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Perhaps the greatest engineering feat in the auto industry this century isn’t mechanical but financial: getting people to spend luxury money on milquetoast vehicles — turning Ford and Chevy hamburgers into steak. The swankier brands have been torquing top prices quite a bit as well. Now Detroit wants a taste, too.
Consider the Dodge Challenger, known in some circles as the poor man’s Ferrari. At the moment, 15 Challengers are on offer, from the $27,200 base model to a mind-blowing $85,500 “SRT Demon,” a Mad Max fever dream at Porsche prices. It’s not alone: Choose virtually any mainstream, mass-market vehicle and you can find similar, gold-plated price-tag tuning.
Of all the vehicles sold in the U.S. at the moment, the least expensive iterations average $46,000, while the most expensive versions of the same models settle around $63,000, according to analysis from Edmunds.com. The gap between those two levels — the no-frills machines and the fully loaded ones — is more than double what it was in 2000.
Vehicles, by and large, aren’t getting more expensive, but some of them are — and drastically so. “Because that’s where the profit is,” explained Truecar.com Analyst Eric Lyman. The Ford Focus RS, in particular, gives him a chuckle. At $41,200, the starting sum for the souped-up hatchback is more than double the lowest, “get-in” price of a plain, baseline Focus.
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