It’s been some time since the U.S. auto business boasted a bona fide “Next Big Thing” that had consumers pressing their faces up against showroom windows and paying hundreds – perhaps thousands – of dollars over sticker price to be among the first to get behind the wheel of what was a true head-turner.
Models like the Mini Cooper, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Volkswagen New Beetle were sudden sensations when they were first released, with demand far outstripping supply, at least initially. Similarly, the recently introduced ultra-quick Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the ferociously fast Ford Shelby GT 500 models are currently the hot tickets among auto enthusiasts who are willing and able to pay whatever it takes to beat their peers to the punch for vehicular bragging rights.
Hard to come by as those specific variants may be, the just-redesigned 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class hardtop roadster is currently the industry’s most difficult vehicle to obtain. Brand-new SLs don’t come around very often, compared to most mainstream models, with the prior generation lingering on the market for a full decade. This has created a pent-up demand among affluent aficionados for the new rendition that dealers are having a hard time fulfilling.
We created the accompanying slideshow of what are the 15 hardest-to-find cars this summer, based on current “days’ supply” figures provided to us by TrueCar.com. This statistic represents the theoretical number of days it takes the average dealership to sell its existing inventory of a given model and is a good indicator of how easy or difficult it will be to find an ample selection in stock from which to choose (also how easy or difficult it will be to strike a good deal – more on that later). While the industry-wide average days’ supply for June 2011 among all makes and models stands at 51 days, Mercedes dealers have only eight days’ inventory of the $105,500 SL-Class on hand.
“The shortest days list is a combination of vehicles that are both in tight supply because of demand and 2013 model-year vehicles that are new to the market,” explains TrueCar.com senior analyst Kristen Andersson. “Many of the fuel efficient smaller vehicles are in tight supply due to demand and production limitations, while the 2013 model year luxury brand vehicles are just becoming available.”
Subcompact cars are in shortest supply on dealers’ lots at an average of 35 days, according to TrueCar.com, followed by compact cars at 38 days. To that end, many of the models in our hard-to-find list are small and fuel-efficient cars like the Hyundai Elantra, the Kia Rio and Soul, the Subaru Impreza, and – coming in second and third place, respectively – the Toyota Prius c and Prius Plug-in hybrids. “Toyota is selling all the Priuses it produces and dealers could sell even more if the vehicles weren’t in tight supply,” Andersson says. “Despite the fact that gas prices have come down the future for fuel is uncertain and consumers want a fuel efficient vehicle in which they can only save if fuel prices increase.”
Luxury vehicles, particularly posh SUVs for which TrueCar.com estimates an average 41-day supply, make up the remainder of the models playing hardest-to-get this summer. These include the all-new Infiniti JX and updated early-2013 versions of the Acura RDX, Lexus RX and the BMW X3, X5 and X6. “Inventory is low on changeover models, which is dragging the days in inventory down as production and deliveries to dealers ramp up,” Andersson says.
According to Automotive News, BMW dealers can boast having the hardest-to-get model lines in the business at an average 24 days’ supply, with Hyundai at 25 days, Mini at 26 days, Kia at 29 days and Audi at 30 days. Not surprisingly, nearly half of the 15 models on our hardest to find list come from BMW, Hyundai and Kia.
Unfortunately, given how strictly the law of supply and demand affects the ultimate transaction price of a new vehicle, don’t expect to be offered anything more than a token discount on any of the models that are presently in the shortest supply, particularly the early model-year 2013 entries that are just reaching dealerships. Bargain hunters would be advised to wait a few months until shipments catch up with sales to avail themselves of better deals down the road.
As an example, the just-released 2013 version of the Lincoln MKS luxury sedan remains scarce, with dealers having just 13 days’ worth of cars on hand. By contrast, its (admittedly stodgier) model-year 2012 predecessor stands as being among the most overstocked models in the industry, with an average dealer sitting on a whopping 138 days’ inventory.
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