Five years from now, Kelley Blue Book predicts, a 2012 Wrangler will be worth 55 percent of its current, new-vehicle price. That projected residual value put it at the top of Kelley Blue Book's compact vehicle category, up from second place last year, when the 2011 Wrangler's residual value was projected at 45.2 percent.
Kelley Blue Book named Toyota as it best resale-value brand, with a predicted residual of 40.5 percent, up from 38.5 percent last year. Lexus, with a predicted value of 37.9, up from 36.4 percent last year, was named best resale luxury brand. Jeep, buoyed by Wrangler, jumped to second place in the top 10 brand ranking, up from eighth a year ago. Scion, which didn't make the top 10 last year, climbed to No. 3.
Eric Ibara, director of residual consulting at Kelley Blue Book, says his company is "amazed" at how well Wrangler holds its value — and isn't sure why. It competes in a category with such vehicles as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson but is perceived as different from them, he says.
"We have some theories," Ibara says. "It's easy seeing those vehicles competing against each other, but there's not much competition for a Wrangler.
"Part of its popularity, we think, is just being unique."
Kelley Blue Book released its resale brand rankings as part of its 2012 Residual Value Analysis. Its predictions are for five years to reflect the typical length of new-vehicle ownership.
ALG gave the nod to Subaru as its mainstream brand winner at 50 percent, down from 53 percent last year.
Lexus was the top luxury brand in ALG's rankings
ALG released its rankings as part of its 13th Annual Residual Value Awards. Its predictions are for 36 months, the typical length of a lease. ALG would not release predicted residuals for top finishers in its vehicle segments.
Raj Sundaram, a senior vice president at DealerTrack Holdings Inc., ALG's former owner, is a consultant to ALG as it transitions to new owner TrueCar Inc. He says ALG set its overall 2012 model residual projections lower than it had set projections last year and the year before. That's because an uptick in leasing that started last year will result in more off-lease vehicles returning to the market in greater numbers, which is expected to lower used-vehicle prices in three years.
On average, ALG set residual values for nonluxury vehicles at 45 percent for 2012, down from 47 in 2011. On the luxury side, ALG set average projections at 45.5 for 2012, down from 47 in 2011.
"In 2014 toward the second half and in 2015 we do think supply will be a very different dynamic, higher than what we're experiencing this year and next year," Sundaram says. "We have brought our residuals down."
As in previous years, import brands dominate both companies' projected residual rankings.