Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed comprehensive rules changes regarding dealership advertising and how finance and insurance offices are handled. However, dealers, specifically the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), aren’t happy with these new ideas and have issued formal challenges to the regulatory scheme.
Younger drivers have reportedly had it with the dealership experience, with Gen Z even more disenfranchised than Millennials. Though it’s difficult to imagine anybody visiting a showroom within the last 12 months having any other reaction. Incentives are down, prices are up, and there’s a good chance whatever you wanted to buy isn’t going to be on the lot anyway. Someone saying they had an exemplary dealer experience is becoming about as common as people claiming they enjoy going to the DMV.
However, CDK Global Inc. still opted to conduct a survey in the hopes of determining just how much less tolerant younger shoppers might be compared to older generations. The takeaway probably isn’t going to shock you, even if the sheer volume of first-time buyers that don’t care for dealerships might.
Following word that Mercedes-Benz wanted to refocus on producing high-end luxury vehicles with loftier profit margins, the German automaker has decided to eliminate dealerships in Europe so it can move on a direct-sales model similar to what’s offered by Tesla.
The company is reportedly eliminating up to 20 percent of its dealerships in its home country and roughly 10 percent globally (with a focus on Europe). This follows previous assertions by Mercedes that half of the brand’s domestic sales will be done via an “agency model” by 2023. Following an agreement with its own dealer network, the company said late in 2021 that it would begin eliminating the traditional scheme of dealers buying their vehicle stock based on market conditions with consumers coming in to haggle. The new plan puts more financial pressure on Mercedes and eliminates any chance of price negotiation. Meanwhile, dealers will get some cash for every vehicle sold and whatever after-sales services they can render.
If you frequent this website, there’s a good chance you’ve seen an article discussing how smaller car dealerships are being incorporated into larger entities over the last few years. As with most other industries, the trend has been accelerating and Automotive News just shared the metrics showing how far we’ve come over the last decade. According to the report, consolidation among mega dealers has made heaps of progress of late and should continue on with their mission of never-ending growth because none of them want to become the little guy after every pint-sized showroom has been bought up in North America.
Genesis is an interesting brand. Decades after Japanese automakers launched premium nameplates of their own, South Korea’s Hyundai decided to spin off one of its sedans into an entire luxury sub-brand in 2015. The resulting vehicles have been solid performers, representing excellent value for individuals in the market for something fancier. Genesis is building real luxury cars and working to differentiate those models from Hyundai Motor Groups’ mainstream products.
But it’s had to overcome plenty of obstacles. While Genesis’ product might be dunking on some of the other Asian luxury brands, achieving the same notoriety has been difficult for the fresh nameplate. The company also isn’t targeting Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. Its sights are set on the Germans, with many vehicles already comparing favorably. But if Genesis is to become a serious rival, it needs to distance itself from the Hyundai and Kia models it traditionally shares a lot with — resulting in its very first standalone retail store in the United States.
As the industry continues struggling with its planned swap to electric vehicles, we’ve seen plenty of framing suggesting dealer networks are only too happy to participate. But it’s usually juxtaposed with articles indicating that pushback exists, typically whenever the metaphorical rubber meets the road. This month provided several premium examples stemming from the National Automobile Dealers Association Expo (NADA Show 2022) held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Though the best had to be when several dealer groups piped up about how much it’s actually going to cost them to install some of the newer chargers some manufacturers believe should be mandatory if they’re intent on selling EVs. Some showrooms are finding out that not all buildings are wired for the high loads incurred by modern charging systems, requiring additional financial investments they hadn’t counted on. With automotive dealerships using product delays as leverage for unprecedented vehicle pricing, it’s nice to see them getting a taste of their own medicine. Or it would be if the costs for updating facilities weren’t guaranteed to be reflected on future window stickers.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is claiming that individuals shopping for a secondhand automobile end up learning less about the modern features lurking within their automobiles. Considering salespeople have meetings about how best to hype the advanced driving aids in new models, this one really shouldn’t have required a survey for the IIHS to piece it together. But the outlet appears to be attempting to link this alleged lack of knowledge to make claims that it’ll somehow contribute to the probably of used vehicles being involved in a crash.
