Monday, July 16, 2007

Competition drives early arrival of '08s

Car shoppers venturing into dealerships this summer will face the usual choices -- coupe or convertible, car or crossover, buy or lease -- and something a bit unexpected.

It's only July, yet showrooms are full of 2008 models. Most are all-new vehicles or reflect significant redesigns, although a few are very early versions of cars that are a little different or unchanged from the 2007 versions.

Ask Joe Wiesenfelder, senior editor at the car-shopping Web site, why it's happening and he'll give you two reasons: because automakers can, and because they want to.

"Manufacturers can call it a 2008 model if it goes on sale after Jan. 1 of the current year," he said.

More importantly, he said, automakers realized that the traditional start of the model year on Oct. 1 -- in decades past, dealers would soap up windows and cover cars with sheets to keep prying eyes away until that date -- left them all fighting for the same headlines.

"So they started bringing out all-new models, or ones that have been significantly redesigned, at different times of the year, for the competitive advantage," he said. "It basically gives them more press."

Buying a new 2008 is a good thing for consumers, Wiesenfelder said. "For the buyer, it's the most modern version you can get," he said. "On the down side, because it's new, you're going to pay top dollar for it."

Also, the arrival of 2008 models can make 2007 models a bargain, said Meme Moore of

Here are some of the significant 2008 models on the market now:

• Audi TT. • Buick Enclave. • Chrysler Sebring convertible. • Dodge Avenger. • Ford Escape/Escape Hybrid. • Ford F-Series Super Duty. • Ford Taurus/Taurus X. • Mitsubishi Lancer. • Nissan Altima coupe. • Saturn Vue. • Scion xB. • Subaru Tribeca.

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