Special Report

The Cars Americans Do Not Want to Buy

Michael B. Sauter, Alexander, Thomas C. Frohlich

In 2013, the average Acura TSX Sport Wagon spent close to half a year on the lot before being sold. This makes it the slowest-selling car in the United States.

Car site TrueCar provided 24/7 Wall St. with the average time a car spent on the lot before being sold through the first eight months of 2013. While the average days in inventory (DII) in the U.S. auto market in 2013 was just 62 days, each of these vehicles sat for well over 100 days on the dealer lot before it was sold. These are the cars Americans do not want to buy.

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Days in inventory is widely considered to be a measure of the demand for a vehicle. Popular cars that sell in the hundreds of thousands each year tend to leave the lot quickly. The models with high DII, on the other hand, tend to have extremely low sales. Five of these models have sold less than 5,000 units through the first eight months of this year. The Acura TSX Sport Wagon, the car with the longest DII, has sold just 1,491 vehicles in 2013.

Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar, explained that the apparent low interest in these vehicles is because they are due for an upcoming design overhaul. “If your vehicle is towards the end of its product lifecycle, you typically see high days in inventory numbers for most of these models. Demand is low for them, and they’re effectively waiting for their replacement,” Toprak said. This is the case for high DII models like the Volvo XC90 and the Acura MDX, Toprak added, the latter of which normally sells relatively fast.

A disproportionate number of these vehicles are SUVs. “This is because of seasonality,” explained Toprak. “A lot of customers wait until fall before they buy a lot of these four-wheel drive vehicles. We will see this [DII] number drop as we get into November and December.”

In some cases, vehicles spend a long time on the dealer’s lot because they are struggling to compete in a difficult market. Several of these vehicles are in the luxury segment, which is a particularly difficult market to compete in, Toprak noted. “It’s getting hardest to stand out in the luxury market. And the models that are the freshest, the redesigns, the new models, are the ones that get the attention.”

To identify the cars that Americans will not buy, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed days in inventory data for models sold in the United States through August. Days in inventory measures the amount of time a car takes to sell from the first day the vehicle arrives at the dealer’s lot. We excluded the Ram Cargo Van because it is primarily a commercial vehicle. TrueCar also provided us with year-to-date U.S. sales. We reviewed car manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and other model specifications from company websites.

These are the cars Americans do not want to buy