Category: Dealer News

By on September 18, 2017

Dealer Showroom

Car dealerships are an American institution. Often controlled by a patriarch with an unusual amount of sway in the local community (and their sometimes cosseted children), dealer franchises dot the country’s landscape like moles on a back. Isolated near exit ramps, they serve as gleaming beacons of civilization as you traverse through long expanses of wilderness on a road trip.

North America wouldn’t be the same without them but, according to one automotive regent, irreparable change is coming to the dealer networks we’ve become begrudgingly accustomed to. Bill McDaniels, president of McDaniels Automotive Group, runs a half-dozen stores selling selling Acura, Audi, Porsche, Subaru, and Volkswagen-branded vehicles in South Carolina. He’s one of those automotive viceroys mentioned earlier, right down to having his son as the chief operating officer for his business, and he’s convinced the era of family-owned dealerships is almost over.

Is this one man’s paranoid delusion or an astute observation of industrywide trends?  Read More >

By on September 18, 2017

Old Mazda dealer- Burdick Mazda - Image: Mazda“We have been working more closely with our dealers to evolve their businesses and through that process,” Mazda tells Automotive News, “some new dealers have chosen to begin working with us, while others have made the decision to leave the Mazda brand.”

Mazda has been open about its goal of earning 2 percent of the U.S. market while being forthright about the brand’s intentions to do so only on solid ground. This means fewer discounts, a premium vibe, and the kind of higher margins that make dealers happy.

On the dealer side of the equation, Mazda now wants those dealers to improve. In some cases, that means a new location. In others, a new exterior design is necessary. More thoroughly trained staff members is key, as well. But it’ll be slow going. Of Mazda’s roughly 600 dealers, the brand acknowledges that some have forsaken the automaker, though Mazda won’t say how many. Since the efforts to revamp dealers began last year, only 26 have been upgraded so far. By the end of the decade, Mazda believes roughly one-sixth of its network will have undergone a remodel.

In the meantime, Mazda is getting further away from reaching its 2-percent goal. Read More >

By on September 15, 2017

2017 Kia Forte Sedan

Is there any lower form of life in the automotive biosphere than the buy-here-pay-here dealership operators?

It’s hard to see them as anything other than rent-seeking scumbags who inflate the market for inexpensive used cars, then turn around and sell those used cars to the poorest and most unfortunate members of our society for prices that are often multiples of the acquisition cost. There is literally no ethical reason for them to exist; most of the time the “down payment” charged by these dealers is more or less the true value of the car. Everything that comes afterwards is just tasty cake topping — and if the working mother or fixed-income older person buying from them misses the very last weekly payment, they can repossess the car and sell it all over again on the same ridiculous terms.

In a world without buy-here-pay-here dealers, the transaction prices of low-cost cars would eventually settle to the point where they could be bought for the “down payments” being handed over today. In fact, I’ve heard BHPH operators brag about making money on the down payment alone. The difference between one of these people and the victims of their operations, of course, is that the former has access to capital and an entry into the protected world of auto auctions.

You’ll often hear these dealers tell stories about how they “help their community.” The members of the community, of course, know better. They can see the BHPH dealers living high on the hog many miles away from the low-income areas in which the lots are deliberately placed right next to liquor stores and lottery ticket providers. So it’s no wonder they feel no sense of loyalty to their “dealers” and will often make the cars disappear without further payment if they can. To combat this, the BHPH people will often have remotely-operated ignition blocks installed into their vehicles. If you don’t make the payment, or if the dealer fails to record the payment correctly, your car is shut off — regardless of where you are or what you need to do with the car next. If you don’t deal with the bottom feeders of the auto biz, you’ve probably never seen one.

That might be about to change.

Read More >

By on September 7, 2017

hurricane

Florida-area car dealerships are annoyed that insurance companies pulled the plug on policies earlier this week, fearing further hurricane-related payouts as Hurricane Irma approaches the coast. Insurers, including Progressive and Allstate, are reacting to losses incurred in Texas during Hurricane Harvey’s assault last month.

While this is standard practice for some companies, it isn’t a universal trend. State Farm, for example, said it would continue offering coverage until after a national hurricane advisory had been issued.  Read More >

By on September 3, 2017

Chevrolet El Camino 1966

While there are dealerships that will happily service your vintage automobile, there are reasons a lot of classic cars are wrenched at home or taken to speciality shops. It’s not typically in a service center’s best interest to hunt down rare discontinued parts and train employees on the reassembly of carburetors. But it still happens, especially among premium brands.

