“Attention shoppers, we have a blue light special going on right now in our new-car department that features an engaging assortment of closeouts from the 2011 model year. We’ve got everything from a small wagon to the biggest pickups and everything in between to meet all your transportation needs, all at low, low discount prices.”
Or at least that’s how the in-store announcement might go if Kmart sold cars.
September marks the official transition in the auto business from one model year to the next. Cars and trucks on dealers’ lots that were still brand-new in August suddenly become the vehicular equivalent of day-old bread. As a result, automakers’ sales incentives tend to spike each fall to help dealers clean house of what are now last year’s models.
Unfortunately for consumers, a banner year for the auto industry means there are fewer bargains to go around this fall. Dealers have generally been able to clear their stocks of the most-popular 2011 models, particularly smaller and more-fuel efficient cars and crossover SUVs. You won’t find clearance sales on models like subcompact Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris, but if you have need for a larger vehicle, or one that’s being discontinued or redesigned, the deals are ripe for the picking.
This month we’re highlighting the 10 model-year 2011 cars and trucks that carry the absolute richest sales incentives among all vehicles. These include direct-to-consumer cash rebates, discounted financing promotions and so-called marketing-support incentives, which we call additional dealer discounts. Typically favored by luxury automakers, the latter are cash allowances given to dealers to lower the prices on select models without seeming to cheapen the brand by offering cash rebates. The only catch is that a dealer may or may not automatically pass them on without some hard-nosed negotiations.
Among our top-deals this month are a few models that have recently gone of production. These include the Cadillac STS and DTS luxury sedans, which are riding off into the proverbial sunset this fall only to be replaced within a few months by single new model to be called the XTS. The Chevrolet HHR is suffering the same fate, with slow sales ultimately dooming this retro-styled compact wagon. Also not returning for 2012 is the otherwise roomy and practical Mitsubishi Endeavor midsize crossover SUV.
While not officially being relegated to the scrap heap, the Saab 9-3 is on shaky enough ground, with its parent company bleeding cash and teetering on the verge of bankruptcy – or worse. Generous deals are being offered on Saab’s entire model range, and if you’re a current Saab owner trading in your existing ride, you’ll be given additional cash incentives for your (however misplaced) loyalty.
Other 2011 models on our list that are being offered with particularly generous incentives include big and burly pickup trucks from Chevrolet, GMC and Nissan, a Chrysler-sourced Volkswagen minivan and a small and sporty BMW roadster.
As we might have said while working the public address system with the discount store job that got us through college, “Shoppers, you just can’t pass up these unbeatable deals, so please head for the flashing blue light, and thank you for shopping at Forbes.com.”
The Fine Print: Additional incentives may apply, such as those often offered to recent college graduates and members of the military and/or owners or lessees trading in same-brand or competing models. Offers may vary by region and are subject to subsequent modification or termination by the manufacturer; cited financing rates are typically open only to qualified buyers with top credit ratings and may vary based on eligibility. And no matter how great a rebate deal you may be offered, keep in mind that the final transaction price is always open to negotiation. We expect dealer discounts on any of these vehicles will be substantial for die-hard hagglers.
Jim Gorzelany is author of the Automotive Intelligentsia Money-Saving New-Car Guide, available at , and the Apple iBooks Store.