Hi Sajeev -
I’m a longtime reader of the blog, and also have been car less for the past 17 years. I live in a major Pacific Northwest city and haven’t needed a car. But I’m getting older, I’m partnered up and need to visit in-laws out in the boonies, and I just find myself wanting a car. I don’t want an older car. The two cars I did own back in my teens and early 20s were a 1980s Buick Skylark and a 1988 Dodge Omni. I think dealing with the repairs on those two beaters put a bad taste in my mouth for very old cars. So I’m looking at new or slightly used. (Read More…)
Google’s autonomous car program tends to get the lion’s share of attention when discussing the tech giant’s auto initiatives. But lurking in the background is a more immediate project that has the potential to finally “disrupt” (as Silicon Valley types are so fond of saying) online automotive sales.
I told you that I would report back to the TTAC faithful when something new came up.
Well, for quite a few weeks there has been the usual distribution of dominance when it comes to high mileage cars that are curbed by their owners. 70% to 80% of the vehicles in the Top 25 of trade-ins mileage wise (out of 6000+ a week) were either Ford and Chevy trucks, Honda cars, or Toyota anything.
This week the streak is broken. Thanks to two Saturns which managed to cross the 400k mark.
Throughout the history of the automobile in America, one city has been synonymous with the industry and culture of cars. Booming with America’s great period of industrialization, Detroit became the Motor City, the hometown of an industry that created a blue-collar middle class and a culture based on personal mobility. But as America has entered the post-industrial age, as the focus of our economy has shifted from production to consumption, Detroit has been left behind. Long used to defining consumer tastes, Detroit was caught unawares by the changes wrought by globalization and the rise of information technology. And as America’s traditional auto industry struggles to redefine itself in the new economy, another Motor City is rising to meet the challenges of a new age.
Are car buyers rational? Anyone who deals with car-shopping consumers on a regular basis would probably answer with a hearty “no.” In fact in my experience, helping prospective car buyers navigate the many considerations and options available on the market usually ends with me throwing up my hands and saying “if you like a car, just buy it.” But according to research cited by Wired’s Jonah Lehrer, conscious reasoning might not be the ideal way to shop for a car in the first place. Sometimes “going with the gut,” and making a decision without thinking it through is the best way to solve complex choices like finding the car that’s perfect for you.
Conventional wisdom says that the Chinese will suck all the know-how out of their foreign joint venture partners, and once they are through with them, they’ll discard them like Dracula a bloodless virgin. As a thank you, the Chinese will flood foreign countries with cheap Chinese cars. The trouble with conventional wisdom is that it is rarely true, or wise. Actually, the Chinese are now worried that the foreigners amass too much power. “Foreign car producers have begun to take more control of their joint ventures in China, sidelining their Chinese counterparts from business partners to factory providers,” China Daily writes today. China Daily is owned by the Chinese government. (Read More…)
Nissan’s “we have cars” ad may not meet with the approval of TTAC’s commenters, but it appears to be having some kind of effect. According to mid-month analysis by the A+ rated experts at Edmunds Autoobserver, Nissan’s looking at the strongest retail sales growth in the industry this month, building on last month’s already-strong performance.
The internet has been a boon for car buyers in a million ways, but for new car marketers it’s been a decidedly mixed bag. GM’s California-only experiment selling new cars over eBay was quickly abandoned, after generating more embarrassment than sales. Now, another high-ish profile online new car marketing gag has flopped, as Autoweek reports that Groupon’s car debut is going nowhere:
Only four consumers agreed to pay $200 for a $500 discount voucher on a new-vehicle purchase at LaFontaine Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Highland, Mich. Groupon and LaFontaine had set 10 as the minimum required for the vouchers to be issued.
For companies like Tesla, who hope to do without traditional franchised dealers altogether (Chrysler may harbor similar desires), the internet is next great frontier in new car sales… but the eBay and Groupon failures are troubling signs for that dream.
