Edmunds.com Looks Back at 2004 and Forecasts 2005 Automotive Trends


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Edmunds.com Looks Back at 2004 and Forecasts 2005 Automotive Trends

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — January 3, 2005 Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, has compiled lists of the most-researched new cars and trucks in 2004. This data reflects traffic to Edmunds.com itself as well as the automotive research pages of AOL and the sites of other syndication partners featuring automotive channels powered by Edmunds.com. The most-researched cars of 2004 are:

Rank Make Model
1 Honda Accord
2 Honda Civic
3 BMW 3 Series
4 Toyota Camry
5 Mazda Mazda 3
6 Infiniti G35
7 Acura TL
8 Nissan Altima
9 Chrysler 300
10 Toyota Corolla

The most-researched minivans, SUVs and trucks of 2004 are:

Rank Make Model
1 Toyota Sienna
2 Honda Pilot
3 Toyota Highlander
4 Honda CR-V
5 Ford F-150
6 Honda Odyssey
7 Toyota 4Runner
8 Ford Escape
9 Toyota Tacoma
10 Lexus RX 330

Despite many recent new product introductions, the lists contain many vehicles that were among the most researched in 2003. Newcomers are the Acura TL, Chrysler 300, Ford Escape, Mazda3 and Lexus RX 330. No longer in the top ten are the Audi A4, Ford Explorer, Nissan Maxima, Nissan Murano and Volkswagen Passat.

"In today's competitive market, new products must be exceptional to get and hold consumers' attention in any significant way," explained Edmunds.com Director of Pricing and Market Analysis Jesse Toprak.

The Chrysler 300 and Mazda3 were among the standout introductions in 2004. Earlier this year, both were selected as Edmunds.com Editors' Most Wanted vehicles. And, the Chrysler 300 was named Edmunds.com's Most Significant Vehicle of the Year. According to Edmunds.com Editor In Chief Karl Brauer, who is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, the 300 is a finalist and a serious contender for that group's prize, which will be announced next week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

"A comparison of the 2003 and 2004 lists also reflects the current climate of financial conservatism," observed Toprak. "For example, the TL provides more equipment at a lower price than the A4 while the RX 330 holds its value better than the Murano. Perhaps the best example of all is the replacement of the Explorer by the Escape—not only a smaller, less expensive vehicle, but a significantly more fuel-efficient one that is available as a hybrid. While 2004 was not the first year hybrids were on sale, 2004 certainly will be looked at as the year hybrids entered the mainstream, thanks in part to this year's gas price spikes."

Toprak anticipates hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles will continue to gain market share and consumer attention in 2005.

"In recent years, American consumers have witnessed global events that have made many think twice about the excesses of large, underused SUVs and trucks," said Toprak. "Crossover vehicles, which typically have the advantages of versatile SUVs coupled with the greater efficiency and smaller size of cars, also thrived in this climate, and will likely be the fastest growing segment in 2005."

Toprak added that crossover vehicles also appeal to consumers who prefer not to be labeled as drivers of any particular vehicle segment.

"Individual expression became more important to drivers in 2004, and customization will continue to grow as a trend in the coming months. This is good news for aftermarket accessory companies and automakers that cater to niche markets," he predicted.

And what about the largest mass-producing automakers, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, whose vehicles constitute just 15 percent of the most-researched lists?

"The domestic automakers are fully aware of their challenges, and will continue to try to exceed public expectations with new products while also tempting buyers with generous incentives," reported Toprak. "It is an uphill battle, but one that they can't afford to lose."

Toprak predicts that automakers will continue to offer incentives that are increasingly more creative to capture the attention of a jaded public that has been bombarded with messages of zero percent financing and thousands of dollars cash back. One example already launched is Volkswagen's "In The Car" program, which covers the first year of insurance for new Golf and Beetle owners residing in the states of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Despite the constant flow of incentives, Toprak predicts a slower sales year overall in 2005, topping out at 16.7 million light vehicles compared with 2004's 16.9 million.

About Edmunds.com, Inc.

Edmunds.com is the premier online resource for automotive information. Its comprehensive set of data, tools and services, including Edmunds.com True Market Value® pricing, is generated by Edmunds.com Information Solutions and is licensed to third parties. For example, the company supplies content for the auto sections of NYTimes.com, AOL, About.com, iVillage.com and IGN.com, provides weekly data to Automotive News and delivers monthly data reports to Wall Street analysts. Edmunds.com also publishes a high-speed, on-screen car magazine called Inside Line available free at www.insideline.com. Edmunds.com was named "best car research" site by Forbes ASAP, has been selected by consumers as the "most useful Web site" according to every J.D. Power and Associates New Autoshopper.com StudySM and was ranked first in the Survey of Car-Shopping Web Sites as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The company is headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif. and maintains a satellite office outside Detroit.

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