For the third time this year, workers at Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama, assembly plant have set a production record. The factory turned out a grand total of 37,764 cars in August, 390 more than the previous May record. After an expansion last year, the plant now operates on a 24-hour schedule Monday through Friday. Even so, the company still claims that production constraints are holding back sales, especially of the Sonata and Elantra.
Posts By: John Mohr
In a push to get younger consumers into dealerships, Lincoln has undertaken a crash rebranding program. Ford is pushing dealers to upgrade facilities, as well as retraining sales staff in the lingo of “progressive luxury.” Chic furniture and flatscreens are some of the stereotypical dealership improvements that Lincoln hopes to persuade dealers to implement. But there’s one initiative that’s certainly out of the ordinary: the creation of a Lincoln-specific scent, to be wafted through dealerships.
TTAC has a long tradition of digging deep into manufacturer sales data, frequently focusing on retail versus fleet sales. It’s become commonly accepted that high fleet percentages are a sign of weakness in product lines, at least as far as retail consumer preference goes. The traditionally low fleet percentages of Japanese brands have been singled out as evidence of those companies’ ability to attract crucial retail dollars, or at least their superiority in matching production to demand. And they were right. For many years, Toyota and Honda in particular could count on strong retail sales of premium-priced products in a way that the Big 3 couldn’t. Changing trends in the American vehicle market are undermining this model, though.
This past Friday, Jack reported on Continental’s decision to remove its ATE Super Blue brake fluid from the market, citing its non-compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards. Apparently, Super Blue ran afoul of regulations regarding the coloration of brake fluid in motor vehicles. It’s not clear exactly what led Continental to recall the product now after years on the market, but it’s obvious why: blue brake fluid is a no-go according to American regulators. As Jack pointed out, this apparent government overreach has cost consumers another choice that amateur racers in particular found useful. Commenters on that story debated the relative merits of regulating automotive fluid colors, in particular brake fluid. So just how regulated are fluid colors anyway, and do those regulations help or hurt consumers overall?
As much of America redevelops in the direction of increased urbanization and strip-mall suburbia, small downtowns have either dried up or re-purposed themselves as purveyors of quaint fashion and entertainment. Such is the case with Opelika, the sister town to Auburn. Boutiques, restaurants, and antiques places have mostly replaced the hardware stores and other obsolete staples of small-town commerce. I come from a family of enthusiastic collectors of rare junk, but even I can see the occasionally sad irony of a town selling pieces of itself just to get by. A few weeks ago, however, I spotted a prominently displayed chunk of the past that defied my expectations. Instead of distressed Americana on sale, one shop had a very English relic I didn’t expect to see in this part of the country. I returned later to take a closer look.
0% financing for 60 months. Up to $2,000 in dealer rebates, most of which winds up going into customers’ pockets. Rental lines bulging with high-trim sedans as dealers desperately attempt to shovel away product and make room for truckloads of new arrivals. Savvy shoppers are shaving three, four, and even five grand off of MSRP as average transaction prices land in the basement for the class. Despite massive inflows of manufacturer cash, sales volume stagnates and declines as competitors grab more and more market share. All in merely the second model year of Toyota’s marquee product, a legendary nameplate with a (supposedly) loyal customer base and years of carefully-crafted reputation. What, pray tell, is going on here?
This weekend was the end-of-summer graduation at Auburn, and like all such events, it brought an avalanche of rental cars to our Loveliest Village on the Plains™. Amidst the ubiquitous Chryslerbishis and engineering-excellence-cum-fleet-staple Camrys, I spotted a couple of newish Jettas and Passats wandering about town, crooked rental bar stickers applied with obvious indifference. I saw one particular rental Jetta sitting in the parking lot not far from the bookstore when I went to pick up some cut-price tomes. Coated in dust and wearing those ugly DUI-style New York plates, it was a forlorn sight. I couldn’t help but think of it as a reminder that the road to hell can be paved with tax breaks as often as it’s paved with good intentions; at least that’s the case if you happen to be governor of Tennessee.
Please welcome TTAC reader John Mohr (username J.Emerson) and his guest contribution to our site
In 2004, my family decided to replace our soon-to-be-off-lease Ford Focus Wagon with another Ford product, having been quite satisfied with our little five-door. This being the height of the Bush-era full-size SUV binge, we were barraged with row upon row of new Explorers, Expeditions, and Excursions when my parents suggested that we wanted a “sensible 4-door family car.” My mother couldn’t have cared less about such monstrosities, but she didn’t like the recently-redesigned Taurus either, and she wanted something larger than her old Focus. Eventually, they got a deal on a new Crown Victoria LX, a car that served us well for many years. The salesmen couldn’t wait to get rid of it; it was an ‘03, and as I said before, nobody wanted bargain-brand full-size sedans in the middle of the Bush years. Most importantly, this particular car shopping experience was my wake-up call to the artificiality of Ford’s luxury branding attempts. And thinking about it now helps me to understand why Ford is content to let the Lincoln line become nothing but a set of badge-engineered clones.