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AUTOMOTIVE LEASE VOLUME REACHES RECORD HIGH IN 2016
Source: Edmunds news release

Automotive lease volume reached an all-time record level in 2016 of 4.3 million vehicles, according to the latest Lease Market Report from Edmunds, the leading car shopping and information platform. Over the past five years lease volume grew by 91 percent and in 2016 accounted for 31 percent of all new vehicle sales, up from 29 percent of sales in 2015.

As the popularity of trucks and SUVs grows - SUV sales surpassed passenger car sales for the first time ever in 2016 - consumers are turning to leasing to help them afford these higher priced vehicles. The average lease payment was $120 less than the average finance payment in 2016. For large SUVs, the average lease payment was $125 less, and for large pickup trucks the difference was $206, thanks in large part to high residual values. Lease terms have hovered at a fairly constant average of 36 months over the past five years, while the average finance term is continuing to creep upward, averaging 69 months in 2016 (compared to 64 months in 2011).

"Leasing has long been the gateway for car shoppers who are looking to get a nicer vehicle than they could if they financed," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. "Because SUVs and trucks are holding their values so well right now, it makes them much more accessible for a much wider swath of the market, further fueling their popularity."

While millennials still only leased 12 percent of all vehicles leased in the U.S. in 2016, they opt to lease more proportionally than all other age groups. Nearly one-third of all millennials who purchased a new vehicle in 2016 chose to lease - up from 21 percent in 2011. Millennials also accounted for the highest share of lessees with a household income under $50,000, which presents a significant opportunity for automakers looking to capture the hearts and wallets of these likely first-time car buyers.

"Leasing hits a sweet spot for millennials - they can enjoy the benefits of owning a new vehicle at a low price point with the latest features they crave," Caldwell said. "If automakers make a positive first impression with this influential group, they have a great opportunity to build lasting relationships as brand loyalty rates are much higher among shoppers who lease vs. buy."

Luxury brands still capture the most lessees, but brands that have a heavy truck and SUV lineup are starting to play catch up. Brands like RAM, GMC and Chevrolet, who historically had lease penetration rates hovering between five and twelve percent five years ago, have seen lease rates jump more than 100 percent.

"While we think overall lease penetration will start to level off to 30 percent in 2017, the shift from passenger cars to trucks and SUVs shows no signs of slowing down," Caldwell said. "As long as gas prices remain low and residual values on trucks and SUVs stay high, that segment of the lease market is likely to continue to expand this year."

To view the complete 2016 Lease Market Report and for more insight into recent auto industry trends, check out the Edmunds Industry Center at http://www.edmunds.com/industry-center/.

About Edmunds

Edmunds is the leading car information and shopping platform, helping millions of visitors each month find their perfect car. With products like Edmunds Your Price, Your Lease and Used+, shoppers can buy smarter with instant, upfront prices for cars and trucks currently for sale at more than 13,000 dealer franchises across the U.S. Edmunds' in-house team of unbiased car shopping experts provide industry-leading vehicle reviews and shopping tips, as well as welcome all car-shopping questions to the free Shopper Advice line at 1-855-782-4711, via email at help@edmunds.com, via text at ED411 and on Twitter and Facebook. The company is regarded as one of America's best workplaces by Fortune and Great Places to Work. Edmunds is based in Santa Monica, Calif. and has a satellite office in downtown Detroit, Mich.


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