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Chevrolet prices showing new signs of strength for American brand

October 27, 2009

Chevrolet prices showing new signs of strength for American brand


While the market share declines of the mainstream domestic brands during the past decade have been well documented, the price declines of these brands relative to their Asian competitors have received less attention.

As the domestics pushed product vehicles through their dealer networks, allowed models to languish on the market longer than their Asian competitors, and suffered from perceived — and frequently actual — inferior quality, they were forced to ratchet up incentives to lower prices to turn inventory.

However, there is recent evidence that at least one full-line domestic marquee – Chevrolet – has been able to price closer to its Asian competition, a needed improvement if GM is to fund new product programs and compete effectively over the long run.

The average actual transaction price of Chevrolet products in four key segments (segments in which Chevrolet, Ford, Honda and Toyota all have entries) have been higher than that of three mainstream competitors, based on transaction data from for the period September 9 – October 7.

While Chevrolet’s average price was only about $240 above that of Honda, it was more than $1,700 above that of Toyota, due to Chevrolet’s higher prices in three of the four segments.

The Equinox is enjoying a $1,000-plus price premium over the Toyota RAV4, and while one could argue this is because the Equinox has just been re-designed, one could respond that during virtually any time period there will be re-designed models on the market. If another time period had been used, a re-designed Toyota product may have been hitting the marketplace.

Further, such a contention is countered by the fact that the Cobalt, long in the tooth and about to be replaced by the Cruze, is selling at a higher price than the Corolla.

One could also argue that Chevrolet’s prices are artificially high because of the inventory shortages resulting from the success of the “Cash for Clunkers” program, but in fact data from that program consistently indicate that the Asians enjoyed more success than the domestics and therefore would have had even lower inventories relative to pre-Clunkers levels.

The parity of Chevrolet and Toyota pricing suggests – at least in these four segments – the consumer perceives Chevrolet products to be of similar value to those of Toyota, a finding we have not seen for years.

Transaction Prices

Segment Chevrolet Transaction price Ford Transaction price Honda Transaction price Toyota Transaction price
Compact car Cobalt $16,513 Focus $16,072 Civic $16,986 Corolla $16,000
Midsize car Malibu $20,499 Fusion $18,842 Accord $24,807 Camry $19,898
Compact Crossover Equinox $24,628 Escape $20,487 CR-V $23,203 RAV4 $23,336
Midsize Crossover Traverse $30,618 Edge $28,194 Pilot $28,424 Highlander $31,226
Average $22,194 $19,865 $21,953 $20,457

Source:, September 9 – October 7

Note: Prices for models in same segment are normalized for model year, powertrain and body type; all prices are net of all incentives except dealer cash and marketing support; average prices are averages of models shown and are sales-weighted based on September 2009 YTD sales volumes as reported by Autodata, Inc.

Note: All prices are actual 2010 MY prices except the Highlander price, which is the 2009 actual price plus 10% as an estimate of the increase from 2009 to 2010 Tom Libby is president of the Society of Automotive Analysts. E-mail him at

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