The affordability of new cars is a top concern for leaders of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Increased technology in vehicles may be adding to consumers' burden.
While some of the content added to new vehicles improves safety, NADA officials say gratuitous add-ons are helping put sticker prices out of reach. And that's going to limit the number of cars and trucks that dealer members sell.
NADA CEO Peter Welch told Automotive News this month that mandated technology is partly to blame. "When you go up to Congress and it's all, 'Cool seats — we need to have a sensor!' How can you argue against cool-seat legislation?" Welch said. "But that's another $400 or whatever; backup cameras, another $200."
Texas dealer Charlie Gilchrist, outgoing chairman of NADA, noted that the average transaction price of a new vehicle is creeping toward $40,000.
"The technology, some of it is safety-related that we need, but the other, optional technology — we need to really be careful on all this because it just adds to the cost," Gilchrist said.
The cost-related metric that hits consumers hardest? Monthly payments, says Gilchrist.
"We've actually seen — because I sell a lot of trucks — in Texas, people are paying over $1,000 a month for a pickup truck. So when you see an average [payment] of $565 ... it's something that we really have to watch," Gilchrist said.
Dealerships can help by stocking cars at a variety of trim levels to cater to budget-conscious consumers. While customers may be tempted by the latest features, sacrificing some add-ons might help them better manage those monthly payments.