If you're a smart shopper, looking for a small or fuel-efficient car, you might want to consider heading out to the dealership this weekend.
That's because even next week, analysts are predicting that prices will be considerably higher.
As we reported yesterday, worries over gas prices and strangled vehicle supply from issues in Japan—plus, come spring, the seasonal rise in demand for smaller cars—are altogether resulting in sudden upward price pressure on a variety of new vehicles.
The pricing-intelligence firm TrueCar, which very closely monitors transaction prices and, as part of its function, advises shoppers about vehicle discounts and when best to buy, has strongly suggested that transaction prices on many vehicles will keep going up, potentially for many months.
TrueCar anticipates that the Lexus RX 450h will go up $757—that's 1.5 percent—in a week, and that the 2011 Lexus HS 250h will be $599 higher (or 1.6 percent) higher on average and the 2011 Lexus GS 450h will rise nearly one percent ($560). The Camry Hybrid is also expected to go up 1.5 percent versus this past week.
A number of Lexus models are especially vulnerable to a rise in market prices because of the brand's tight control over supply--typically on the verge of short supply. With most of Toyota's assembly plants in Japan either idled or running at partial capacity, that delicate balance could be upset.
Of course, so far those price hikes pale in comparison to what the firm has noticed for the Prius. In the five weeks since the earthquake, the Prius has gone from selling for $300 under dealer invoice to at or slightly over MSRP. That's a price hike of nearly $2,000, and considering what TrueCar expects in the next week, will reflect a rise in transaction prices of nearly ten percent since the quake.
It's not a positive for the industry. While dealerships in the short term might be able to make more money per vehicle, when supplies are restored—likely not until the third quarter of this year, or even later—the industry won't have sold as many vehicles as it could have. The result? The long, slow recovery of the auto industry could be braked to an even slower pace.
Here's the rather long list of 2011-model-year vehicles that TrueCar anticipates will see transaction-price hikes of $100 or more between 4/12 and 4/19:
2011 Lexus HS 250hEnlarge Photo
Lexus RX 450h
Lexus IS F
Lexus HS 250h
Lexus LX 570
Lexus GS 450h
Lexus GS 460
Lexus LS 460
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Camry Hybrid
Lexus ES 350
Lexus RX 350
Lexus IS 350C
Lexus IS 250C
Lexus IS 350
Lexus IS 250
Honda Civic Hybrid
Infiniti G25 Sedan
Honda Accord Sedan
Volkswagen Jetta Sedan