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On the lookout for a brand new automotive below $20,000? Good luck. Your selection has dwindled to only one automobile

By TOM KRISHER | AP Auto Author

DETROIT  — Simply 5 years in the past, a price-conscious auto shopper in the US may select from amongst a dozen new small automobiles promoting for below $20,000. Now, there’s only one: The Mitsubishi Mirage. And even the Mirage seems headed for the scrap yard.

At a time when People more and more need dear SUVs and vehicles somewhat than small automobiles, the Mirage stays the lone new automobile whose common sale value is below 20 grand — a determine that when marked a type of unofficial threshold of affordability. With costs — new and used — having soared because the pandemic, $20,000 is now not a lot of a place to begin for a brand new automotive.

This present model of the Mirage, which reached U.S. dealerships a decade in the past, bought for a mean of $19,205 final month, in line with knowledge from Cox Automotive. (Although a number of different new fashions have beginning costs below $20,000, their precise buy costs, with choices and transport, exceed that determine.)

The Mirage, with hatchback and sedan variations, prices lower than half of what the common U.S. new automobile does. That common is now simply above $48,000 — 25% greater than earlier than the pandemic struck three years in the past.

“I simply gained’t pay that type of value,” mentioned Karen Schaeppi of suburban Minneapolis, who purchased a crimson Mirage sedan final month for round $19,000. Schaeppi, who’s 78, mentioned she may have afforded an average-priced new automobile. However as a result of she’s solely 5 ft tall, she wished a small automotive so she may see simply over the hood.

When she got down to exchange her 2008 Ford Focus, Schaeppi was shocked to search out no small automobiles obtainable on the sellers she visited — at any value.

“There was nothing that existed,” she mentioned. “Not even shut.”

The shortage of small automobiles at dealerships helps clarify why the common new automobile prices a lot: Detroit’s Huge Three automakers — Basic Motors, Stellantis and Ford — started to jettison the compact and subcompact automotive enterprise about 5 years in the past. Low revenue margins for small automobiles and customers’ rising shift to SUVs and vehicles made the choice a simple one. Likewise, Toyota and Honda later halted U.S. gross sales of their subcompacts.

Then a pandemic-related computer-chip scarcity slashed international auto manufacturing. Autos have been abruptly briefly provide at a time of excessive demand. Costs shot up.

One other issue that has swollen common costs is that 32 fashions in the US now have promoting costs above $100,000, in line with Cox. As lately as 2018, solely 12 fashions bought for over 100 grand. At a mean sale value of $29,000, even most used automobiles price greater than a brand new Mirage.

Folks like Andrew Lang of Flint, Michigan, really feel priced out of the market fully. Lang, 26, mentioned there’s no means he may afford a brand new automotive proper now, not even a Mirage.

“I don’t make sufficient cash,” he mentioned,

Lang spoke after stepping out of his 2009 Chevrolet Impala in a grocery retailer car parking zone close to Ypsilanti. The Impala, with cloudy headlights, a crack within the entrance bumper and a dent in proper aspect of the trunk, has 150,000 miles on it. Lang, an data expertise coordinator, mentioned he doesn’t know what he’d do if he needed to exchange it. He must purchase a used automotive — if he may discover one thing reasonably priced.

At White Bear Mitsubishi close to St. Paul, Minnesota, the place Schaeppi purchased her automobile, used automobiles are the principle competitors for the Mirage, in line with Richard Herod III, the dealership’s managing companion. However as a result of so few new small automobiles have been bought lately, he mentioned, the used-vehicle choice is low and costs are excessive.

A brand new Mirage, which prices about the identical as a 4-year-old Chevrolet Cruze or Mazda 3, has a five-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper guarantee. Most used automobiles that age, Herod mentioned, now not embrace such warranties. The Mirage will get roughly 39 miles to the gallon, among the many highest of any automobile in the US that isn’t hybrid or electrical.

Nonetheless, the horsepower in its three-cylinder engine quantities to a tepid 76.

“It’s not going to win any drag races,” Herod mentioned. “It’s not going to make you extra widespread in school. It’s the final sincere reasonably priced automotive in America.”

Regardless of the low value, U.S. gross sales of the Mirage have been sluggish. Mitsubishi bought solely 5,316 within the first half of the 12 months — 44% beneath the identical interval in 2022.

And it won’t be obtainable in any respect in a few years. The commerce publication Automotive Information reported final week that Mitsubishi will cease promoting the Mirage by mid-decade. Mitsubishi, a part of the Nissan-Renault alliance, declined to remark. However its web site says manufacturing of the Mirage in Thailand, the place it’s constructed, is ending.

As soon as the Mirage disappears, Mitsubishi’s least costly automobile can be the Outlander Sport small SUV. It begins round $24,600, which incorporates transport.

Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Cox Automotive, mentioned she thinks gross sales of the Mirage can be stronger if extra clients knew about it.

“There aren’t that many Mitsubishi sellers, they usually don’t have a really loud voice within the promoting world,” she mentioned.

As well as, Krebs mentioned, Mitsubishi consumers are inclined to have lower-than-average credit score scores, and lots of of them have been priced out of the auto market fully as a result of greater mortgage charges have despatched month-to-month funds surging.

A purchaser who put down a ten% fee on the common Mirage gross sales value of $19,205 would owe roughly $365 every month for 60 months at a 7% mortgage charge.

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