“Used car buyers were substantially less likely than new car buyers to know about the advanced driver assistance features present on their vehicles,” stated IIHS Senior Research Scientist Ian Reagan, the author of the study. “They were also less likely to be able to describe how those features work, and they had less trust in them. That could translate into less frequent use, causing crash reductions from these systems to wane.”
You’re probably well acquainted with dealer markups by now. Supply shortages created during the pandemic have left the world with fewer automobiles and car dealerships are taking full advantage of the elevated demand. As you might have expected, this trend resulted in plenty of people overpaying or becoming cautious of a market they now see as wildly predatory.
Car manufacturers have begun asking dealerships to take it easy on the price gouging. General Motors made its plea last week and Ford has followed up by reiterating its own concerns during the company’s Q4 2021 earnings report. The Oval is worried that dealer markups are tainting its relationship with customers, with top executives making casual references to the trend back in November. Ford CEO Jim Farley is now telling dealers that they need to cut it out lest they be punished by the manufacturer.
Ford’s sales success with the Maverick pickup has been undeniable. But if you’re in need of more evidence, the automaker has begun notifying dealerships to stop taking reservations on the base hybrid model because it doesn’t even think it can keep up with the existing backlog.
A new survey from Cox Automotive is suggesting that people are relatively pleased with their trips to the dealership these days — at least compared to the last few years. According to the team that’s been crunching the numbers over at Automotive News, “Buyer satisfaction with the shopping experience from the research stage through delivery dipped to 66 percent in 2021.” Back in 2020, respondents claimed they were happy 72 percent of the time. But in 2019 Cox was only getting 60 percent of shoppers to say they had an okay time buying a vehicle.
The uptick in 2020 is obvious. Showrooms were devoid of customers, production shortfalls hadn’t yet become the norm, and dealers were selling just about everything at a discount — keeping prices low until 2021 sent them into the stratosphere. However, the outlet still framed it as a win against 2019, suggesting that consumers are more satisfied with their shopping experience than before the pandemic. It also claimed that people who purchased vehicles online, the no-haggle alternative to going to a dealership to argue in a small room, tended to be happier overall.
After a tough couple of years, consumers went into 2022 hopeful that unhinged automotive pricing and lean dealer lots would be a thing of the past. However, analysts and industry groups have gone from being cautiously optimistic just a few weeks ago to fairly sullen about the prospects of North American shoppers locating anything that could be considered a square deal.
Goldman Sachs recently issued a report that attempted to encapsulate the whole picture, citing sustained congestion at the ports, pandemic-related factory closures, market inflation, millions of people just dropping out of the workforce, and continued complications stemming from the semiconductor shortage. It estimated that vehicle pricing would fail to go down — and may even pitch up in the first half of 2022 — until all of the above issues have been addressed. But it was hardly the only group chiming in or suggesting that the hard times could last through 2023, as the goalpost for what should be deemed acceptable is moved yet again.
With so many articles discussing how poor automotive sales have been through 2021, one could be forgiven for thinking this was going to be a hard year for anybody owning a dealership. However, the reality of the matter is that it’s a seller’s market and those who can sell are making a killing off everyone else’s misery.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has reported that the ongoing deficit of product has helped the average store rake in more money than they did in 2020, breaking the previous twelve-month profitability record. Today’s average dealership is reporting a net pretax profit of about $3.38 million through October for 2021. That’s more than twice what was tallied within the same timeframe last year and really goes to show how much money can be made when the customer’s needs are the only items being discounted.
While the official figures haven’t dropped, just about every outlet tracking new vehicle sales is projecting a significant decline in volume for December 2021. Showrooms have been trending toward the minimalist aesthetic since 2019 with the pandemic kicking things into overdrive as supply bottlenecks nullified practically every manufacturer’s ability to produce anywhere near its normal pace.
Last December was bleak, with sales falling by around 5 percent for the month as the typical transaction price for automobiles set new records. The U.S. market only saw 1.54 million sales, the lowest volume witnessed since December of 2014. But 2021 volumes are shaping up to be decidedly worse. This month is on track to fall by anywhere from 23 to 30 percent with retail sales barely cresting 1 million units as transaction prices for both new and used vehicles surpass all previous metrics.
