By on February 21, 2017

mercedes-benz logo

If Mercedes-Benz dealers manage to overhaul their stores to the brand’s updated “Autohaus2” image standards, the locations can forget about additional modifications until after 2024.

The German automaker’s promise to leave dealerships alone is abnormal, and comes after the second generation of its controversial Autohaus standard established — to the chagrin of dealerships — in 2008. Much of Mercedes’ salesforce objected to the mandatory image alterations, similarly to how Cadillac’s dealer network has responded to that brand’s Project Pinnacle.

Hoping to ease tensions as showrooms adhere to the new status quo, the 2024 pledge provides all sides with a reprieve. The Autohaus2 plan, and subsequent dealer amnesty, was penned under former Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon, though the company’s current North American boss, Dietmar Exler, also supports it.  (Read More…)

By on February 18, 2017

Honda dealer sign

It’s been a rough week at Frank Ancona Honda of Olathe, Kansas.

The family-owned dealership, in operation just southwest of Kansas City since 1961, has successfully weathered all of the storms that periodically pummel dealers of all stripes.

Then, last weekend, a body discovered on the banks of Missouri’s Big River — about a five-hour drive to the east — gave the dealership the kind of attention that no business wants. The corpse, which had a bullet hole in its head, also had a name: Frank Ancona.

No, the founder of Frank Ancona Honda is still alive and well at 85. But much to his dismay, the Frank Ancona discovered by the Big River was none other than the 51-year-old imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2017

2017 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has made a turnoff on the wrong road in the hopes of boosting its flagging sales, argues Jim Appleton.

The president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers is accusing the automaker of being reckless and short-sighted in its bid to open 380 new dealerships across the country. If FCA wants to reverse its market slide, Appleton claims, it should first take a good hard look at its product. (Read More…)

By on February 6, 2017

old dealership Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles wants to grow its dealer network by 380 new stores in a bid to improve its dwindling market share. The plan isn’t going over so well with the company’s existing dealers, however. As the strategy could potentially threaten their present businesses, some of those dealerships are putting up a fight over the issue.

The choice to expand comes at a difficult time. Sales locations aren’t doing the best and suffering through a diluted and unpopular product lineup while the automaker shifts its focus away from cars to the more-popular SUVS and trucks. FCA sales have been on the decline for almost six months and the company’s slice of the U.S. market fell to 12 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to 13.6 percent in the same period of 2015. The expansion decision also goes against the advice of FCA’s dealership location consultant, Urban Science. (Read More…)

By on January 31, 2017

e-tron

Along with the rest of Volkswagen AG, Audi has made plans to invest heavily into electric vehicles. The company expects EVs to comprise 25 percent of its U.S. sales by 2025 and is devoting the e-tron moniker to an entire division of electrified models, with the first arriving next year.

Addressing the J.D. Power Summit at this year’s National Automobile Dealers Association Convention and Expo, Audi of America President Scott Keogh told salesmen to welcome the electric mobility market with open arms or learn to cope with an ambivalent future. However, jumping head-first into a relatively small market with a huge potential for growth isn’t without pitfalls, and it isn’t unwise for dealers to remain cautious. Still, with Audi planning to introduce three new BEVs within the United States by 2020 and Volkswagen Group hoping to have 30 battery-electric models out by the 2025, you can see why Keogh is pressing the issue.  (Read More…)

By on January 28, 2017

2015 Dodge SRT Hellcat

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles rocketed out of the recession with year-over-year U.S. sales increases, eventually erasing the sudden deficit of buyers that led to its bankruptcy. Between 2009 and 2015, the resurgent automaker went from a measly 931,402 U.S. sales to a healthy, cash-generating 2,243,907.

Those gray skies sure did clear up. Happy days!

Now for last year’s sales tally: 2,244,315. Notice something unusual? That’s right, FCA tacked on just 408 sales in 2016 compared to a year prior. While sales growth can’t be counted on like the rising and falling of the sun, especially in a market that has reached a tentative plateau, it’s nonetheless concerning for FCA. The sales juggernaut sits idle in the water, yearning for headway.

Is the automaker’s problem simply that there aren’t enough places to buy Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Fiat vehicles? (Read More…)

By on January 27, 2017

dealership

The cornerstone of every healthy relationship is frank and frequent communication. Last year, consumers wanted more sport utility vehicles, but automakers still had too many cars rolling off assembly lines. Caught in the crossfire were forlorn dealerships that were incapable of providing the trucks and crossovers that customers cannot seem to get enough of.

At the 2017 National Automobile Dealers Association Conference & Expo, this issue is apparently weighing so heavily on the minds of America’s automotive purveyors that it wouldn’t be surprising if gray matter began leaking out of their ears and onto the expo floor.  (Read More…)

By on January 23, 2017

Walmart

With the exception of funeral services and stylish clothing, practically anything can be purchased at your local Walmart. Well, that list now includes automobiles. North America’s largest retailer is edging is way into automotive sales with the help of the nation’s largest new-car dealership franchise, AutoNation.

