Car prices fall as inventories return to normal

June 27, 2012 - 4:07 PM
Lower Car Prices

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2012 file photo shows a line of 2012 Prius sedans at a Toyota dealership in the south Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo. New vehicle prices have dropped $500 on average in in 2012, mainly because Japanese automakers have restocked dealers after car shortages in 2011, according to the Kelley Blue Book auto pricing service. Models from Japanese automakers such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Accord have seen the biggest declines, while Detroit's models haven't dropped quite as much, KBB said Wednesday, June 27, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

DETROIT (AP) — New car prices have dropped $500 on average in the past year, mainly because Japanese automakers have restocked dealers after shortages in 2011, according to the Kelley Blue Book auto pricing service.

Prices have dropped the most for the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, while prices of Detroit models haven't fallen quite as much, KBB said Wednesday.

Toyota, Honda and smaller Japanese companies ran short of cars after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March of 2011, knocking out power and hampering production of parts and cars. With few cars to sell last summer, Toyota and Honda dealers had little reason to offer discounts.

But with Japanese plants at full strength again and U.S. dealers restocked, discounts are back. Those deals, along with aging cars and easier access to auto loans, could keep buyers coming to dealerships this summer, despite anxiety about the jobs market and incomes.

KBB said that the average price paid for a Honda is almost $1,200 less than it was a year ago. Subaru, Mazda and Toyota models are down $700 to $800. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors have seen much smaller drops, less than $500.

The average price paid for a Prius gas-electric hybrid is down $2,500 from last June. The Civic is down $1,550, according to KBB.

"Although conditions in the global economy continue to deteriorate, consumers who are willing to pull the trigger on a new vehicle will find that there are plenty of deals available," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for KBB.