Speaking at the New York Auto Show today, GM CEO Dan Akerson defended his inconsistent approach to sales incentives, telling the AP [via The Washington Examiner]
I feel pretty good about that. I think we’re in pretty good shape. I don’t want to be a predictable competitor. I don’t want the other guy to know exactly what I’m doing.
For some context,
GM surprised the industry — and Wall Street — when it raised discounts by $400 per vehicle in January and February. Most automakers didn’t raise them because demand for new vehicles has been rising in line with supply…
GM pulled back on its incentives in March, spending $600 to $800 per vehicle less on the deals. But it was too late for some investors, who shied away from the company’s stock because higher rebates lower car companies’ profits.
But does Akerson’s upside, the element of surprise, outweigh the downsides of his hot-cold incentive strategy?
Ask an industry-watcher to name an automaker that seems to be doing things right, and chances are one of the top choices would be Ford Motor Company. And though Ford is enjoying favorable perceptions in the media, according to the company’s own internal goals, it’s actually underperforming. And in a key metric, no less: retail market share. Bloomerg reports: Read More >
Just two short months after Hyundai CEO John Krafcik warned that a brewing incentive and price war was “a step backward for the industry” and “short-term thinking in a long-term process that hurts manufacturers and consumers,” it seems that any signs of a price war are over. But before you rush to give a certain earthquake/tsunami combo credit for the entire situation, consider for a moment that Ford has now joined Toyota in raising prices while insisting it has nothing to do with supply interruptions. A Ford spokesman tells the Detroit News that
This is the second price increase this year [Ed: Ford bumped prices by $130 in January] but has been in the works for months as the industry faces higher commodity costs
Meanwhile, Ford is also the only Detroit-based manufacturer to bring incentives below nine percent of its average transaction price, as its March incentives were down nearly 10 percent compared to March of 2010. Between Ford and Toyota bringing up prices and Hyundai keeping sales growth strong despite low-low incentives, the pressure is mounting on GM, Chrysler, Nissan and Honda. Will they continue to trade margins for volume, or will they take the opportunity to bump prices as Japanese parts shortages continue to play out?
For March, TrueCar has included a chart diagramming the ratio of incentive spending to average transaction price, giving us a look at two key metrics on a single chart. Short of a complete fleet sales or a retail market share breakout falling into our laps (crazier things have happened), this is one of the more important metrics you’ll want to look at to qualify the raw volume numbers coming out of March. But it’s not the only one…
As the former “car czar,” who led the government’s restructuring of GM and Chrysler, Steve Rattner has a considerable interest in portraying his pet projects as having turned the corner. But in a recent CNBC appearance, Rattner acknowledges that the market is “spooked” by GM’s increased reliance on incentives and the “unexpected” departure of its Chief Financial Officer. Ford, meanwhile, simply gets rapped for not communicating a slightly lower Q4 profit than Wall Street expected. And though Rattner’s not the guy to press the point home, there’s a clear distinction to be made between a much-hyped stock aligning itself with expectations (while making a tidy $6b+ profit) and a company that’s losing key personnel while leaning on incentives to recover the volume lost on brand and dealer cuts. But Rattner’s got bigger worries than short-term financial performances, or incentives or personell changes… he sees another, equally familiar problem that’s fixing to give GM (and, to a lesser extent, Ford) the fits: rising gas prices. Read More >
With automakers keeping the incentive pedal pinned to the floor as they entered the new year, a price war has been brewing in the US market for a while now. Hyundai USA CEO John Krafcik has called the trend “a step backward for the industry,” pointing out that nearly every automaker had struggled to regain pricing power coming out of nearly three years of industry-wide weakness. But with GM and Detroit leading the way with high (if “targeted”) incentives, matched by uncharacteristically high incentives from import-brand rivals like Honda and Toyota, it seemed that nothing could prevent a volume-pumping, but profit-sapping price war in the US. At least until Japan was hammered by earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear accidents. Now, with manufacturers and suppliers still struggling to understand the full impact of production shutdowns and reduced inventories, TrueCar has projected current price trends forward, and finds that supply interruptions could reduce supply to the point where prices actually start coming up again. Check out TrueCar’s spreadsheet on supply and pricing projections in XLS format here, or hit the jump for a few highlights.
Remember the phrase “jobless recovery”? Well, the auto industry is having something of a “price dropping recovery.” The headline for February auto sales may have been “the buyers are back,” but beneath the big volume boosts there’s trouble a-brewing. According to TrueCar’s transaction price forecast (above), Hyundai CEO John Krafcik was right to warn of an industry price war, as the industry has lost .3% of its average transaction price during the last year of recovery. Over the last year, Honda, Kia, Toyota and GM have all seen declines in average transaction prices, led by GM’s staggering two percent drop. And falling transaction prices are just the beginning: as we explore after the jump, incentives are also remaining high, and yet another volume-boosting technique is enjoying a boom as the industry once again starts to redline its sales.
Sergio Marchionne is a multitasker: He has been knighted in Italy in 2006, and is CEO of two carmakers, Fiat and Chrysler. Money-wise, he’s just getting by. A 300-page filing with the SEC revealed that his pay as CEO of Chrysler equals what he draws from his knighthood: Niente. Marchionne received no cash salary from the company. He didn’t work entirely for nothing though. Read More >
Bloomberg seems to think GM is heading back towards bad habits, reporting
General Motors Co. is offering to waive the last three payments on existing leases if holders buy a new car, adding an incentive onto deals that last month exceeded offers made by rivals.