Car dealers have been polled for the fourth-quarter Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index (CADSI) and they’re still incredibly optimistic, despite losing some of their earlier confidence that new-vehicle sales would be relatively healthy.
The dealer optimism – especially among franchised entities – seems to be wholly tied to profitability here. New vehicle sales dropped in 2019 and absolutely cratered in 2020 due to the nation’s response to the pandemic. In spite of there being plenty of talking heads in the news media telling you not to stress about the economy, inflation has created pricing increases across the board and automobiles are at the tippy top of that list. With inventories remaining relatively lean due to production slowdowns, staggering dealer markups have become the norm. Basically, stores just seem happy that they can charge more per car while they’re in short supply. But they’re also starting to have concerns about the long-term viability of the market and are are feeling the pinch of rising operating costs.
Used-vehicle prices set another record last month thanks to elevated demand and suppressed production of new cars. Depending on who you ask, the typical transaction fee for a secondhand automobile rose nearly 50 percent in November vs the same period in 2020. While the pandemic had meaningfully suppressed demand during that time, that’s still a staggering increase over any 12-month period.
Sharing Cox Automotive’s Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, Automotive News nailed down the annual difference to a 44-percent increase. This also represents the November pricing index swelling by 3.9 percent against October, which is noteworthy in itself. But what does that look like in dollars?
Cadillac is expected to have lost one-third of its U.S. dealerships this year — going from nearly 900 physical locations at the start of 2021 to an estimated 560 by year’s end.
But there’s allegedly no need to worry about the brand because this is part of a planned electric offensive. Last year, Cadillac asked dealers to spend the capital necessary to install charging stations, update their service centers, and retrain staff to better tackle EVs or take a buyout before the automaker’s first battery-driven car (the Lyric crossover) hits the market early in 2022. It would seem that a meaningful portion of the whole decided to bow out, which Cadillac seems totally fine with.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has elected Mike Alford as its chairman for 2022. The decision was announced shortly after the group’s board adjourned on Tuesday.
Alford — who heads Marine Chevrolet Cadillac in Jacksonville, North Carolina — currently serves as NADA vice chairman and will be taking over for Paul Walser next year. Geoffrey Pohanka was chosen as the vice-chair, setting him up as a strong contender for the top position in 2023.
Cadillac’s instance that it be the first brand owned by General Motors to go entirely electric has resulted in a shrinking U.S. dealership network, though perhaps a healthier bottom line for GM in the long run. It may also foreshadow the trajectory of other brands committed themselves to EVs and give us a sense of what the dealer landscape might look like in a decade or two.
Over the last few years, American luxury brands have been attempting to grow in select markets they believe will bring in new, affluent customers by building experience centers that mimic high-end airport lounges. Cadillac even briefly moved its base of operations to New York City as a way to gain distance from its rustbelt background and ingratiate itself into high society. More recently, Lincoln introduced a Central Park-themed Navigator as both have been trying to lay down roots in parts of California after ceding a large share of the market to the competition decades earlier. But GM’s insistence that Cadillac become an all-electric brand (with Lincoln also targeting a glut of EV sales by 2026) seems as though it could create complications, even if the end result is a major victory.
With various government and corporate entities pushing rolling restrictions to our everyday lives, the automotive sector has gotten extremely creative in how it does businesses over the last nineteen months. Everything is being digitized so business can be conducted remotely, including sales. But this creates an issue for shoppers who — and this is going to sound crazy — actually want to see and familiarize themselves with one of the largest purchasing decisions they’re likely to make this year before committing.
Luxury brands were already testing at-home test drives and subscription-based vehicle exchange programs by the start of 2020. But we’re now seeing more pedestrian brands trying similar strategies to reach customers from beyond the confines of the dealership. Kia even recently announced a pilot program to sync digital sales with at-home test drives. Called “Kia@Home,” the service allows shoppers to schedule a vehicle to be sent to their home for an hour-long assessment.
With just about every resource trading at unappealing premiums, now may not be the time to make any major purchases unless you’re a financial masochist or so wealthy that the normal rules of living no longer apply. But it remains a seller’s market for just about everyone, including the plebian masses. Giant, unaccountable financial institutions will happily purchase your home and there’s a sea of disenfranchised people who will give you their last dollar if you can help them make sense of an increasingly hectic world. In the automotive sphere, we’ve seen dealerships and rental agencies hungrily scooping up secondhand automobiles for unheard-of prices just so they’ll have something on the lot.
The end result is a lot of overpriced merchandise that larger businesses are desperate to buy so they can pass on their elevated expenses to the customer. We’ve already covered the stupidly high prices surveyed consumers claimed they’d be willing to spend on a new vehicle. But there have been numerous reports claiming those days are coming to an end, with just as many suggesting we’re still in the thick of it. Yours truly has been wondering just how close to reality those assertions happen to be.
With automakers having a difficult time keeping production schedules thanks to COVID restrictions nuking demand and upending supply chains, 2021 arrived with plenty of problems. Desperate to replenish fleets they had sold off while everyone was locked indoors, rental agencies went on a used car buying spree. But it wasn’t just rental fleets that needed to be restocked, dealerships are also finding themselves with fewer models on the lot than they’re accustomed to — which is a bad position to be in when surveys have revealed consumers are now willing to pay stupidly high prices for automobiles.
They’re reportedly going to great lengths to acquire used cars as the great buyup of 2021 continues.
The 2022 Acura MDX SUV’s Top Safety Pick (TSP) from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety runs counter to all the racing around done in Acura’s commercials. The MDX is the automaker’s third vehicle to receive the IIHS’s highest safety rating, along with the RDX and TLX.
April’s fastest-selling used vehicles were led by the BMW 2 Series, according to iSeeCars. The 20 fastest-selling used vehicles averaged 28.7 days, 1.2-1.7 times faster than it took to sell an ordinary used vehicle. The fastest-selling used vehicles included a mix of sports cars, luxury vehicles, hybrids, and minivans.
The pandemic has changed car buying plans for nearly three out of four shoppers who intended to buy in the next six months. New research from Comscore Automotive Data Mart, cited in a story today by Auto Remarketing, indicated the pandemic tops the concerns of four out of ten who had intended to buy.
Car dealerships are a conundrum. For decades, they’ve prevailed despite changes in every aspect of what occurs at a new car dealership. The big question is whether they will continue doing business as they have, or will there be changes to a system that’s out of touch with buyers today?
The latest from Detroit has General Motors considering tweaking its delivery strategy for electric vehicles. While this appears to tangentially fall into the industry trend of trying to shove EVs into an online sales model, GM’s plan is distinctive and would introduce centralized inventory lots for the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt ( hatchback and EUV) before Christmas. But we can already see the dual-sized nature of the plan that will be used to promote and condemn it, should things move forward.
General Motors could be seen as throwing dealerships a bone by finding a way for those located in areas where EV buyers are less prevalent to provide their customers with electrified options. This saves them from having to prep their lots for charging and making space for vehicles people might not bother buying until the technology has further matured. However, with industry giants (including GM) vowing to continue making more of their lineup battery-powered, dealers might also view this as a coy way for the manufacturer to obtain more control over retail operations. Other manufacturers have already explained that they want to prioritize online sales of electric automobiles, with the end result likely mimicking the Tesla sales model … something that doesn’t include traditional dealerships.
Mercedes-Benz USA announced the elevation of Nicolette Lambrechts to vice-president and managing director of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz vans, effective May 1st. Underscoring the van life movement, sales, marketing, service, and parts for the entire segment is under Lambrechts’ purview.
Camper vans, ubiquitous homes on wheels for digital nomads, were up 125 percent in total shipments in November, according to the RV Industry Association. This was part of total RV shipments that finished the month with 42,513 units, a 43.4 percent increase over the 29,644 units shipped in November of last year.
Vroom, an emerging e-commerce player in buying and selling used cars, has announced the acquisition of CarStory, itself another used car platform. CarStory’s AI-powered analytics and digital services are what attracted Vroom, through the purchase of Vast Holdings, Inc., CarStory’s parent company.
Ford Super Duty sales increased by 7.5 percent in November, while the F-series sold 713,325 trucks, 195,000 more than Chevrolet and GMC combined to capture the title of America’s best-selling pickup for the 44th straight year.
