U.S. inventory improving but prices still elevated, driven by luxury market

In some good news for consumers and car lots alike, Kelley Blue Book has reported that new-vehicle inventory levels in the U.S. are improving, though prices remain elevated. According to data released today by the Cox Automotive-owned company, the average transaction price (ATP) for a new vehicle in the United States in November 2022 hit a new record high of $48,681. November prices rose 0.9% ($422) month over month from October 2022 and were up 4.4% ($2,250) from year-earlier levels.

“The transaction data from November clearly indicates that prices are showing no signs of coming down as we head into the holiday season,” said Rebecca Rydzewski, research manager of economic and industry insights for Cox Automotive. “The mix of available vehicles still favours more expensive models and higher trim levels. In fact, average MSRP has increased more than average ATP year over year, indicating automakers are still building a richer mix of expensive models and fewer value vehicles.”

According to Kelley Blue Book calculations, new-vehicle ATPs have been higher than the average manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), also known as the sticker price, since July 2021. Sales volumes in November were up year over year by more than 11%, but down from October. The elevated prices and high loan rates are likely putting downward pressure on sales.

According to Cox Automotive estimates, new-vehicle inventory is steadily improving, though some brands have a noticeably larger supply than others. “Incentives overall are still very low, but consumers who are flexible on make and model may be able to find a good deal at year-end sales events,” added Rydzewski.

Strong luxury vehicle sales have been a primary reason for overall elevated new-vehicle prices. Luxury vehicle share remains historically high, increasing to 18.2% of total sales in November from 17.8% in October. The high share of luxury sales helps to push the overall industry ATP higher. In November 2019, the luxury share of the U.S. market was 16.1%.

The average price paid for a new non-luxury vehicle in the U.S. in November was $44,584—also a record and higher by $330 month-over-month. The previous record high was recorded in August. On average, car shoppers in the non-luxury segment paid $410 above sticker price, a slight increase from October.

Most non-luxury brands had stable pricing or declines in November. Honda and Kia showed the most price strength in the non-luxury market, transacting between six- to eight per cent over sticker price in November. Meanwhile, Buick showed the least price strength, selling two per cent or more below MSRP in November.

The average new EV price was $65,041, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates, well above the industry average and aligning more with luxury prices versus mainstream prices.

Incentives remained stable in November 2022 at 2.2% of the average transaction price. In November 2021, incentives averaged 4.1% of ATP. In November 2019, before the pandemic and when inventory was plentiful, the average incentive package was 10.6% of ATP, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates.

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