Ahhh, the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s — when extended family are still around but planned activities are not. The holiday food means loosened belts and, if you’re not careful, loose-lipped bellyaching about your weeklong housemates. If car shopping was on your to-do list, it might prove just the right excuse to dodge the family drama.
If Great Aunt Bessie objects, claim deals as your defense. Overall new-car incentives are still waning versus a spike in recent years, but the end of the calendar year remains a historically good time for discounts. Tyson Jominy, head of J.D. Power and Associates’ data consultancy, says the week between Christmas and New Year’s has seen the highest new-car incentives of the year for four of the past five years. And two days in particular should see a lot of activity in 2018.
“Due to the calendar, we have two very strong-selling days to the end the year — Saturdays, which are always the strongest-selling days of the week, on Dec. 29, combined with Monday, New Year’s Eve, [which] is always among the top-selling days of the year,” Jominy stated in an email. “As we head into the period, it is important to note that incentives are still likely to be down overall for the industry versus last year. However, excellent deals can still be found on specific models.”
End-of-year deals should be bountiful as dealers look to sell the last of the outgoing 2018 model year. As of Dec. 19, that year still accounts for roughly a third of all new-car inventory on Cars.com. For six brands in particular, more than 45 percent of new inventory remains 2018s:
Mazda: 62.5 percent
Audi: 52.9 percent
Dodge: 51.7 percent
Ford: 49.7 percent
Mitsubishi: 49.3 percent
Jeep: 48.2 percent
Dealers from those brands should want to clear out the old given model-year 2018 cars averaged 92 days to sell on dealer lots in November — much longer than the 38-day average for 2019 models. If you shop the brands above, there’s a good chance you’ll find dealers motivated to move the metal. By contrast, dealers selling Subaru, Acura and Infiniti are almost all the way into the 2019 model year, with less than 10 percent of inventory still comprising the 2018 model year. That could signal fewer deals from those brands.
Which cars in particular have the highest cash discounts? We took the selection from our Best New-Car Deals for December 2018 and found a few more:
2019 Chevrolet Equinox: Parent company GM is offering employee pricing on select models, including the Equinox. In the automaker’s advertised example — a well-equipped Equinox Premier that sells for around $40,000 — total discounts amounted to some $6,000 if you finance with GM. Those who finance elsewhere or pay cash are still eligible for employee pricing, but total discounts will be lower, a spokeswoman for the automaker told Cars.com. Discounts are also variable depending on trim level, so lower trims are likely to have smaller incentives. And employee pricing doesn’t apply to the Equinox’s base trim, called 1SM. Deals expire Jan. 2.
2018 Ford EcoSport: $1,750 to $3,650 off, depending on region, though select markets, including California, have substantially lower discounts. Discount financing varies widely, too. We found 84-month rates from 2.9 percent all the way up to 7.9 percent, depending on region. That said, the 2018 EcoSport should be easy to find, as it accounted for nearly all new dealer inventory as of Dec. 19. Deals expire Jan. 2.
2018 Hyundai Tucson: $3,000 to $3,500 off, depending on trim, or 0.9 percent financing for up to 60 months plus $1,000 off. Persistent shoppers should be able to hunt down a 2018 model as they still accounted for about a third of new Tucson inventory as of Dec. 19. Deals expire Jan. 2.
2019 Kia Sorento: $2,000 to $3,500 off, depending on trim, or zero percent financing for up to 60 months plus $500 in some regions. Offers expire Jan. 2.
2018 Nissan Murano: $4,000 to $5,250 off, depending on region. In some areas, a small portion of that comes only on upper trim levels. Alternately, discount financing on the Murano amounts to zero percent for up to 60 months plus $2,000 to $2,750, region depending. The updated 2019 Murano is just around the corner, but as of Dec. 19, Nissan dealers are still full of 2018 models.
2018-19 Nissan Rogue: $1,000 to $3,500 off the 2018 model or $1,000 to $2,500 off the 2019 model, both depending on region, plus another $500 if you finance at standard rates through Nissan. Alternately, discount financing amounts to zero percent for up to 60 months with $500 off. Offers expire Jan. 2.
Sedans and Hatchbacks
2018 Chevrolet Cruze: Employee discounts knock some $5,400 off GM’s advertised example — a Cruze Premier priced around $30,000 — for those who finance through the automaker. Finance elsewhere, pay cash or choose a lower trim level, and your discounts are likely to be lower, albeit still substantial enough to consider. You should be able to find a qualifying example, as the 2018 model year accounted for about 44 percent of new Cruze inventory as of Dec. 19. The deals expire Jan. 2 and don’t apply to the base trim, called 1SM.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu: Employee pricing can shave off quite a bit. In GM’s advertised example, a Malibu Premier priced close to $40,000, the discounts slashed about $6,100 for those who finance through GM. Finance elsewhere, pay cash or choose a lower trim level, and your discounts are likely to be lower, albeit still substantial enough to consider. You should easily find qualifying examples, as the 2018 model year accounts for about two-thirds of new Malibu inventory as of Dec. 19. The discount expires Jan. 2 and doesn’t apply to the base trim, called 1VL.
