Bearing in mind its finding that almost three-fourths (71 percent) of shoppers buy vehicles based on need rather than want, AutoTrader.com recently released a list of a dozen new and late-model vehicles priced less than $30,000 that it recommends for various changes in a one’s life that would necessitate making a purchase.
But AutoTrader also investigated which of these cars recommended for a “need to buy” situation would also satisfy the “want to buy” criteria of consumers, and it found that the vehicles generating the most interest were near-new luxury vehicles.
This, of course, gibes with AutoTrader’s recent report that luxury certified pre-owned have skyrocketed in popularity, as detailed here  by Auto Remarketing.
“Over the last couple of months, shoppers on AutoTrader.com have shown a notable increase in interest in luxury vehicles, particularly in the used and CPO segments,” said Rick Wainschel, vice president of automotive insights at AutoTrader.com.
“This is likely fueled by the trend of consumers who are shopping for new, non-luxury sedans cross shopping near-new luxury sedans, as these vehicles fulfill similar consumer desires at similar price points,” he added.
Sharing more details about its analysis, AutoTrader explained that it took six life events — previous vehicle broken, previous vehicle in an accident, new baby in the family, new job, new driver in the family and longer commute — and paired each with a specific need (i.e. previous vehicle in accident paired with “safety;” new baby in family paired with “space and value”).
The site then recommended a new vehicle and a near-new vehicle for each event that would take care of the driver’s specific need.
After that, AutoTrader polled more than 300 visitors and asked them to select their three favorites from the list of 12. The site visitors were also asked to choose appropriate descriptors for the three cars they chose.
The vehicle most often selected in the top three was the 2008 Infiniti G35 — a late-model luxury ride — as it made the cut 37 percent of the time. The 2009 Acura TSX (also a near-new luxury model) was tied for second with the 2012 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab (34 percent).
Joining those fellow near-new luxury rides at the top of the list was the 2009 Volvo S80 (33 percent), which tied with the 2011 Ford Fusion and the 2008 GMC Acadia.
Sharing some qualities that consumers attributed to that trio, the G35 and TSX were typically seen as "more sexy, sylish, sporty and fun" compared to Volvo's model. However, consumers found the Volvo to have greater functionality and versatility than the Infiniti and Acura models, while also calling it safer.
Delving more into other vehicles on the list, AutoTrader pointed to the 2012 Kia Soul (chosen 10 percent of the time) and the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi (8 percent), in particular, as being “hidden gems,” despite ranking 11th and 12th on the list, respectively.
“The Kizashi is perhaps the biggest hidden gem on AutoTrader.com right now, as it has not had significant visibility among or interest from shoppers,” officials noted. “At $19,000, the Kizashi has a lot to prove, but experts at AutoTrader.com think it fits the bill — especially for new drivers. For now, it appears that other vehicles will continue garnering the most attention from shoppers, and the experts’ other top pick for new drivers, the Ford Focus, will likely be one of those.”
As for the Soul, editors noted: “Perhaps the most surprising insight discovered in the November survey is the lack of understanding of the Soul’s safety.
Despite the new Kia Soul being selected as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, only 23 percent of respondents surveyed in November selected ‘Safe’ as word to describe the Soul, and only 20 percent believed the funky compact SUV would be a car they’d consider after being in an accident in their previous vehicle.
“For comparison, 60 percent of shoppers surveyed in November viewed the Volvo S80 as a safe vehicle, showing that Volvo’s reputation for safety is strong while Kia has an opportunity to promote the Soul’s safety,” they continued. “Additionally, the roller coaster of interest from shoppers on AutoTrader.com shows that the Soul still has a ways to go before it is on a steady positive trajectory with the wider shopping population.”
To illustrate its findings in more detail, AutoTrader offered the following charts, the second showing the frequency at which each of the 12 recommended rides were chosen in the top three of consumers: