The cash-for-clunkers program pushed August's new-vehicle asking prices on consumer auto site AutoTrader.com up 2.7 percent from year-earlier levels.
The average asking price on the site for new vehicles was $32,794 last month, up from $31,922 a year earlier. Average prices on the site typically range from $30,500 to $33,000, AutoTrader.com spokesman Brian Gluckman said.
“We're at the high end of our range right now,” he said.
Demand for the government's program sent August's U.S. light-vehicle sales up 1 percent from 2008 levels for their first year-over-year increase since October 2007. The sales rate hit 13.7 million units in August, its highest level since August 2008.
The quick increase in demand, which did not exceed 9.9 million annual units this year until July, pushed industrywide U.S. inventory on Sept. 1 to a 30-day supply. That's half of what analysts recommend.
Dwindling inventory, which was already at a low 48-day supply Aug. 1, is driving price increases, Gluckman said.
“We're seeing the inventory of lower priced cars just decimated,” he said. “Even on the higher priced cars, there's just less inventory. So what's left is being driven up, because if you want one, you've got to pay.”
Among the top 20 new vehicles viewed in August on the site, the No. 2 Ford F-150 saw the biggest year-over-year price increase, with its average asking price of $35,165.04 up 16.3 percent from August 2008 levels. The second-largest spike came from the No. 20 Dodge Ram 1500, whose price rose 13 percent to $34,834.75.
The No. 17 Ford Fusion's 12.8 percent price increase came third; its asking price was $25,289.47.
The biggest price decrease in the top 20 most-viewed new autos came from the No. 9 BMW 3 series, whose price fell 7.1 percent to $36,482.20. The next largest came from the Nissan Versa, whose $15,538.13 asking price had slipped 4.3 percent from August 2008.
Of the top 20, the Chevrolet Equinox saw the biggest increase in views from August 2008. Its page views rose 289.2 percent to move it from 89th place in August 2008 to No. 7 last month. Next came the Nissan Versa, whose 75.4 percent spike in page views drove it to No. 18 on the list from No. 57 a year earlier. The third-place rise came from the Ford F-150's 51.8 percent page-view increase, which moved it from 10th in August 2008 to second last month.
The largest popularity decrease came from the Dodge Ram 1500, whose page views declined 55.3 percent from August 2008. It dropped from 1st that month to 20th last month.
The top-viewed new vehicle in August was the Chevrolet Camaro, which was not on the list in 2008 because it launched this March. The rest of the top 20 were, in order, the Ford F-150, Ford Mustang, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Camry, BMW 3 series, Nissan Altima, Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Tacoma, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Ford Fusion, Nissan Versa, Ford Escape and Dodge Ram 1500.