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Why Jeep is hot, Lexus is not

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist

Automakers compete for bragging rights every year at the Detroit auto show, with top honors this year going to the Honda Accord, Lincoln Navigator and Volvo XC-60—winners in their categories in the North American Car of the Year awards.

But brand image, pricing power and sales volume win in the marketplace, where a slight rise or fall in market share can make the difference between a good year and a lousy one. Cox Automotive, which owns the KBB website and other industry businesses, put together a hot-or-not list of brands, based on market-share changes, vehicles car shoppers research the most, and other data. The winners:

Jeep is on a roll. The new Wrangler seems like an instant classic. “It’s this incredibly iconic brand that appeals to college students, all the way up to billionaires,” Rebecca Lindland of Cox tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “It has no baggage and no specific demographic.”

The newly unveiled 2018 Jeep Wrangler. Source: Fiat Chrysler

Buyers love Audi. They check out its cars on sites such as KBB more than ever.

Subaru is nailing it. Buyers connect emotionally with these practical all-wheel drive vehicles.

Volvo is back. It now has popular crossovers in three different sizes.

The 2018 Volvo XC60. Source: Volvo

Boring old Honda knows how to make money. Average transaction prices are up for many of its most popular makes.

And the losers:

Lexus and Acura are stale. They’ve both lost market share. Something’s not clicking. “They need to do more emotional design,” Lindland says.

Where’s Chrysler? Its only vehicles are a minivan and a large sedan. “They’re in rebuilding mode,” Lindland says. “They’ll survive, but it will be a long slog back.”

Nice van, but is that all ya got? The Chrysler Pacifica. Source: Fiat Chrysler

Cadillac isn’t quite there yet. Its turnaround plan seems encouraging, but sales in the U.S. market have been going the wrong way. “They have fantastic product,” Lindland says. “Their No. 1 issue is they need to embrace the domestically oriented consumer. People who will never buy a Lexus.”

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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman

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