2018 Ford Focus: $2,500 to $5,000 off, depending on trim level and region. Alternately, discount financing amounts to 2.9 percent for 84 months. Offers exclude the Focus Electric and high-performance Focus RS. You should have no trouble finding the others, however: With the Focus’ global redesign axed for U.S. showrooms, the 2018 model year is the nameplate’s final stateside example.
Our numbers are current as of publication for the markets we survey (generally Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York). They reflect advertised customer discounts, not unadvertised factory-to-dealer cash. Discount financing typically requires qualifying credit, too, and incentives may differ by region and trim level; automakers may also change them later in the month. In sum: Your discounts may vary, so check with your local dealer for specifics.
TESLA’S PRICE CUT AND MORE CAR NEWS FROM THIS WEEK
HAPPY NEW YEAR, and welcome back. 2019 is young, and we’ve already got a transportation bombshell on our hands: New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced he wants to cancel a planned subway line shutdown in the country’s largest public transit system. He says a panel of experts found a smarter way to fix tunnels damaged by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy—and according to engineers we spoke to, Cuomo might be right. But what happens now? Will the city stick with its plans, formed over the course of three years, to revamp bike and bus lanes and pedestrian spaces? Transportation advocates hope so.
Meanwhile, we’re still a little stuck on 2018, which was filled with exciting advances for Tesla, scooter-share, and even self-driving cars (sometimes). Read about the happenings, before it all fades away. It’s been a few weeks. Let’s get you caught up.
New TLC commissioner should have economic smarts: Advocates
Professional driver advocates say the city should be looking for a new Taxi & Limousine commissioner with a background in economics and a focus on policy.
“There’s a serious economic crisis in this industry, and [the next chairperson] needs to be interested in policy, not just politics, and care for the workers at the end of the day,” said Bhiaravi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents 20,000 of the city’s professional drivers. “Given the level of crisis that drivers have been under, you need a chairperson who is going to be bold and really willing to put even their own kind of career interests second to the plight of the drivers.”
The head of the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission, Meera Joshi, will step down from her post in March, the de Blasio administration announced over the weekend.
Joshi, whose policy positions clashed with those of the mayor’s, has headed the department since 2014 and oversaw a tumultuous period for the driving industry, as Uber and Lyft flooded the market and upended long-held practices of the ride-hailing industry.
“Thanks to a skilled and principled TLC staff, a Commission dedicated to doing the right thing and engaged industry members and advocates, through public debate and data, we increased accountability, safety, access, modernized taxi regulation, protected drivers and increased consumer protections. I am deeply grateful to the TLC community that made this possible,” said Commissioner Joshi in a statement.
Joshi oversaw the department as New York became the first major city to temporarily cap the number of e-hail vehicles on the road, and more recently spearheaded the nation’s first minimum wage for e-hail drivers. She also succeeded where other cities failed in acquiring more pickup and drop-off data from e-hail companies.
She also grappled, however, with a tragic series of driver suicides as e-hails multiplied on the streets of the city, decreasing the value of taxi medallions and rattling the economics of the industry.
Desai did praise Joshi for her “heart” as well as her “institutional knowledge” and “vision.”
De Blasio undercut Joshi several times this past year. In July, as Joshi’s agency issued a report that became the foundation for setting the minimum wage for e-hail drivers, de Blasio’s office failed to endorse the idea, with the mayor’s press secretary calling it “very premature.”
De Blasio stepped on Joshi’s toes more recently as the state looked to administer a congestion surcharge on taxi and e-hail trips in a large swath of Manhattan. After Joshi said the policy would be “devastating” for taxi drivers, de Blasio endorsed the proposal as a way to decrease traffic volumes. A judge blocked that policy from taking effect last month after cabdrivers filed suit.
In a statement announcing the news, de Blasio hailed his commissioner, saying she will be leaving an “unparalleled legacy.”
“In this unprecedented period of growth, Meera has brought about equally unprecedented and vital change that will serve as a model for cities throughout the nation and the world,” de Blasio said. “Under her leadership, New Yorkers who use wheelchairs can get service, passengers are assured that every driver and vehicle is safe, our city has detailed records of the one million daily trips, and New York City is the only place where app drivers have pay protection.”
Sony’s Chief Plans to Make Entertainment Assets a Priority
What will happen to Sony Pictures?
That has been a question in Hollywood since Kenichiro Yoshida took over as Sony Corporation’s chief executive in April. Unlike his two predecessors, Mr. Yoshida, a number-cruncher based in Japan and known for jettisoning underperforming businesses, seemed to have little affinity for the company’s also-ran movie and television division, which is best known as the home of Spider-Man and “Seinfeld.”
