Hybrids, Luxury Cars Top Cars.com Search for April

Fuel-efficient cars and some luxury models topped our 15 biggest gainers in Cars.com search traffic for April. After analyzing the last 30 days of search data, the recently launched Infiniti M35h, Fiat 500, Ford Focus and the Lexus CT 200h saw significant gains on our site.

Increased search demand for more fuel-efficient options lead to a surge in compact and hybrid car traffic on Cars.com when gas surpassed the $4 a gallon mark for the first time in 2008. As we near $4 a gallon once again, it looks like the same trend is shaping up this time around; the only difference is this time more automakers are prepared with fuel-efficient options, including luxury players.

The 2012 Infiniti M35h had the most-improved traffic on site for a model that’s on sale (up 717%). The M hybrid started shipping in the first week of April, and the first one was sold in California on April 8. Every Infiniti dealership received at least one hybrid model at launch, according to Infiniti spokesman Kyle Bazemore. Initial reports show the car is being well-received by customers. The conventional Infiniti M was also a top-searched car for April (up about 40%). The 2012 Infiniti M37 and M56 went on sale March. Some minor revisions were made to those models, which are now in their second model year.

The Lexus CT 200h saw traffic up about 53% for the month, though that’s down from the 397% increase in March. Lexus sold 2,199 CTs in March; the estimated goal was only 1,000 vehicles, said Lexus spokesman Bill Kwong. The CT is bringing customers to Lexus who wouldn’t regularly purchase something from the marquee: Nearly 60% of CT buyers are new to Lexus and 35% are younger than 45, Kwong said. Lexus expects April to be another strong month as more buyers become aware of the nameplate — there’s been increased internet activity on our site for the model — but the recent tsunami in Japan might impact sales. No CTs were produced between March 14 and March 28. On our Top 15 list, the Lexus CT is second only to the much more affordable Ford Focus in terms of gross number of searches.

The 2012 Ford Focus has consistently ranked as one of our most-read reviews for the month. April is still considered a “ramp-up month” for the 2012 Focus, said Ford spokesman George Pipas. There are slightly more than 3,000 Focus cars in stock at dealerships since last week, which is up from about 500 at the beginning of the month. “Demand is strong; inventory remains lean but [it’s] improving,” Pipas said. The new Focus went on sale in early March.

The Fiat 500 went on sale in March, as well, when the special edition went out to early adopters. “[In] April we start to see real retail numbers,” said Fiat spokesman Ariel Gavilan. Currently, the 500 is being sold exclusively at 35 dealerships, primarily centered in metro areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. Fiat and Chrysler Group are in the midst of opening one new dealership per week on average, Gavilan said. All 130 dealerships should be set up by the end of the year. “We’ve started to receive a fuller allocation of the model from Toluca, Mexico,” Gavilan said. There are now automatic transmission models available; in March, there were only manual transmission models. Gavilan said the company is seeing a strong demand from an array of car buyers, despite the fact that Fiat is a new brand to America and isn’t supported by any television advertising.

Other models seeing strong interest on Cars.com include recently launched luxury vehicles — BMW 6 Series, Chrysler 300 and Acura TL — and models that had significant revisions for the model year — BMW 1 Series and Jeep Compass. Similarly, models that declined on our site are also fairly recent launches but for which peak search has already come and gone — Chrysler 200, Kia Optima and Audi A8. A decrease in search doesn’t necessarily predict poor sales.

Lamborghini’s latest model, the Aventador, was the most-improved model on our site; the supercar goes on sale in June. Who wouldn't want to search for that?

Data compares the last 30 days, as of April 15th, to the previous 30 days of Cars.com traffic.

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