan that made the cut.) That’s because recent high and volatile fuel prices, combined with a "credit squeeze" that brought businesses — especially construction companies — down makes consumers shy away from heavy, gas-hungry trucks. And sometimes automakers don't respond accordingly, says Vincentric's David Wurster.
"There's a bit of wishful thinking that they're going to be able to get what they really want for these vehicles," Wurster says. "But at the end of the day, the manufacturer doesn't really set the price, it's the consumer."
That said, most cars on the market this spring aren't overpriced at all. Toprak says that in terms of what consumers get for the money they pay (significant improvements in safety, horsepower and technology), they're getting the best deals ever offered in the history of the car business.
"The extreme competition has forced everybody, domestics, import brands, everybody, to improve their quality and design to compete — because consumers now respond to product more so than the deal," Toprak says. "There are really no clunkers anymore."
Just be sure to do some research before pulling out your wallet.
The following representatives offered a response to our story on the most overpriced 2010 cars.
Brian Rathsburg, Super Duty marketing manager responded:
F-250 is the biggest seller within the F-Series Super Duty lineup, a major contributor to F-Series being the Best Selling Truck for 33 straight years. Year in and year out, F-250 delivers the capability, durability and value that today's heavy duty truck customer demands. Especially in today's challenging economic environment, value plays an increasingly important role.
With the launch of the all-new 2011 Super Duty, we expect the value story on F-250 to resonate very well with our customers. For example, our best selling F-250 configuration — a 4x4 XLT Crew Cab model equipped with the all-new, class-leading 6.7L Power Stroke Turbo Diesel engine and the all-new 6-speed TorqShift Automatic Transmission — will see no MSRP price increase vs. the 2010 model, based on a typically equipped showroom model. The value improvement was also recognized by Automotive Lease Guide (ALG), the industry's leading firm on projecting automotive resale value. The all-new 2011 F-250 will have residual value improvements of between 5-12 percentage points of MSRP when compared to the 2010 model. In addition, we are already seeing transaction prices closer to MSRP on the 2011 model, illustrating customer's confidence in the product. Transaction prices from April sales of the all-new truck are $2,000 to $4,000 higher than the 2010 model, depending on the configuration. The improved transaction price, combined with class-leading retail market share of 48.1 percent year to date (up 9.1 ppts vs. year ago), suggest that Super Duty, and F-250 specifically, remains the clear truck of choice in the Heavy Duty segment.
Spokesman John Schilling responded:
The Nissan Titan and Armada continue to offer good value in their respective segments. Both vehicles have posted year-over-year sales increases with Armada up one hundred fourteen percent and Titan up twenty-seven percent versus the prior year. In addition, Armada was ranked at the top of its class in J.D. Power’s 2009 APEAL Study and was voted top large sport utility vehicle in AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Awards. The market performance of these vehicles is indicative of their strong consumer appeal and reflects an increase in segment share for both products.
Spokesman Tom Henderson responded:
We are concerned with the rating that matters the most — with our customers. Comparably equipped, our pickups are competitively priced and have always represented a good value to customers — the driving reason that GM has long led the industry in pickup truck sales. In addition, the Chevy Silverado 1500 was a Consumer Reports top pick for 2010 and the Silverado 2500 won the IntelliChoice Best Truck Value award for vehicles over $28,000. These third-party endorsements are further evidence that our vehicles offer the value customers want today.
Spokesman Roger Benvenuti responded:
Chrysler Group LLC continues to reposition its products to offer consumers the best value, quality and safety for their money.
© 2012 Forbes.com