2009 Cadillac Escalade HybridEnlarge Photo
For example, on a brand-new, $74,375 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, TrueCar cites an average transaction price of nearly $5,300 off the sticker price and targets a "great price" of more than $7,300 off sticker in some trims. The smaller, higher-mileage 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid, starting at $30,585, is typically discounted less than $1,000 from sticker price.
Toprak said that the arrival of newer hybrid vehicles with much higher mpg figures, as well as plug-in vehicles such as the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Nissan LEAF, will put more pricing pressure on older-tech hybrids, as those full-size hybrids lose some of their go-green luster.
"Many hybrid SUV prices are wrong by about $10,000," assessed Toprak, when you look at transaction prices and how long they've been dependent on incentives.
It's clearly a concern for some automakers. Kia completely skipped the 2010 model year for its Borrego—probably a smart move, even if it does intend to bring the model back—and the recently introduced 2010 Toyota 4Runner is already seeing discounts of nearly $1,000 just a couple of months after introduction. The Trail model, with the desirable off-road goodies, tops the $40,000 mark.
Toprak doesn't see the situation getting any better for automakers, so he thinks that to remedy bleeding residual values automakers might soon lower sticker prices on a number of trucks and SUVs, as a formal concession.
2010 Toyota 4RunnerEnlarge Photo
In the meantime, don't think the price on the sticker is anything close to what you'll need to pay, especially if you're looking at one of these once-hot vehicles. Keep checking those actual sale prices as you might be able to afford a lot more vehicle than you expect. The deals aren't going away anytime soon.