Meanwhile, the Ford Transit, America’s best-selling van, sold 9,917 units, 13.9 percent over last year, and a 70-percent increase in commercial sales for the month. Outselling its nearest competitor by 41 percent, Ford now holds a 31-percent share of the full-size van market.
Cadillac dealers disinclined to spend a sackful of money on revamping their businesses to sell and service electric vehicles received some moderately good news this month. General Motors is willing to issue them fat stacks of cash for stores that cannot rationalize the sizable expense of installing charging stations, training staff, and retooling the garage.
While it smacks of the consolidation efforts headed by Caddy’s former President Johan de Nysschen in 2016 with Project Pinnacle, and makes us wonder how the brand plans on turning a profit if it keeps eliminating storefronts, GM thinks buying out dealers who don’t want to participate in the EV experience is the way to go. Though the company has expressed an interest in gradually embracing a more digitized sales model as Cadillac strives to become an exclusively electric brand by 2030.
If you hadn’t already heard, Europe began taking actions to prepare itself for another pandemic-related lockdown. Last month, leadership in Germany and France noted that existing restrictions were “not enough anymore” and began issuing specific citizens “certificates” allowing them to move freely within the country. As you might have imagined, this didn’t exactly bolster automotive sales.
While most of the new restrictions were implemented at the tail end of October, they’ve foreshadowed additional measures introduced as more countries climbed aboard ( like the UK’s second banning of sex with people from outside of the household) and began signaling that automotive sales were about to be routed. Gains made in September look to be completely undone, with Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority stating new-car registrations fell by 3.6 percent in October (vs 2019) on Wednesday. But that’s only the beginning of the bad news.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has announced a decision to strengthen diversity quotas by dividing the country into three distinct regions and passing a bylaw amendment that expands the number of at-large seats reserved women and ethnic minorities — moving both from two to three positions.
While the organization had been discussing the matter all summer, with CEO Peter Welch telling NADA members racism and discrimination had “no place in the car business” and needed to be “rooted out,” it has also begun making moves that support new inclusion and equity programs. Roughly 41 percent of the NADA employees are women at present, with another 20 percent representing minorities. But Welch said the group could and should strive to improve those numbers.
After enduring a series of rough years resulting in some unsettling financial reports, Nissan is doing its utmost to turn things around. Following its first annual loss in 11 years, the company announced a plan that would include cutting 20 percent of its global lineup to make way for newer models, eliminating unnecessary production capacity, and cutting corners (and jobs) just about everywhere in order to save $2.8 billion off of fixed costs. This is also being done to make way for a leaner, meaner Nissan, and make room for newer vehicles it believes will be essential to remain competitive.
It’s also hoping to spruce up dealerships to make them more desirable locales for customers ready to do their business. That includes an increased number of factory audits moving into 2021 — partly as a way to make up for the limited number that were conducted this year thanks to the pandemic and partly as a way to make sure nobody is doing anything financially untoward. But there are some concerns among owners that Nissan may end up bullying shops unnecessarily.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has decided to go digital to combat the coronavirus pandemic, canceling plans for what would have been an in-person event held at the end of January. Plans now include a virtual, mid-week conference starting on February 9th, which organizers agree will be far better than a bunch of people enjoying themselves at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans over a long weekend.
Truth be told, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made. New Orleans may have decided it’s ready to open up restaurants, retail outlets, and giant shopping centers to the public but trade shows and bars have proven themselves bridge too far. While locals have accused the city of using COVID-19 as an excuse to gentrify certain areas of the city, drunks have a penchant for forgetting social-distancing rules. NADA would have brought in thousands of dealers and vendors, many of whom would be engaged in frequent bouts of close-range talking between beers. That’s to say nothing of the forbidden romantic entanglements (cheating) your author is just going to assume happens.
AutoNation’s collision parts division is scheduled to be eliminated by the end of 2020, freeing up some cash after the two-year endeavor proved less than profitable.
Former CEO Cheryl Miller had made it clear that one of her main goals for the company was to ramp up services in an attempt to enhance revenue and diversify the business. But this tactic has proven perilous for the automotive industry at large, often offsetting opportunities to make money with sizable financial risks.
