Cheap cars are back: Chevy Trax is climbing the charts

Cheap cars are back: Chevy Trax is climbing the charts

The cheap car has been a staple of life in America for years. But automakers are announcing third-quarter sales numbers this week, and there’s a shock buried in the numbers — a sub-$25,000 car is rising up the sales charts.

The all-new 2024 Chevrolet Trax is considered the third best-selling Chevrolet car.

The Trax itself has outsold the Cadillac brand. Americans bought about 38,000 Trax SUVs last quarter and fewer than 36,000 Cadillacs.

The sub-$25,000 car is starting to fade away

The news is great because each Trax trim level costs less than $25,000 (before delivery fees — and many cost even less after delivery fees).

The cheap car has disappeared from American roads in recent years. Over the past five years, sales of new cars priced under $25,000 have fallen 78%, KBB analysts found. Automakers responded by trimming models from their lineups.

In December 2017, automakers produced 36 models priced at $25,000 or less. Five years later, they built only 10.

However, Chevrolet has bet on redesigning the Trax recently. The company has put a lot of effort into the least expensive model in its lineup.

But Chevy put some effort into one

Mechanically, the new Trax is no exception. It has the powertrain of a simple passenger car, with a 137-hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and no all-wheel drive (AWD) option.

But it looks great — like a little Chevy Blazer, with sporty looks, sophisticated-looking slit headlights, and a toned body in a year when most SUV designs have become square.

While most automakers cheap out on the interiors of their budget models, Chevy has given the Trax a thoroughly modern cabin with a driver’s instrument screen instead of gauges, a high-mounted central touchscreen, and even contrast stitching.

Simply put, it looks more expensive than it is.

It paid off in sales, with the Trax outselling the larger Traverse.

The front cabin of the 2024 Chevrolet Trax.

The trend may not start

Selling subcompact SUVs is a challenge in a climate of high interest rates, when automakers realize that only consumers with higher incomes and better credit can easily shop for new cars. That’s why they pump out so many high-end trucks, SUVs, and special editions of their popular models instead.

In December 2017, automakers offered 61 models for sale with sticker prices of $60,000 or higher. Last December, they offered 90.

But this approach leaves a large gap at the bottom of the market, where Americans who just want a reliable traveler under warranty are shopping. In the last quarter, Trax started to fill up.

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