‘‘The competition is so fierce,’’ said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for automotive pricing site TrueCar.com. ‘‘It forces automakers into much more frequent updates.’’
Automakers used to redesign cars every six or seven years and update them every three or four. But in the midsize segment, that’s changing to redesigns every three or four years and updates every other year, Toprak said.
General Motors, for instance, is freshening the slow-selling Chevrolet Malibu for 2014, even though it was redesigned last year. The update changes the look in the front and back. The car’s front grille, for instance, gets three chrome-accented horizontal bars rather than one solid bar, matching newer Chevrolet vehicles. GM also addresses criticism of a cramped back seat.
Malibu sales rose just 3 percent in 2012. GM lowered the base price by $300 to $770 depending on model and raised discounts on the car in February.
Since slicker styling is now commonplace, price is a bigger consideration for buyers, Toprak said. And that means better deals for consumers, particularly on older models.
Carmakers are either dropping the base price or ramping up incentives. Average sales prices fell from January to February on seven of the segment’s 10 top-selling vehicles, according to the Edmunds.com auto website. Discounts also rose on seven of the 10 top sellers. The average price dropped by $131, to $25,729.
Camry’s price went up slightly between January and February, but in the past year, it has fallen $136, to $24,211. The Camry’s average price is about $1,000 less than the Accord and Altima and $2,000 less than the Fusion. In late February, Toyota began offering no-interest financing on the 2013 Camry for 60 months.