SANTA MONICA, California — As car shoppers revive their love affair with trucks and SUVs due to low fuel prices, they are driving up transaction prices, according to a new Key Insights report from Edmunds.com.
Average transaction prices for traditional full-size SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Suburban, have jumped 9 percent from a year ago.
Conversely, it is taking longer for small cars to sell — from two-and-a-half to three months — and inventories are piling up at dealerships, according to Jessica Caldwell, an Edmunds.com senior analyst.
The slack demand for compacts and subcompacts also is reflected in transaction prices, which have remained flat in the small-car segment.
Despite recent price increases, the average price of gas in April was $2.44 a gallon, which was the lowest average for the month since 2009, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. By comparison, the average price of gas in April 2014 was about $1.20 per gallon more expensive at $3.64 per gallon.
Supplementing the strength of trucks and SUVs, sales of luxury brands this year are up more than 9 percent, compared with the industry average of just over 5 percent.
Automakers reported mostly good news last month, as new vehicles sold at a healthy annual rate of 16.5 million.
"It was another solid month for the auto industry, led by the continued dominance of SUVs/trucks," Caldwell said.
It was the 20th straight month in which light trucks outsold cars, Caldwell said.
Shoppers also are taking longer-term loans — a record 67.8 months in April — and using the money to buy vehicles with more equipment and higher prices.
Edmunds says: Car shoppers should not expect much change in this trend unless fuel prices start to rise.