I missed the latest twist in Chrysler’s California dealer drama when I was traveling in Iowa last week, but because it’s such a significant story (and because Ford recently proved how expensive dealer drama can be), we’ll commit the cardinal rule of blogging and take a look at some week-old “news.” California’s DMV won’t report the findings of its investigation into Chrysler’s allegedly non-compliant “company store” until September 29, but the Detroit News has reported that ”about 75 percent” of these dealer complaint cases end in settlement and that
Chrysler Group LLC may be on the verge of selling its company-owned flagship dealership in Los Angeles to a private retailer, which could appease angry franchise dealers in California.
So much for ChryCo leaving the state in an angry huff. In fact, angry is about the last thing CEO Sergio Marchionne sounds about the whole thing…
In one of its latest SEC filings (a prospectus for an offering to fund development of the “Model X” CUV), the EV firm Tesla notes
We currently intend to end the production run of the Tesla Roadster in December 2011, but we will continue to sell the remaining inventory of Tesla Roadsters in the first half of 2012.
The Detroit News notes that, if Tesla keeps its “mid-2012″ launch date for its Model S sedan (which was initially supposed to go on sale this year), it will have to endure a six month gap with no new production… and if more delays come, that “dead zone” could extend longer. And though Tesla plans on replacing the money-losing Roadster sometime during or after 2013, that won’t necessarily be easy…
Electronics retailer Best Buy raised a few eyebrows when it began selling Brammo electric motorcycles alongside its flatscreens and Xboxes a few years back. Two years after that agreement was announced, however, Brammos are sold at only three West Coats Best Buys (one here in Portland, OR, two in California) and Brammo is expanding its own dealership network independently of the big box chain. Was Best Buy’s Brammo experiment a disappointment? If so, it’s not stopping the retailer from pursuing other electric vehicle opportunities, as Best Buy’s mobility and transportation honcho Chad Bell tells Automotive News [sub] that it’s talking to electric car firms about a possible retail deal.
We are having conversations with some of the startups. I would say the conversations are going well. We are very excited about several partnerships that we can’t talk about yet. We probably get more traffic in a weekend than some of these dealers do in a month. The benefits for a small automaker trying to cobble together a sales and service network are obvious.
Retail market share is one of those metrics that tends to cut through the vagueness of pure sales-volume numbers, reflecting an automaker’s performance compared to the competition, without the distraction of fleet sales. It’s not a perfect measure of a business’s overall strength, as fleet sales can help with economies of scale and capacity utilization, but it’s one of the most accurate ways to measure the appeal of a firm’s products with real consumers. And, based on this chart of GM’s monthly retail market share (as calculated by TrueCar VP for Industry Analysis and all-round data ninja Jesse Toprak), GM’s much-vaunted Lutz-era products aren’t moving the needle with those real consumers. Emerging from bankruptcy didn’t seem to provide much of boost either. And unless drastic happens soon, GM’s battle for consumer acceptance will continue its slow but steady decline. Not good!
Hit the jump for raw data and a historical chart of GM’s non-retail market share.
Ford Motor Company has benefited immensely from its investments in its Blue Oval Brand, improving sales and profits, while wrapping its entire operations in an aura of invulnerability. But underneath all the Ford-branded success lies a problem that, more often than not, has been conveniently swept under the rug: Ford’s luxury offerings are in chaos. The last time we checked in on Lincoln, Ford was trying to convince dealers that Lincoln’s future product would be competitive in the tough luxury market… without disclosing any details that might give salesmen hope that future Lincolns will be something other than an obviously tarted-up Ford. But as tough a sell as that is, Lincoln’s dealers seem to be even more worried about the more prosaic elements of Ford’s luxury brand turnaround…
Every state in the union has its own laws regarding a manufacturer’s ability to sell cars, with some states banning the practice outright and others merely preventing OEMs from competing with their own dealer networks. California falls into this latter category, as the California New Motor Vehicle Board bans manufacturers from owning dealerships within ten miles of other same-make independently owned stores. But that apparently did not stop Chrysler from opening a dealership in Los Angeles which, according to a petition filed by the California New Car Dealers Association, is within ten miles of not one, but three independent Chrysler stores.