Launching in April, Walmart’s CarSaver program will make it the perfect middleman for impulse car buyers and local dealerships. CarSaver is designed to allow shoppers to browse, select, finance, and insure a vehicle through its website or at kiosks positioned in outside of the nail salons and vision centers of twenty-five Walmart Supercenters. (Read More…)

By on December 22, 2016

Truro Nissan storefront

There are certain inescapable truths in this world: bacon is delicious, man buns should be outlawed, and car dealerships endure a reputation of being a refuge for the ethically bankrupt.

I — like many others around here — am no stranger to witnessing the unscrupulous debauchery occurring on some showroom floors. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and a fledgling dealer in small-market rural Canada puts the lie to the claim that backwards thinking is a trait of all car dealerships. There are bright spots out there, as proven by the team at Truro Nissan.

(Read More…)

By on December 19, 2016

2016 Veloster Turbo, Image: Hyundai

In terms of unpleasantness, buying a new vehicle often ranks up there with visiting a passive-aggressive dentist, or perhaps meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss his or her “performance.”

Overzealous salespeople who stereotype customers, high-pressure them into buying the vehicle and package the seller wants, and generally lack knowledge about their own product likely sour more people on a brand than recalls and scandals. If only there was an easy way to avoid turning customers away while boosting sales.

It turns out, the solution could be very simple. (Read More…)

By on December 16, 2016

2016 Ford Focus RS Long-Term Test, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

In my nearly 25 years of car buying, I’ve walked into a dealership and walked out with a brand new car more times than most people would in several lifetimes. 14 times, to be exact. I’ve bought Volkswagens, Infinitis, Pontiacs, Mazdas, Fords, Chevrolets, Hyundais, and Toyotas, representing nearly every mainstream brand. And yet, only two of those 14 instances was anything resembling positive.

When I leased a Mazda CX-7 in 2008, I drove to the store in my 2005 Scion tC with two numbers in my head: $279 a month with zero down (the advertised CX-7 lease price) and $9,000 (the amount of money I believed my tC to be worth). The lease was already a strong offer, so I didn’t feel the need to negotiate further, and my trade valuation was based on one thing only — as with most shoppers, it was exactly the amount of money I needed to pay off my loan. The dealer quickly agreed to my terms, as he knew he would be able to sell the tC for $10,500 within 30 days.

The second time? We’ll get to that. But the other 12 times? As Dr. Dre once said, it was like muthaf–kin’ Vietnam. And in all honesty, I have nobody to blame for that but myself.

(Read More…)

By on December 15, 2016

Carvana dealership

Online used-car dealer Carvana opened its second coin-operated car “vending machine” in Houston, Texas. The four-bay location allows customers either to pick up cars they’ve purchased through the company’s website, or to buy one of the 30 vehicles in stock at the location.

While customers can have their purchase delivered directly, Carvana must think there are enough interested rubes willing to make a pitstop in Houston on their pilgrimage to the world’s biggest ball of twine to make this gargantuan novelty worthwhile. Considering that Las Vegas has remained on the map, there might be something to that way of thinking.  (Read More…)

By on December 6, 2016

deal1

“Character is what you do when no one is watching.” This quote, ascribed to John Wooden, C.S. Lewis, and others, is doubly true when it comes to the oft-reviled profession of automotive sales. Any dealer can be “ethical” when they are facing an informed consumer with money, credit, the ability to hire counsel, and the self-confidence to fight for own interests. I’ve had plenty of trouble-free transactions with dealerships that had well-earned abysmal reputations for ethics. Hell, I’ve even managed to buy some new motorcycles over the years without getting raked over the coals too hard.

You can’t judge a dealer based on how he treats a middle-aged white guy with a spotless credit rating, a laptop full of information, and a thorough knowledge of the laws in his state regarding new-car sales. That would be like the Misfit having a good opinion of the grandmother in the Flannery O’Connor tale. Rather, you judge a dealer by how he behaves when there is nobody of consequence looking. Given a dark-skinned female customer with a decent co-signer and some down payment money but no genuine idea of how the process works, how much advantage will a dealer take?

The answer might shock you, as they say — but it probably won’t.

(Read More…)

By on December 5, 2016

Insane People at the Stock Photo Dealership

Industry watchdogs are becoming increasingly concerned that salespeople are misrepresenting new vehicles’ semi-autonomous features to customers. Considering that most salespeople work on commission, consumers are used to hearing that prices are non-negotiable or that they will get a “great deal” on their trade-in. Dealer fibbing is par for the course.

However, claiming a car’s safety capabilities are more robust than they actually are — either due to greed or ignorance — can cost both parties more than a few extra bucks. (Read More…)

By on November 23, 2016

2017 Cadillac XT5 luxury crossover

Cadillac has delayed the launch of its dealer incentive program for another three months. Brand president Johan de Nysschen says the delay is all about giving dealers more time to understand the program and has nothing to do with its potential illegality or the extensive dealer backlash against it. (Read More…)

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