Mobility is probably the best example of this, as its broad enough to encompass everything from self-driving vehicles to subscription models and relies on the market maturing into something that will presumably see returns on investment years down the line. However, AutoNation’s diversification was far more traditional. It seemed like a sure thing, since the collision parts business was forecast to grow over the next five years. In fact, despite being the the largest automotive retailer in the United States, the company actually owes 46 percent of its gross profit to parts and service. Selling cars (both new and used) only accounts for 24 percent — with the rest coming from finance and insurance.
Having already pulverized the dead horse of waning auto sales into a fine paste, we’ll now turn our focus on how it’s impacting employment among automotive retailers — squashing another pony.
Much of the information up until this point has been anecdotal and conditional to the North American response to COVID-19. Furloughs were rampant as the pandemic progressed and new safety rules seemed poised to cripple sales moving forward. There was an obvious general plight confronting automotive retailers, but we couldn’t nail down what that meant in terms of job losses.
We still don’t, frankly. But it is starting to become obvious that there isn’t much reason to be exceptionally optimistic. AutoNation recently announced that around half of the 7,000 workers it furloughed in April won’t be coming back. Despite some retailers claiming not to need such drastic cuts, plenty are following AutoNation’s model. With fewer customers and sweeping restrictions on how showrooms can be operated, there’s little reason for there to be all hands on deck. But just how many will be forced to abandon ship this year?
After furloughing staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic, AutoNation has gradually allowed employees to return back to work. Half of the 7,000 people asked to take it easy in April won’t be coming back at all, however.
The automotive retailer has decided to permanently cut 3,500 jobs so it can focus on its bottom line and what it has unsettlingly called “the new normal” — a term frequently used to rationalize unsavory actions taken during the health crisis.
With customers unable to leave their homes to purchase cars, it’s to be expected that America’s largest automotive retailer would need to engage in some light restructuring. It also happens to have the best excuse imaginable for nuking a large portion of its workforce. Back in April, when the AutoNation was furloughing employees, it received nearly $95 million in federal small-business funds via the Payment Protection Program (PPP). A subset of anonymous staff members were said to have leaked the details to the media after deciding the firm was taking cash allocated for smaller outfits.
Outrage ensued and the company sheepishly returned the money.
Auto dealers and manufacturers around the globe have spent the past several years examining the usefulness of digital car sales, but the practice hasn’t been embraced as warmly in the United States, where state franchise laws often prohibit direct sales from automakers to anybody but a licensed auto dealer. Critics say this allowed retailers to become middlemen that customers are forced to haggle, while advocates explain that the system promotes U.S. jobs and provides a local resource for those needing repairs.
Neither are incorrect, yet dealerships have continued to buck online sales, even after manufacturers attempted to work with them on various pilot programs.
With COVID-19 keeping a large portion of the American population at home, dealers are revisiting online sales as a way to cut their losses. Digital transactions now look to be a necessity if shops hope to survive a prolonged pandemic. While many see this as a temporary measure, once the genie is out of the bottle, he’s difficult to put back inside… and may be far less benevolent than we’d like — even if we’re desperately in need of one of those wishes.
BMW dealers are having a problem with the 8 Series. The returning flagship appears to be a bit too rich for North American tastes and retailers are growing annoyed.
According to Automotive News, retailers are upset that BMW didn’t issue enough marketing support to make the public aware that it even exists, and feel that the amount of configuration available works against the vehicle. As a result, many dealerships are sitting on expensive halo vehicles nobody seems to want; the 8 Series now has the highest day supply of any BMW model currently produced.
Like every other business in the United States, auto dealers are attempting to implement changes that would allow them to operate safely amid the coronavirus outbreak. Undoubtedly petrified by the massive hit the Chinese car market took after COVID-19 reared its ugly head in Wuhan, they also hope to remain open while other business stay closed.
On Tuesday, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) issued a formal letter requesting that President Trump consider dealerships and service centers as “essential operations when federal, state, and local officials impose certain requirements due to the coronavirus outbreak.” While we’ve already seen dealerships embrace new tactics to comply with public health initiatives, it’s assumed they’ll be shutting down just, like most automakers plan to. However, retailers worry their diminutive cash reserves (in relation to manufacturers) won’t see them through a prolonged shutdown while the broader industry wonders who will repair automobiles during the pandemic.
