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Americans spent a record amount on new cars in February

Experts say the average transaction price was over $41,000

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Photo (c) boonchai wedmakawand - Getty Images
Despite the economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Americans paid an average of $41,066 for a new car or truck in February, according to data compiled by Kelley Blue Book (KBB).

February’s average transaction price (ATP) was an increase of $2,515 -- about 6 percent -- from February 2020.

"February's average transaction price performance year-over-year has continued to climb," said Kayla Reynolds, industry intelligence analyst at Cox Automotive, KBB’s parent company. "On the other hand, month-over-month performance showcases the impact of the luxury and non-luxury mix in the market -- with more than half of the luxury vehicle segments reporting drops in transaction prices from January 2021."

Sales of luxury brands may have been lower, but the ATP surged on increased sales of more expensive trucks and SUVs. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, saw the biggest increase in its ATP, rising more than 12 percent to $45,653.

Dodge, Fiat, and Ram lead the way

Stellantis' success largely rode on the Dodge, Fiat, and Ram brands, all of which were in the top five for year-over-year brand transaction price increases. Sales of the Dodge Durango were higher over 2020 and also benefited from being the highest priced vehicle in the brand's lineup. 

Stellantis customers also paid more for Ram pickups, with the ATP jumping about 10 percent over last February. With the absence of the more moderately-priced Dodge Caravan -- which was retired in 2020 -- Stellantis’ revenue per sale grew.

The company could grow its ATP even more in the coming year with the introduction this week of the Jeep Wagoneer. The rugged and economical utility vehicle manufactured between 1963 and 1993 is being reborn as a fully loaded luxury SUV that can have a sticker price approaching $100,000.

Bargains

Consumers searching for a bargain last month spent a lot less at their Mitsubishi dealer. For the second month in a row, Mitsubishi's two highest-priced models --the Eclipse Cross and Outlander -- suffered a decline in sales, dropping the brand’s ATP by nearly 7 percent.

The average price paid for a Ford car or truck rose more than 9 percent last month, followed closely by Honda. Nissan customers paid more than 3 percent less for a new car or truck.

In terms of vehicle types, consumers paid nearly 15 percent more for a minivan in February than they did a year earlier. The biggest decline was for a high-performance car, with the ATP falling more than 6 percent.

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