Automakers Drop Prices on 2012 Car Models to Help Boost Sales

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After auto sales fell off a cliff in 2009, carmakers enticed customers back into showrooms by holding the line on prices -- or even reducing them -- for many redesigned vehicles, even as they added new features. The value-pricing trend continues for the 2012 model year. For example, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class crossover, the Honda Civic and the Subaru Impreza are all rebuilt from the ground up but have the same starting price as last year's models. And a number of redesigns sport a price cut (a few noteworthy models are below).

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All vehicles get standard stability control for 2012, thanks to federal mandates. And the government's push for more-fuel-efficient vehicles -- brands must average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 -- means that automakers are increasing fuel efficiency across the board, too.

Biggest discounts. The midsize Volkswagen Passat , which dropped out of VW's lineup for the 2011 model year, returns for 2012. In addition to more legroom and more cargo space, the Passat offers three new engine options, including a 2.0-liter turbodiesel that gets 31 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, as well as a peppy V6 that gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Prices start at $20,765 -- $6,930 less than the 2010 model cost -- and that includes Volkswagen's three-year Carefree Maintenance plan. Remote start (included on the SEL Premium) gives kids of all ages a little touch of the Star Wars force (watch the VW Super Bowl ad on YouTube ). The Passat also wins a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The redesigned Mercedes CLS-Class luxury coupe is cheaper, too -- the CLS550 is $2,700 less (now starting at $72,175) and the CLS63 AMG is $4,150 less ($95,775). The sleek, sporty CLS550 has a new twin-turbo V8 engine that puts out 402 horsepower while getting 17 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The CLS also ups the safety-feature ante. It now comes with a passenger knee airbag (one for the driver was already standard), pelvis airbags for the front-seat passengers, and Attention Assist, which monitors drivers for signs of drowsiness and reminds you when it's time to take a break.

Even though it was redesigned last year -- and its price dropped modestly then -- the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers even more value for 2012. Prices for the entry-level Laredo fall $3,220 for both the rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions. The IIHS Top Safety Pick winner gets 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, and it offers adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection to warn you of approaching vehicles when you're backing out of a parking spot.

America's best-selling car, the Toyota Camry , gets a redo for 2012. Fuel economy has improved, and most Camry models will be cheaper for 2012, with savings up to $2,000 for the XLE and $1,150 for the hybrid. A revamped four-cylinder model gets 25 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, and the V6 Camry gets 21 city and 30 highway (both numbers are about 8% better than last year). But the biggest boost comes from the reinvented Camry hybrid, which now puts out 200 horsepower but provides 24% better fuel economy than last year's model, getting 43 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.

The price of the all-wheel-drive Lincoln MKT with EcoBoost ($47,170) falls by $3,005 compared with last year's model. The EcoBoost engine is turbocharged to pack more power into fewer cylinders and raise fuel economy. With it, the MKT puts out 355 horses (versus 268 for the base model, which has the same starting price -- $45,175 -- as last year) and gets 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The three-row luxury crossover seats up to seven, features Ford's voice command SYNC technology, and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Insurance

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