The annual Automotive Franchise Activity Report asserts that the number of new-car dealerships in the United States has shrunk for the first time since 2013. The difference is marginal when viewed from a national perspective, but could support prior theories that larger dealer networks are consolidating while smaller, less competitive shops are being forced out of the market. The report claims the total number of storefronts fell from 18,294 in 2018 to 18,195 at the start of 2020. Dealership throughput was similarly down, decreasing by eight units from 2018 to 940.
While not particularly alarming, the figures do seem to mirror national population trends when placed under a microscope. The states that lost the highest number of showrooms tended to be regions that had the most trouble preventing people from moving.
The extended UAW GM strike of 2019 was the longest the automotive industry endured in a couple of generations. At the time, General Motors said the situation would delay production across its entire model lineup, including the 2020 Corvette. The mid-engined C8 is all-new, encouraging plenty of interest. It was assumed the model was destined to be sold out months before the strike occurred.
While GM later confirmed models were still available, it warned that the strike might delay its launch and could impact dealer allocations. In November, the manufacturer said the C8 wouldn’t arrive until February of 2020, though the latest word from retailers indicates GM will cut back on allocations of the C8.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) released its annual new-vehicle sales forecast for 2020, estimated a modest decline in U.S. volume. The announcement dropped on Tuesday, citing rising transaction prices as the probable cause. With fewer sedans on the market ( especially among domestic automakers), customers are shifting to crossover vehicles with higher price tags. Fortunately, the United States’ economy has remained roughly as stable as the cost of fuel — avoiding market conditions that normally encourage customers to swap into affordable economy cars or simply hold onto their current ride.
“We expect new light-vehicles sales will come in at 16.8 million units for 2020, roughly a 1.2 percent drop from 2019 sales volume,” NADA senior economist Patrick Manzi explained. “As for 2019, it appears new vehicle sales will best the expectations of most in the industry by topping 17 million units for the fifth straight year.”
My father has historically been a Ford man. Despite numerous forays into Chevrolet, Chrysler, Volkswagen and Toyota, he has always returned to the Blue Oval when the time came to purchase a keeper. Other nameplates came and went, receiving slightly less attention, but there was always at least one well-maintained Ford in the garage. As a result, I became familiar with dealerships using the suffix “Ford Lincoln Mercury” at a very young age.
For me, it was an opportunity to ogle the fancier sedans my father claimed didn’t make financial sense. “It’s the same car,” he would always say. “This one just costs more.”
When you’re eight and have nothing to distract yourself with other than the swizzle sticks you stole from the coffee area, fatherly advice has a way of sinking in. I’ve often wondered why automakers would even dare place their premium offerings so close to their less-expensive models. But times have changed.
On Saturday, Nissan’s North American dealerships found themselves with a problem. A power outage at the automaker’s data center in Denver disabled a system dealers use to order vehicles, procure parts, check on recall statuses, obtain rebate information, and file warranty claims. As a result, the manufacturer’s communications in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico were disrupted. “Some of our dealer business applications have run in a reduced capacity using manual processing,” Nissan said on Wednesday.
Dealers were not pleased.
It’s no secret that Volvo dealers aren’t keen on the factory subscription plan. Last December, the California New Car Dealers Association even asked the manufacturer to end Care By Volvo on the grounds that it was taking business away from storefronts. The automaker responded by saying the service had proven popular with consumers, attracting new customers to the brand while reassuring dealers that version 2.0 of the subscription plan had been approved by the Volvo Retailer Advisory Board and would give shops more to do.
Rather than take the wait-and-see approach, the California New Car Dealers Association petitioned the state’s New Motor Vehicle Board. Last week, the group unanimously voted to direct the state’s DMV to investigate Care by Volvo and four claims that the service violates provisions of the California vehicle code — potentially leading to disciplinary actions.
When it comes to buying new cars, I don’t have much patience. When I bought my Focus RS in 2016, I spent less than an hour doing the whole deal, including actually deciding what car I wanted to buy. Got a blank check approval from my bank, spitballed some ideas with my older brother and my good friend Bozi, and then put down a deposit on a car at a dealership about a thousand miles away. But there was one time when I tried to have patience, and was sorely disappointed.