Surely this would be the moment for Sony to get rid of the midsize studio — especially since Rupert Murdoch had just decided to sell his bigger 20th Century Fox to Disney, having concluded it did not have the scale needed to compete with moviedom insurgents like Netflix, Apple and Amazon.
Surprise. When Mr. Yoshida takes the stage on Monday at the CES trade show in Las Vegas, he plans to use the high-profile platform to showcase Sony movies, television shows and music. He plans to telegraph that not only will his Sony not exit any of these businesses, it will make them a priority as his predecessors have not. In particular, Mr. Yoshida wants to make better use of the company’s online PlayStation Network as a way to bring Sony movies, shows and music directly to consumers. PlayStation Network, introduced in 2006, now has more than 80 million monthly active users.
“I want to convey the message that Sony is a creative entertainment company,” Mr. Yoshida said by phone from Tokyo before leaving for Nevada. That description amounts to a significant shift. Sony has long been seen as a consumer electronics superpower first and a Hollywood entity second.
He added that Sony’s three separately run entertainment businesses — music, gaming and motion pictures — have been told from on high that it is time to collaborate more consistently. In the past, analysts say, PlayStation Network managers have been hesitant to team up with their movie and music counterparts, worrying that the service’s core gamers would balk if they felt that Sony was pushing, say, family films at them.
Mr. Yoshida seemed less concerned. He called PlayStation Network “a very strong entertainment platform for all of Sony — very suitable for video and music content.”
Mr. Yoshida said he was asking for collaboration at a time when all the pertinent divisions have new leaders. Tony Vinciquerra became chief executive of Sony Pictures in June 2017. John Kodera took over gaming slightly more than a year ago. In recent months, Rob Stringer and Jon Platt were named as Sony’s top executives in music recording and publishing. All report to Mr. Yoshida; he said he had no plans to consolidate the entertainment businesses under a single executive.
“Entertainment is in Sony’s DNA,” Mr. Yoshida said. “We’ve now been in the music business for 50 years, the motion picture business for 30 years and the game business for over 25 years.” For its last fiscal year, the three units made up 47 percent of Sony’s operating profit, which totaled $6.7 billion, the highest in the conglomerate’s 72-year history.
Positioning Sony as an entertainment company represents a “directional change” and fits with other public comments Mr. Yoshida has made since he took over nine months ago, said Masaru Sugiyama, a Goldman Sachs analyst. “It has felt as if entertainment is more integrated with the rest of Sony within Yoshida-san’s mind,” Mr. Sugiyama said.
Even so, Sony is in no way leaning away from its portfolio of technology and consumer products.
At CES, as the Las Vegas trade show is known, Sony is expected to showcase image sensors for cars, new audio products, ultra-ultra high-definition televisions and robotics. Thomas E. Rothman, Sony’s movie chief, will take the stage after Mr. Yoshida to talk up the company’s turnaround in film, bringing along Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, producers of the studio’s recent “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” But Mr. Rothman’s remarks will be peppered with references to how Sony cameras have helped the studio — its tech breakthroughs bolstering its creative endeavors.
Sony’s entertainment empire has its share of challenges, of course.
After buying out partners, Sony has outright control of the world’s largest catalog of music publishing assets. But the recording unit had a soft 2018 in the hit department.
Apple has been poaching Sony television and film executives to work on its coming streaming service. And major Sony-made television shows like “Better Call Saul” and “The Blacklist” are aging. Efforts to find replacements have mostly fizzled, in part because the highest-paying TV networks are ordering more shows from in-house suppliers.
As a whole, however, Sony’s entertainment businesses are stronger than they have been in memory — in particular the film division, which suffered a devastating cyberattack in 2014. Mr. Rothman and Mr. Vinciquerra have turned movies into an unexpected engine by cutting costs and focusing more intently on all-audience “tent pole” fantasies like “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which took in $962 million worldwide in 2017. To dropped jaws in Hollywood, “Venom” generated $856 million in ticket sales late last year.
Sony has a parade of big-budget sequels on the way — “Men in Black: International” arrives in June — and the studio is aggressively mining the rights it holds to Marvel characters in the Spider-Man comics family. To that end, movies based on Morbius, Black Cat and Silver Sable are in the works; the Sinister Six could be Sony’s answer to “The Avengers.” Sony is also considering making animated television shows based on characters introduced in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which has collected $276 million at the box office.
Now that Fox has been sold, only Disney and Sony have rights to make Marvel-related film and television content.
And Marvel characters are popular with the PlayStation Network crowd. One reason that Mr. Yoshida is pushing for more collaboration: Marvel’s Spider-Man, a $60 game, set a record for Sony in September by selling 3.3 million copies in its first three days of release.
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