The market for compact cars has been heating up lately, with lots of new entrants, many of them offering luxury car features in a smaller, less expensive package. But no compact has been as hot as the 2012 Hyundai Elantra, which has been flying off dealer lots faster than any car in America.
If you're looking for one, you'll have to move fast. The Elantra, which starts at $15,000 and sells for an average $19,961, spends an average of just 10 days in inventory before it's snapped up, according to automotive researcher Edmunds.com. Forbes looked at Edmunds' data from the past three months to see which 2012 cars, on average, are selling the fastest. While most cars sit around at dealerships for 50 days or more before they're sold, these hot sellers are typically gone in just 10 or 12 days.
We spotted three trends in the data that are worth considering if you're hunting for a new car right now:
- Small cars are hot, especially newly introduced models
- Many Japanese cars are still in short supply, after various supply chain problems
- Luxury SUVs are in high demand at the end of the year
"Elantra has been an absolute phenomenon in the compact car segment," said John Krafcik, president and chief executive of Hyundai Motor America. "In November, Elantra retail sales were up 37 percent, in spite of significant competition from all-new entries such as the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus and Honda Civic." In a segment where prices have been climbing steadily -- the Focus sold for an average $20,827 in November, Edmunds says -- the Elantra is seen by many as a good value, combining attractive styling, advanced safety features and 40 miles per gallon on the highway.
But the Elantra is just one of a bunch of new small cars that are in short supply for the 2012 model year. You'll also have trouble if you're hunting for a Nissan Versa or Hyundai Accent, both of which were redesigned for 2012, or the all-new Chevrolet Sonic, which replaces the Chevy Aveo. All three subcompacts are sold within 12 or 13 days of arriving at showrooms. The Versa has the lowest starting price of any car in America, at $10,990, but Edmunds says most are transacting around $15,600.
Tight inventories are partly a function of Mother Nature -- Lexus and Honda, for instance, are among the Japanese brands hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami earlier in the year, and recent floods in Thailand that affected availability of key electronic components. But other seasonal factors are also in play, says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. The 2012 model year began in October, but many new models are still in production ramp-up. By spring, dealers should have larger inventories on hand.
The end of the calendar year is also a popular time for luxury car purchases, and with the economy starting to recover and winter weather coming, many executives are looking to spend their restored bonuses on luxury SUVs and crossovers. Three that are in short supply are the Mercedes M-class, Lexus GX 460 and Rx 350.
You can almost always find what you want if you're willing to be patient, though. Here's a list of the 10 Hardest Cars To Find