Most automakers saw vehicle prices rise month-over-month and YOY, with luxury vehicles inflating the overall average price increase in 2022. - Graphic: Cox Automotive

Most automakers saw vehicle prices rise month-over-month and YOY, with luxury vehicles inflating the overall average price increase in 2022.

Graphic: Cox Automotive

The average transaction price (ATP) of a new vehicle in the U.S. hit a record high in December at $49,507, an increase of 1.9% ($927) from November and up 4.9% ($2,297) from year-earlier levels, according to data released today by Kelley Blue Book. New-vehicle inventory levels are increasing from historic lows earlier in 2022, but prices remain elevated.

New-vehicle ATPs have been above the average manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), also known as the sticker price, for more than a year, according to Kelley Blue Book calculations. Sales volumes in December were up year over year by more than 5% but down from November, thanks in part to improved supply. Elevated prices and high loan rates are pressing sales down.

“The transaction data from December clearly indicates overall prices showed no signs of coming down as we headed into year-end,” said Rebecca Rydzewski, research manager of economic and industry insights for Cox Automotive, in a news release. “Luxury prices fell slightly in December, but non-luxury transaction prices were up. Truck sales were particularly strong last month, and with many trucks selling for more than $60,000, a new record was all but inevitable.”

New-vehicle inventory is steadily improving, although some brands have a noticeably larger supply than others, according to Cox Automotive estimates. “Incentives overall are still very low but trending upwards," Rydzewski said. "Electric vehicles and luxury cars had incentives close to 6% of ATP, and both saw ATP decline in December as a result. Plus, with the new tax credits on the way, electric vehicle ATPs will drop lower for qualifying vehicles,” added Rydzewski.

Average Non-Luxury Car Prices Increase to Record High

The average price paid for a new non-luxury vehicle in December was $45,578 — a record high and up $994 month over month. The previous record high was in August 2022. Truck sales were particularly strong in December, with over 270,000 sold for the first time since the spring of 2021, and the average paid price was more than $59,000. The best-selling vehicle in the U.S. is the Ford F-Series pickup truck, and the average price paid for a new F-Series is well into luxury territory at $66,451, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates. In December, Ford sold more than 75,000 F-Series trucks, its best month in 2022.

Most non-luxury brands had stable pricing or declines in December. Honda and Kia showed the most price strength in the non-luxury market, transacting between 5% and 6% over sticker price in December.

Luxury Share Hits Record High, While Average Prices Fall in December

For most of 2022, strong luxury vehicle sales have been a primary reason for overall elevated new-vehicle prices. Luxury-vehicle share typically increases in December, which happened last month, jumping to a record 18.6% of total sales in December from 18.2% in November. The high share of luxury sales helps to push the overall industry ATP higher. Five years before, in December 2018, luxury market share set a record at 16.5%. Every month in 2022, luxury share was higher.

In December 2022, the average luxury buyer paid $66,660 for a new vehicle, down $216 from November. Buyers continue to pay over MSRP for new luxury vehicles, but not by much. Luxury cars at all levels were selling below MSRP in December, along with luxury compact and sub-compact SUVs.

Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover showed the most price strength in the luxury market, transacting between 2.6% to 6.5% over sticker price last month. Luxury brands Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, and Volvo showed the least price strength, selling 1% or more below MSRP in December.

Electric Vehicle Prices, Led by Tesla, Decreased in December, Down YOY

The average price paid for a new EV decreased in December by $3,594 (down 5.5%) compared to November and ended the year lower by 0.6%. The average new EV sold for $61,448, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates, still well above the industry average. The drop in pricing was driven by significant price cuts at Tesla, which commands more than 65% of the electric vehicle segment. Earlier in the year, Tesla was increasing prices, citing supply issues. In December, the company reversed course. More: Record EV Sales Ahead

Auto Incentives Remain at Historically Low Level but Increasing

Incentives increased in December 2022 to 2.7% of the average transaction price, compared to 2.2% in November. In December 2021, incentives averaged 3.8% of ATP. In December 2019, before the pandemic and when inventory was plentiful, the average incentive package was 10.9% of ATP, according to Kelley Blue Book estimates.

Electric vehicles had the highest incentives in December, again influenced by changes at Tesla, at 6.2% of ATP, followed closely by luxury cars at 5.8% of ATP. Meanwhile, vans, minivans and full-size SUVs had the lowest incentives, all less than 1% of ATP.

Background News: New Vehicle Tangle

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