Eleven years ago, I put down a $5,000 deposit and placed an order for a BMW 135i with my local BMW dealer. It was the launch year for the ill-fated 1 Series in the states, and I wanted to have one of the very first Ones to hit our shores. I ordered a very stripped down version — black, stick shift, cloth seats, no roof. After about 12 weeks, the dealer called to let me know that my car had arrived. Well, a car had arrived… but certainly not mine.
This example was an automatic. But that wasn’t the only thing they got wrong. They added somewhere in the neighborhood of $5k to the sticker, including nearly every option, even a red leather interior. Imagine my disappointment and frustration with the dealer, who had recycled sales people a couple of times since my order and couldn’t seem to track down anything about it, not even the original order sheet.
I asked for my money back, which they reluctantly gave me, and I ended up buying a Pontiac G8 GT instead — not a bad trade. But not everybody who goes through the ordering process is so fortunate. Click the jump for a question from our friend Andy about his experience in ordering his own custom German whip.
U.S. light-vehicle dealers reported an operating loss for the first time since the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) began collecting data in 2009. While everyone continues reporting pretax net profits, concerns are beginning to swell around their dependency on factory incentives, which are not included in operating tabulations.
NADA’s analysis of 2019’s first-quarter auto sales shows that incentive spending is down compared to the same period a year ago. The group expects above-average discipline from automakers in terms of incentive spending throughout the year. According to J.D. Power, average incentive spending per unit was down $119 to $3,821 through March 2019 — with the brunt of that going toward trucks. However, if sales remain low, spending may creep back up to help clear out languishing inventories.
Dealers got an early look at a prototype build of the upcoming Ford Bronco. Gathered in Palm Beach, FL at the behest of the automaker, dealers were asked to hand over their phones in order to avoid any leaks. Fortunately, their memories were sufficient in giving us a better idea as to what to expect come 2020.
While the event’s focus stayed on the Bronco and some of its more-interesting features, Ford also shared its plan to develop a family of off-road vehicles to complement the model. Introductory vehicles include the Bronco, its smaller counterpart, and a little unibody pickup to slot beneath the Ranger.
When I was a lad, there were two family-owned and operated dealerships within walking distance of my home. Upon reaching driving age, one had already closed while the other began adding storefronts in different towns. It now has three locations, ensuring a meaty inheritance and lifelong job security for several members of my graduating class.
It’s the nature of the free market and a familiar story. According to an assessment from the National Automobile Dealers Association, singular showrooms have gone from 7,514 strong to just 4,904 between 2008 and 2018. That’s a 35-percent decline, whereas the number of dealers with 10 or more stores increased 62 percent over the same period.
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- Jkross22 Gavin Newsom may not be aware of the fiscal problems of the state he leads, as his focus is on criticizing other states. It's actually better that he has someone shining a laser light on a map so he can stop making things worse here. Just lace his hair gel with some catnip and have him hit himself trying to get to it. Things in LA are getting so bad that even the leftists and progressives are showing up to LA city council meetings with mirrors to protest, well, everything - gas prices, the homeless pandemic, the house pricing pandemic, the crime pandemic. It shocked the City Council that their subjects dare attempt to ask for accountability. The Council president insisted that people with mirrors be escorted out, lest the council be reminded of their incompetence and hubris. That being said, there is no connection being made between the way LA subjects vote and the results it yields. Never underestimate the stupidity of the typical CA voter. The state is a basketcase but voters keep electing the same retreads every time.
- ScarecrowRepair Too much for too little, unless you treat it strictly as a toy.
- DedBull Mk2 Jettas are getting harder to find, especially ones that haven't been modified within an inch of their life. I grew up in an 85 GLI, and would love to have one in as close to stock configuration as I could get. This car isn't that starting point, especially sitting 3-4 years in the NY dirt. It's a parts car at best, but there might still be money in it even at that price, if you are willing to take it down to absolutely nothing left.
- MRF 95 T-Bird I bet it has some electrical gremlins as well. Nonetheless it might make an interesting El Camino pickup truck conversation with one of those kits.
- GrumpyOldMan "A manual transmission is offered, as is a single-clutch auto. "What is a single clutch auto?