Porsche is rather obsessive about its heritage and has extended that to maintenance and repairs at a large number of stores. It isn’t alone, either. Mark Rogers, a 20 Group consultant with the National Automobile Dealers Association, estimates as many as 1,800 U.S. franchised dealerships are willing to service vintage cars. Some are even selling them — putting desirable classics on the showroom floor in the hopes they might garner positive attention.  Read More >

By on August 17, 2017

car salesman in car dealership with key, Image: Kzenon/Bigstock

Like all companies, auto dealerships are in the business of making money and dealer-installed options are frequently a good way to markup a vehicle’s final price. While that’s great for shops, new cars don’t really need rustproofing or fabric protection. Of course, that doesn’t keep salesmen from occasionally tacking those services on for a few hundred dollars extra though.

One optional extra you actually may want to take advantage of is VIN etching. While this is something you can do at home for cheap, most dealers will gladly do it for a significantly larger fee. But it doesn’t do you any good if the store doesn’t actually follow through with the service and charges you for it anyway — which is exactly what happened at a Nissan dealership in New York.

Nissan of New Rochelle was caught charging customers for an unwanted VIN etching service that they frequently didn’t even apply to cars. Now the dealer has agreed to pay nearly 300 customers more than a quarter of a million dollars in restitution and issue a public apology for its shady practices.   Read More >

By on August 14, 2017

smart-cabrio

Daimler announced in February that it would stop sending gasoline-powered models to North America this summer and move exclusively to EVs after inventory levels decline. Dealers had until the end of June to decide if they wanted to be a part of the next wave of personal mobility.

With Smart swapping to electric-only drivetrains for U.S. retailers, we assumed the majority of Mercedes-Benz dealers still clinging onto the microscopic Fortwo would abandon it — as would every standalone Smart store still in existence.

Smart only sold 54 electric models within the United States between January and May, so it’s understandable that this summer saw over two-thirds of all retailers opting out of the deal. That leaves Smart with only 27 sanctioned stores within the United States, making it more exclusive than Lotus, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and even Rolls-Royce.  Read More >

By on August 8, 2017

Round Rock Genesis dealer - Image: Genesis Motors

“We do in fact have to expedite our process of separating our brands.”
– Genesis Motors General Manager Erwin Raphael

From the start, Hyundai Motor America’s plans to launch its upmarket Genesis brand inside Hyundai showrooms was easy to question. Do consumers want the link between a $68,100 Genesis G90 and a $14,745 Hyundai Accent to be so obvious?

Of course not. But affording Genesis a mere corner of certain Hyundai showrooms wasn’t the only problem — Genesis general manager Erwin Raphael also had issues early on with the number of Hyundai dealers signed up to sell the Genesis brand.

“We may see that (350) figure go down,” Raphael said in November 2016, only a few months after the brand began selling cars in America. “I think it is too high.”

Fast forward to August 2017 and Hyundai’s plan to eventually separate the Genesis brand with standalone showrooms, perhaps in 2020, is about to be pulled way forward. “For this brand to really survive and thrive,” Raphael tells Automotive News, “and for us to develop the culture within ourselves and within our dealer network to support and take care of these customers, we do in fact have to expedite our process of separating our brands.”

So what happens to all of those Hyundai dealers who recently spent thousands renovating showrooms to include Genesis studios? Read More >

By on August 4, 2017

model car mechanic

Mechanics at roughly 130 new car dealerships in Chicago went on strike Tuesday morning. According to the Automobile Mechanics’ Union Local 701, nearly 2,000 grease monkeys threw in the towel before also tossing a wrench into dealer maintenance schedules — leaving customers to fend for themselves.

On the first day of the strike, Mark Bilek, senior director of communications for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, issued a statement that most affected dealerships would remain open with partially functional service centers. “They may not be performing complex repairs, but oil changes, stuff like that, it’s business as usual,” said Bilek in a statement.

