In a tight economy, families are searching for ways to stretch the dollar. Automakers know that one way to entice buyers in such times is to drop the prices on certain vehicles. But are those price cuts really deals or do consumers need to look at what’s behind the price tag?
As noted in our sister publication TheCarConnection, dropping prices is a tried-and-true marketing strategy to move the product. And, in the past, automakers have often done so without stripping content from the vehicles, known as de-contenting.
That’s generally not the case with the price cuts on some 2012 models. Let’s look at a few models with lower prices in 2012 compared with 2011 to make the point.
2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabrioletEnlarge Photo
USA Today (via TheCarConnection) highlights the 2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet whose $44,540 starting price is $1,850 less than the comparable 2011 model. Getting buyers to sign on the dotted line for this year’s model comes with a different sort of price: the 2012 version is sans the navigation system, formerly standard equipment. Buyers can still get the nav system, but it costs an extra $1,850. Bottom line here: If you want the nav system in the 2012 model, it’s the same as the base price of the 2011 model.
2011 Dodge JourneyEnlarge Photo
Dodge has trumpeted its 2012 Journey as the lowest-priced three-row crossover in America, starting at just $19,990. That’s good marketing, but what is missing? Essentially, what’s not there are some features that were formerly standard. You can still get them, but plan on spending a bit more to do so.
2011 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
The 2012 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle carries a starting price of $39,995, including shipping cost. That’s $1,000 less than the 2011 model. Here, once again, the navigation system has been de-contented from the current model year’s Volt. To get navigation in the Volt, and, if you’re searching for places to re-charge, why wouldn’t you, it’ll cost $1,995. Those good with math can see that’s nearly $1,000 more than the $1,000 price cut.
On the other hand, the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat, which starts at $19,995 (plus $770 shipping), is a whopping $7,000 less than the 2011 model. Volkswagen accommodated most of this price reduction by moving production to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Germany.
The old saying that you get what you pay for still holds true. If the car you’re looking at costs less this year than it did before, ask yourself, what’s missing?