After vehicle sales reached a six-year high last year, the U.S. auto industry has continued its torrid growth pace in the first half of 2014. With more than 8 million cars sold in the first six months of the year, total U.S. car sales were up 4.3% from the same time in 2013. In fact, demand for some models is so high that dealers can sell them in an average of just a few weeks.
In order to identify America’s fastest-selling cars, 24/7 Wall St. used days-to-turn figures provided by TrueCar. Days to turn is the average number of days it takes dealers to sell a car. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights at TrueCar, noted that days to turn strips out factors such as transport time and the distance from the plant to the dealership. As a result, this measure “provides a level playing field to measure the demand at the dealership level,” Lyman said.
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SUVs and crossover vehicles dominate this year's list of the 10 nation’s fastest-selling cars, occupying the six top spots on the list. No car sold quicker than Land Rover’s Range Rover, which spent an average of less than 10 days on dealers’ lots between January and the end of June. These figures likely reflect an increasing shift towards SUVs and crossovers. According to a recent report from IHS Automotive, based on new vehicle registrations, SUVs and crossovers have now passed sedans as the most popular vehicle body style among American car buyers.
Lyman added that demand for SUVs and crossovers has been extremely strong of late and that manufacturers are still working to bring out new models after their struggles during the recession. As a result, “we’ve seen consumer demand outpace the manufacturers’ ability to bring those new products in significant number and volume into the U.S. market,” Lyman said.
The nation’s fastest-selling cars are also disproportionately luxury cars. Five of the 10 fastest selling cars include models from Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. Lyman noted that while belt-tightening lowered demand for luxury cars during the recession, “the recovery following the downturn [got] us back to where we were in 2007,” in terms of luxury vehicles’ share of the overall market.
One important factor that can help boost demand for a car is a recent redesign. TrueCar’s Lyman told 24/7 Wall St. that cars are often an emotional purchase for buyers. This sometimes helps make recently redesigned models become popular. “Everybody wants something that is the latest and greatest, that they can show off to their friends or family. Something they haven’t seen before,” Lyman said. Information sent to 24/7 Wall St. by Lyman shows that most of the fastest-selling cars had either full redesigns, or tweaks to at least one new key component, in recent years.
To determine America’s fastest-selling cars, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed days-to-turn figures provided by TrueCar, an information and technology platform for car buyers. This figure measures the average number of days a particular model spent on dealers’ lots following its arrival until it was sold. Additionally, TrueCar provided figures on sales by model, as well as the average transaction price and average dollar value of incentives offered for the first six months of both 2013 and 2014. We also reviewed monthly sales releases published by auto manufacturers. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) figures, come from the manufacturers’ websites.
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These are America’s fastest-selling cars.
10. Kia Soul
> Days to turn: 37.7
> Year-to-date sales: 74,999
> Avg. transaction price: $19,147
Few cars take less time to turn over than the Kia Soul, which spent an average of just 37.7 days on dealer lots before being sold. The new generation Soul provided a major boost to Kia’s sales in the first half of 2014. The number of Souls sold rose by 19%, from 63,031 in the first six months of 2013 to 74,999 in the first half of this year. Due in part to the Soul’s strong sales, Kia recorded its best first half in terms of U.S. volume sales in company history. This was despite the fact that sales of the Optima, Kia’s most popular model, were effectively flat. Dealers also benefited from the Soul’s strong sales, as the average Soul transaction price rose by 3.5% from the first six months of 2013, to $19,147.
9. Ford Explorer
> Days to turn: 36.2
> Year-to-date sales: 104,460
> Avg. transaction price: $37,615
Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) Explorer is not just one of the nation’s best-selling cars with 104,460 units sold through the first six months of the year, but it is also one of the fastest sellers on the market. The average Explorer spent just over five weeks at a dealer’s lot before being sold. Compared to other models with a low number of days to turn, Explorer customers received a large average sales incentive recently of $3,635 per car. Explorers are popular not only with households but also with U.S. police departments. Sales of the police version of the Explorer, the Police Interceptor Utility, totaled nearly 9,500 in the first six months of 2014, up 59% from the same time period in 2013.
8. Honda Odyssey
> Days to turn: 33.4
> Year-to-date sales: 63,297
> Avg. transaction price: $34,429
Although sales of the Honda Odyssey have declined somewhat this year compared to the first six months of 2013, few cars sold as quickly during the period. The Odyssey sold quickly despite the current generation being already a few years old, having been first introduced in 2011. Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (HMC) currently sells the Odyssey in five trims, ranging in MSRP from $28,825 for the LX trim to $44,450 for the Touring Elite trim. The 2014 Touring Elite has one truly novel feature: a built-in vacuum cleaner that stretches 16.5 feet, enough to reach anywhere in the car's interior, according to Car and Driver.