However, the union stated that wouldn’t last for long if demands were not met.  It has been bargaining with the New Car Dealer Committee since June, citing uncompensated time, unacceptable schedules, unsatisfactory pay, and no opportunities for career progression as its chief complaints. Deadlocked since negotiations began, the union decided to halt all work at the beginning of August — despite Bilek’s assurance that customers could still get their oil changed or tires rotated.  Read More >

By on July 31, 2017

used cars used car lot

Earlier this year, auto lenders assured us that the stagnating car market and an unprecedented number of off-lease vehicles flooding into used vehicle lots would coalesce into the perfect storm of unprofitability. However, despite stoking the flames of terror at the beginning of the year, automotive lenders are doing just fine.

We’re sure you’re all very pleased to read car financiers are still doing so well and have likely collectively exhaled a sigh of relief. But there’s more good news. Some of these companies aren’t just surviving, they’re thriving. Several have even reported record high profits, even though used car prices continue to fall. It may be time to pop the champagne corks, pour out the bubbly, and hoist our glasses for the financial institutions we all love so dearly. Read More >

By on July 31, 2017

Ford Sync 3, Image: Ford Motor Co.

Technology is a major component in what makes a modern-day automobile desirable. It’s so important, in fact, that numerous quality and customer satisfaction surveys have cited owner misunderstandings of a vehicle’s electronic interface as the primary reason for specific models losing marks.

MyFord Touch was among the worst offenders, thanks to unreliable connectivity features and lethargic software. While Sync3 is much improved, it isn’t a perfect system and can still perplex luddites — just like any modern vehicle’s interface.

With that in mind, a Lincoln dealership in Michigan is conducting monthly seminars to help older folks feel more comfortable with all the newfangled electronic gizmos the kids today seem so damn enthusiastic about. It’s the sort of behavior most dealers should have been engaging in from the start but, unfortunately, has been reserved primarily for premium automakers.  Read More >

By on July 23, 2017

dodge demon

Even though we knew the limited supply of Dodge’s SRT Demon would drive up prices astronomically, Fiat Chrysler still made a valiant effort to reduce markups by prioritizing deliveries to dealerships offering the vehicle at (or below) MSRP. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work as intended.

This was especially true after some dealerships found a workaround by having intermediaries on eBay auction off the right to buy one of their Demon allocations. Instead of selling the car above the $86,090 sticker, which forces Dodge to omit custom nameplates and other Demon perks, they’re allowing prospective buyers to bid on the “privilege” of purchasing a Demon at the manufacturer’s stipulated value — for thousand of dollars. Read More >

By on July 17, 2017

2017 ford fusion, Image: Ford Motor Co.

Likely the answer to the prayers of one very bored sales representative, an Ohio-based Ford dealership was issued a batch of Mexican-built Fusions sedans with roughly $1 million of marijuana hidden inside. The vehicles were assembled in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico and shipped by rail into a CSX yard in Lordstown before making their way to a Youngstown Ford dealer.

According to the local police department, the dealership gradually discovered the marijuana between July 7th and July 11th — packaged in half-moon containers covertly stored in the spare-tire compartment under the trunk’s lining. Since it’s unlikely this is a bold new promotional strategy on the part of Ford, authorities are currently trying to uncover who was supposed to take delivery of the drugs before they arrived at the dealer lot.  Read More >

By on June 22, 2017

lynk-and-co-model-02

Geely may be pushing the Lynk & Co brand as the most connected and tech-savvy in existence but its senior vice president Alain Visser believes its sales strategy should remain simple. With cars supposedly rolling out in Europe and North America for 2019, Lynk & Co is only planning to offer an extremely limited number of trim choices that rotate seasonally. It’s a fine strategy for an unknown element breaking into the marketplace but it does omit the ability to rake in the additional dough via optional extras. However, it also permits for lower production costs and a flat rate Lynk & Co claims buyers won’t need to bother negotiating.

How convenient for everyone.  Read More >

By on June 19, 2017

FCA Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

Chrysler’s minivans have been a never-ending beacon of purity and goodness for over thirty years. Less so lately, but the segment remains an important part of the FCA lineup. Intended to replace both the Chrysler and Dodge minivans, the Pacifica did not outsell either at launch. While Pacifica deliveries eventually eclipsed the Town & Country, it was really only due to the venerable model’s extermination. Meanwhile, Dodge’s Grand Caravan continues as the stronger seller and remains a popular option for rental fleets.

This has convinced Fiat Chrysler to extended the Caravan’s death date more than once, but it won’t last forever. In fact, it’s about to suffer a sort of prelude to non-existence as production will go on an extended hiatus in mid-August and won’t resume until December, when the 2018 models appear.  Read More >

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