The promotion began this month and is valid on most models with leases that expire between now and Aug. 31, according to the company. GM raised incentive spending in January by 16 percent to an average of $3,663 per vehicle, the highest among major carmakers, according to researcher Autodata Corp. GM sales outpaced the industry that month.
GM said in a video presentation for its initial public offering in November that it intended to offer fewer incentives that crimped margins and created an impression that price was the main selling point for GM vehicles. Early-return leasing deals may conflict with the that pledge, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds.com.
“I hope they’re not walking down that road,” said Caldwell….
Given GM’s decision to release less incentives data, the signs do seem to be piling up. But, says Chevy marketing VP Rick Scheidt
I am not seeing any internal behavior that suggests we have gone back to old ways. It’s still way too close to the bankruptcy for us to be sliding back into bad habits. We know everybody’s watching.
Is the auto industry headed for a price war? Hyundai Motor USA CEO John Krafcik seems to think so, telling Reuters
I think we can officially say that a price war broke out in the industry. There is apparently a lot of pressure to deliver sales results. I would call this a step backward for the industry. This is short-term thinking in a long-term process that hurts manufacturers and consumers.
Krafcik says GM kicked off the rush for increased volume by cutting prices in January, and that Toyota (which has increased its incentives by 37.5% since last January, according to TrueCar) “quickly” responded by matching The General’s price cuts. Honda, Nissan and Chrysler have also kept their incentives high, and Chrysler has told Automotive News [sub] that it plans on increasing sales by 45% this year. Says Krafcik
We’ll see if others decide to follow. It’s certainly not in our plan right now.
Krafcik has a point: though sales have recovered over the last year as the economy has come back from the depths of recession, industry-wide incentive spending is up 1.3% in the last 12 months. Rather than taking advantage of the economic recovery to bring incentives down and transaction prices up, automakers appear to be focused entirely on volume. That’s certainly the message GM has sent by announcing that it would no longer release its incentive data. And, as Krafcik points out, the industry has already suffered mightily from such short-term, unsustainable thinking… but not everyone shares his concern.
As we wade through our year-end sales number reports, one of the important metrics that we’ll be looking at are incentive spending rates. Detroit continues to dominate both Edmunds’ True Cost of Incentives index (above) and TrueCar’s incentive forecast (after the jump), with little serious competition for their supremacy in this profit-sapping and brand equity-squandering category. Still, the foreign firms are increasing their incentives while Detroit has generally scaled back over the last year, so the incentive race is slowly getting tighter…
Though the US auto market is up 11 percent this year, Honda’s sales are up only 3.6 percent compared to last year’s weak performance. That means the Motor Company isn’t even keeping up with the growth rates of such maligned brands as Lincoln (+7.4%), Chrysler (+16%) and Mazda (+9.8%). But Team Honda isn’t sweating the details. After all, the Civic and CR-V are nearing the end of their model cycles, while the Accord is a year and a half from its replacement. And, as Honda USA’s Executive VP John Mendel tells Automotive News [sub], at Honda
no one talks about share. Chasing share gets you into bad habits. We set a business plan to sell a certain number of cars. We don’t set the plan based on an assumed share. We plan to grow 2 or 3 percent in volume in good times, and bad times. And there are times we’ll give share back.
Which is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from an exec in Mendel’s situation… unfortunately, there are troubling indicators on the horizon that could cause Honda’s “bad times” to go on longer than anyone expected.
The debate over Detroit’s bailout was dominated by a narrative that portrayed the automakers as victims of Wall Street excess, and placed blame for their collapse on the frozen credit market. And though the credit crunch certainly hurt GM and Chrysler as well as their customers, Detroit was a victim of the credit crunch in the same way an addict is a victim of his dealer. By leveraging easy credit to fuel the SUV boom which covered for unprofitability in passenger cars (or didn’t, as the case may be), Detroit binged on zero-percent financing as the market road confidently to 16m annual sales. And then, finally, the music stopped and the Domestics crumpled, victims of their own greed, but with a convenient scapegoat in the hated Wall Street bankers. But if the bailout was intended to not only get GM and Chrysler back on their feet but also to prevent future collapses, there’s some troubling news in the offing: subprime auto lending is starting to roar back, and if it goes unchecked, it could reach pre-recession levels in short order…
This, according to TrueCar.com, is what automakers spent on incentives last month. Though Chrysler and GM have cut compared to November of last year, their incentive spending is on the march compared to last month, and they still vie for industry “leadership” in these profit-sapping spiffs. But that’s just TrueCar’s perspective…
By gobbling up EVs, GE certainly helps to jump-start the industry, but they also gobble up future tax credits that consumers would have gotten, unless GE opts to forego the EV tax credit. Which would be bad business.
Yup, GE’s huge EV buy will be good for GE… but it won’t be so great for the 25,000 Americans whose tax credit will slurped up in the process. After all, the credit expires after a manufacturer sells 200k qualifying vehicles, so every credit GE uses brings GM and Nissan that much closer to the day they have to ask consumers to pay full price for their pricey EVs. No wonder GM is already pushing for an extension of the credit past 200k units.