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7. Toyota Tacoma
> Days to turn: 20.1
> Year-to-date sales: 75,149
> Avg. transaction price: $29,148
The Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) Tacoma has been a relatively strong seller in the compact truck market for years. However, competition in the sector is strong, with General Motors Co. (GM) about to release the next generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Nissan, too, has made progress in the sector, with sales of the Nissan Frontier in the first six months of 2014 up by more than 6,000 vehicles, or 22.6%, to nearly 36,000. By comparison, sales of the Tacoma in that time have fallen by about 6,000 units, or 7.4%, to just over 75,000. Yet, the Tacoma remains one of the fastest-selling cars in the United States, taking less than three weeks to turn on average.
6. Audi Q5
> Days to turn: 17.5
> Year-to-date sales: 19,928
> Avg. transaction price: $46,572
Sales of the Audi Q5 crossover SUV in the first half of 2014 are up 8.8% compared to the same period last year. Additionally, no other Audi model sold more vehicles in the country than the Q5, with 19,928 units sold in the year through June. The Q5’s strong performance also helped Audi set a new company record for first half sales in the United States, with 84,349 vehicles sold. The Q5 starts at an MSRP of $38,900, although base prices can run as high as $60,200 for the Prestige trim of the SQ5, the high-end version of the vehicle. The average transaction price for an Audi Q5 in the first half of the year was $46,572, according to TrueCar.
5. Mercedes Benz GL Class
> Days to turn: 17.1
> Year-to-date sales: 11,726
> Avg. transaction price: $80,890
Although sales are down 21.5% in the first six months of 2014 versus the same time last year, fewer cars sold as quickly as the Mercedes Benz GL Class. Even the high price of a GL Class model did not appear to deter buyers from quickly grabbing up cars. Mercedes sells four GL Class trims, at MSRPs ranging from $63,000 for the GL350 to $118,160 for the GL63 AMG -- part of Mercedes Benz’s high-performance AMG line. The GL Class competes with Cadillac’s Escalade and a range of other cars in the full-size luxury SUV segment.
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4. BMW X5 Series
> Days to turn: 15.4
> Year-to-date sales: 22,438
> Avg. transaction price: $64,375
Last year, BMW lost its position as the nation’s leader in luxury car sales to Mercedes-Benz. In the first six months of this year, BMW holds a slight lead, with 157,382 vehicle sales versus 151,624 for Mercedes-Benz. The X5 has been one of the German automaker’s most in-demand models this year, with 22,438 units sold in an average of barely more than 15 days to turn. And buyers are willing to pay more for an X5. The transaction price has risen by 11.3% from an average of $57,822 in the first six months of last year to an average of $64,375 this year.
3. Subaru Forester
> Days to turn: 14.8
> Year-to-date sales: 74,400
> Avg. transaction price: $27,360
Motor Trend named the Subaru Forester 2014’s SUV of the Year. Now in its second model year since its redesign, the Forester had very strong sales in the first six months of this year. They jumped by 46.6% to 74,400 units from 50,748 units in the first six months of 2013. Sales increased despite Subaru cutting the average incentive offered on a Forester from $1,026 in the first six months of 2013 to $459 in the same period this year. The average transaction price for a Subaru Forester has also risen more than 5%, from $25,973 to $27,360. However, not all owners are necessarily happy with Subaru. A recent lawsuit claims a number of Subaru vehicles “prematurely burn off and/or consume abnormal and excessive amounts of engine oil.”
2. Lexus GX
> Days to turn: 14.5
> Year-to-date sales: 10,276
> Avg. transaction price: $56,503
The Lexus GX has been in especially high demand through the first half of 2014, spending barely two weeks on dealers’ lots before being sold. Sales of the GX totaled more than 10,000 units in the first half of 2014, well more than double the 4,415 units sold in the first half of last year. Strong sales of the GX helped boost Lexus sales in the first six months of 2014 by more than 17% from the year before. Helping drive GX sales, Lexus slightly redesigned the model’s front-end for 2014 and began marketing the GX at a nearly $5,000 lower starting MSRP. The average transaction price for a Lexus GX during the first half of this year was $56,503, down from $58,885 the year before.
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1. Land Rover Range Rover
> Days to turn: 9.3
> Year-to-date sales: 5,965
> Avg. transaction price: $111,897
Few cars carry the appeal among luxury buyers of the Land Rover Range Rover. Now in its fourth generation, it takes dealers an average of barely nine days to turn over a Range Rover, by far the fastest time of any car on the market. According to a recent report by the Financial Times, U.K. car exports have been booming in recent years, with much of the boost coming from luxury car-makers such as Land Rover. In the first half of this year, sales of the Range Rover are up 12% from the year before, with nearly 6,000 sold in the year through June. In the case of the Range Rover, TrueCar’s Lyman added, buyers are often buying the model before it arrives at the dealership. “It’s just taking, on average, nine days for the intended buyer to come visit the dealership, fill out the paperwork, and drive it home,” he said.