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 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 27, 2017

taxas flooding

Through Sunday morning, Harvey continued to unleash record levels of rain upon Texas, causing biblical flooding. The situation is so bad that the National Weather Service warned of “additional catastrophic, unprecedented and life threatening flooding” into the next week, and placed flash-flood emergencies for the entirety of Southeast Texas.

Harvey was the strongest storm to hit the United States since 2004 and has already trapped countless individuals, both in their homes and on the road as the rain has turned several major highways into man-made rivers. In some areas, the waterline is high enough to reach streetlights.  (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 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

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 26, 2017

cars dealer dealership, Image: HappyAlex/Bigstock

In the last five years, I’ve visited over 2,500 dealers in 44 different states. Sometimes I think I’ve seen everything. And just when I think that, I’m invariably proven wrong.

This week, I walked through the doors of a massive dealership — easily one of the largest dealers I’ve ever set foot in (the name and make of this dealer shall remain anonymous, since the conversation was “off the record”). This dealer sells upwards of 500 new cars a month and about 200 used per month, and they’re planning to add even more floor space so they can increase their volume.

As I waited to talk to the GM, I browsed the cars on the showroom floor. Considering the overwhelming success of this store, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that every car on the floor, without exception, had an extra sticker on the window.

(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 May 22, 2017

image: Michael Sheehan AutoNation 2014

At least twenty upper-echelon executives have left AutoNation since the start of 2014, with the vast majority bailing within two years. Short stints with an employer and lackluster job stability may be the norm for bottom-rung millennials but senior managers with years of experience have a tendency to stick around a while.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there is something sinisterly “up” with the largest automotive retailer in the United States, but it does leave you wondering about its future. This concern was heightened after AutoNation’s chief operating officer, Bill Berman, suddenly resigned last week, not even four months after being named president.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2017

dealership tornado

A Fiat Chrysler-affiliated dealership in Texas was hit by a tornado Saturday night, suffering catastrophic damage to its showroom, service center, and inventory. If you’ve ever wondered how your oversized truck would stack up against the awesome power of Mother Nature, look no further than the scattered and overturned vehicles that once occupied Interstate 20 Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton’s parking lot.  (Read More…)

By on April 26, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

According to a report from a Minnesota news outlet, Mexican drug smugglers and their American co-conspirators are using imported Ford Fusions to ferry marijuana across the border.

The news follows recent drug busts in the state, with suspicion growing that the $1.4 million in weed found in 22 Fusions bound for dealerships is part of a larger smuggling ring. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2017

2015 Volkswagen Golf family, Image: Volkswagen of America

April has brought good news to diesel lovers and haters on both sides of the border.

After spending the winter (and the better part of last fall) jealously eyeing their southern neighbor’s buyback and compensation program, Canadian owners can now apply for that longed-for envelope of Volkswagen cash, as well as a one-way-ticket to hell for their emissions-rigged TDI model.

On Friday, the automaker settled court cases in Ontario and Quebec, paving the way for a 2.0-liter diesel settlement program that starts next week. The models involved are the same as in the U.S. — 105,000 units in all — and owners and lessees face similar choices as their American counterparts.

Unlike the recent shadowy roll-out of half-fixed 2015 models in the U.S., several Canadian dealers are proudly advertising the availability of “new” TDIs. (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2017

Fiat Tipo, Image: FCA

Say you’re a dealer with a backlog of slow-selling models. What’s the last thing you would want?

The correct answer would be a springtime deluge of more of the same, whether you asked for it or not. That’s what some angry retailers across the Atlantic are facing after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dumped 6,000 anemic sellers into Italian dealer management systems at the end of February. (Read More…)

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