Sports Cars, Fuel Sippers and the Usual Suspects Speed Out of Dealerships


Newly launched sports cars from Subaru and Toyota, fuel-sipping hybrids and the usual suspects were among the fastest-selling vehicles in May, according to Edmunds.com's analysis.

Just on sale, the Subaru BRZ and Toyota's Scion FR-S, in that order, topped Edmunds.com's list of quickest-selling vehicles in May. The list is based on Edmunds.com's calculation of days-to-turn; that is, the number of days a vehicle sits at the dealership before it is sold. The BRZ took a scant four days to sell; the FR-S only five days. In other words, their tires barely hit the pavement before someone drove them home. By comparison, industry wide, it took an average of 53 days to sell a vehicle.

Car Sales

The pair of entry-level, rear-drive sports coupes, priced around $25,000, shares the same underpinnings and were jointly developed by Subaru and Toyota. The idea was to collaborate on affordable, back-to-basics, 2+2 sports cars to serve as halo models for the respective brands. The rear-drive-only BRZ provides Subaru with a sporty offering priced below the WRX. For Scion, the 86 harkens to the Toyota AE86, a moderately-priced sports car sold from 1983 to 1987 that served as the FR-S' design inspiration.

Manufactured by Subaru in Japan, the cars are winning rave reviews. Edmunds.com's enthusiast channel InsideLine.com concluded that the BRZ delivered "elegant control, engaging feedback and enlightening limits." InsideLine.com, which recently purchased an FR-S for its long-term test fleet, called the Toyota "one of the most gratifying sports cars to come along in years."

The BRZ went on sale at the end of April. Toyota offered the first 86 FR-S buyers — selected via an online contest — a trip to California for test drives, demonstrations and track time in their new sports cars, before opening sales to the rest of the public. Neither car will be available in huge quantities because production is constrained, so quick getaways from dealerships — a little room for haggling — can be expected for some time. Toyota intends to sell 10,000 for 2012 and 20,000 in its first full year of sales next year. Subaru plans to sell 6,000 in the U.S. this year.

It's not unusual for newly launched models to be in short supply as buyers want to be the first on their block with the newest model and as automakers slowly gear up production. But the Subaru and Scion are joined by another little sports car, the Hyundai Veloster, which is also on the hot-selling list though it has been out for awhile. Priced at just under $18,000, the Veloster has been racking up sales of more than 3,000 a month for the past four months; May sales totaled 3,624 vehicles. The brisk sales and short supplies of this trio suggests that sports car sales, after plummeting to near nothing during the recession, are making a comeback, or at least sales of more affordable sports cars are bouncing back. Indeed, Hyundai forecasts that sales of compact sports cars like its Veloster will grow by 37 percent this year to 145,125 vehicles, from 105,591 in 2011.

And not surprisingly, there's quite a bit of cross-shopping among the three. Consumers considering the Subaru BRZ most often shop it against the Scion FR-S, and vice versa, according to Edmunds.com data. For the BRZ, the Subaru WRX is the second most cross-shopped vehicle. For the Scion FR-S, the Scion tC coupe is the second. The Hyundai Veloster and Hyundai Genesis Coupe, which starts at around $23,000, also appear on the shopping lists of BRZ and FR-S intenders. So far, Veloster intenders have ranked the Honda CR-Z hybrid as No. 2 on their shopping list; the BRZ and FR-S have not shown up in the cross-shopping data yet, likely because they are so new to the market. Most Veloster buyers are coming from other Hyundai products, according to Edmunds.com's trade-in information. The most traded-in vehicle for the Veloster is Hyundai's own Elantra followed by the Sonata, with the Honda Civic being the third most traded vehicle for a Veloster.

Another little sporty number, the new Golf R, a with a price starting around $34,000, also made the list of Top 20 fastest-selling cars. So too did the Audi TT RS and Audi TTS convertible, both of which start at more than $50,000.

May's list included other newcomers as well. They include the all-new: 2013 Acura ILX, a completely new entry-level model that costs and has three powertrain choices, including a hybrid; the 2013 Infiniti JX, which is an all-new seven-passenger SUV loaded with sophisticated technology; and the Mazda CX-5, a sporty, fuel-efficient crossover. The newest members of the Toyota Prius family have been in short supply and high demand since they were introduced earlier this year. In May, the entry-level Prius C sold in an average 10 days; the larger Prius V sold on average in about 18 days.

For its size, Audi often has an outsize number of vehicles on the quickest-selling vehicles. In May, four of the top 20 quickest selling models were Audi models. In addition to the TTS and TT RS, the Audi Q7 and Q5 sport utilities, both particularly popular with production-constrained diesel engines, made the quick-selling list — again. Audi plans to ease the shortage of Q5 SUVs with the construction of a new assembly plant in Mexico to be the only global source for the smaller ute. Another luxury make, BMW, had a couple of utilities on the quick-selling list: the freshened X6 and the South Carolina-built X3.

A far more high-volume brand, Hyundai always has models on the quickest selling list, leading industry observers to constantly question when Hyundai will build another U.S. plant. Hyundai has said it is increasing production at its Alabama plant. In addition to the Veloster, the Elantra and Accent, both redesigned this year, made the list of quick sellers.

Subaru's BRZ was joined by the revamped Impreza on the list. Brisk Impreza sales combined with the addition of the BRZ likely will propel Subaru to yet-another record year for sales, estimated by Subaru to come in at 320,000 vehicles in 2012. The revamped Honda CR-V, which was May's best-selling compact sport utility, made the list. And hardly new, the quirky Kia Soul, which has been selling at a pace of more than 10,000 a month, rounded out the Top 20.

Car Sales

No models from Detroit automakers made the top 20 list of fastest-selling vehicles in May.

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