Putting Members in the Driver’s Seat, Part III: Auto Industry Brimming with New Models, Innovation

Behind the 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s unique look is a crossover that has class-leading performance, a super-efficient 9-speed transmission, and the off-highway prowess that Jeep customers demand.

Editor’s Note: Winter is Auto Show Season in the Pacific Northwest, with major gatherings planned for Portland and Spokane in the coming weeks. It’s also a great time for credit unions to court members with lower interest rates and friendlier loan terms than dealers or banks can offer. With that in mind, Anthem asked John M. Vincent, a nationally-recognized automotive journalist and a longtime Northwest credit union board member, to share his perspective on the latest trends in the auto industry. Look for more of his stories, photos and videos online at nwcua.org/auto-show.

Stories and photos by John M. Vincent

Like much of America, auto sales are emerging from a long slump.

During the recent economic downturn, customers simply stopped buying cars, choosing instead to make their current vehicles last longer. Today, the average age of cars on the road in the U.S. has risen to a record 11.4 years, according to industry researcher R.L. Polk.

But now that the economy is climbing out of its deep hole and consumers have more confidence, they’re buying again. Most analysts expect that more than 16 million cars and light trucks will be sold in the U.S. in 2014 – and that would make it the best year since 2006.

Manufacturers hope to meet the pent-up demand with cars and trucks that are better, safer and more efficient than ever. They’re unwilling to return to a time of excess inventories that had to be cleared with incentive programs, though, and that means credit union members – who can often get lower interest rates and better loan terms than carmakers or banks can offer – will have an advantage.

The key to the best deal, of course, is knowledge, and buyers will have an opportunity to see, touch and drive some of the best the industry has to offer in February during the Portland International Auto Show (Feb. 6-9 at the Oregon Convention Center) and the Spokane International Auto Show (Feb. 14-16 at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center). Unlike most shows, you can purchase cars at both events.

Auto shows offer members “a one-stop, one-place, low-pressure environment” for research, says Todd Pietzsch, public relations manager for BECU, which sponsors the Seattle Auto Show each fall. “They’re an opportunity to narrow down what you’re looking for. Then you can do your comparative shopping.”

Stop first at your credit union, where loan officers can help you understand how much you can afford to spend on a vehicle and even pre-approve you for a loan. And then head to the shows, where the spotlight is on new and updated sedans that have been arriving at a blistering pace.

The current Toyota Camry is only two years old, for example, while the popular Honda Accord and Ford Fusion are even younger. Last year brought an updated Honda Civic, Chevy Malibu and performance-oriented Buick Regal and Verano models. Dodge introduced the best Dart yet, with a MultiAir turbo engine. And the new Mazda3 is downright sexy.

Chevrolet has the new Impala and SS, two large sedans that illustrate what a big domestic sedan is supposed to be – fast, quiet and comfortable.

Perhaps the most important model introduction for 2014 is the Toyota Corolla. One of the most popular cars in the U.S., the ’14 arrives with greatly enhanced efficiency and interior space. While its features and performance aren’t groundbreaking, Toyota’s reputation for quality and dependability will win huge numbers of buyers.

Sexy with a throaty voice, the 2014 Jaguar F-Type S Roadster rocks the sports-car world. This year, it will be joined by an equally gorgeous coupe.

Kia and Hyundai have been hard at work, introducing updated Optima and Sonata models and a new, class-leading Forte.

Pickup trucks are the top sellers in the American market, which has been flooded with fresh, high-tech products. Toyota’s Tundra is all new, as are Chevy’s Silverado and GMC’s Sierra. For 2014, the award-winning Ram 1500 gains a diesel engine option, linked to an advanced 8-speed transmission. Coming soon are a completely re-imagined Chevy Colorado and a redesigned Ford F-150 lineup.

Crossovers take the shape and many of the capabilities of traditional SUVs and put them on a more car-like platform, increasing efficiency and improving driving dynamics. There are attractive new 2014 models of the Acura MDX, Nissan Rogue and Toyota Highlander. The most interesting is the Jeep Cherokee, with a unique look, impressive performance and the legendary capability expected from a Jeep.

Mercedes is entering the small-crossover market with the new GLA-class. Kia’s unique Soul wagon has been redesigned, without sacrificing the urban dynamics that make it so popular. And GM has launched a new generation of large SUVs, including the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade.

The big news last year was the birth of a new Corvette, the Stingray. This year, it’s a new Ford Mustang that’s making headlines. Sneaking in from Jaguar is the wonderful new F-Type, with performance that demands attention.

In luxury news, 2014 brings the BMW 4-series, which replaces the 3-series coupe. The Mercedes E-Class is all-new, including a diesel engine in its base model. And the 2014 CTS is filling Cadillac’s trophy case with plenty of awards.

“Putting Members in the Driver’s Seat” is a special package of five stories, more than 20 photos and videos that credit unions can use to entertain and educate their members during this key car-buying season and draw attention to the lower interest rates and better loan terms that only credit unions can offer. Watch for John M. Vincent’s stories in Anthem throughout the month of January, and look for lots of downloadable content here.

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

Posted in Marketing & Communications, NWCUA.