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.
With dealers having spent the last 12 months placing egregious markups on automobiles, it has become a seller’s market, to say the least. New vehicle transactions are currently averaging $6,000 more than they would have been in the previous annum. But prices had already climbed by $3,000 (year-over-year) in 2020 due to production shortfalls, encouraging fleet managers to scoop up every used vehicle they could find until secondhand cars became likewise overpriced.
It’s an abysmal situation for consumers and automakers have begun to realize they’ll be getting blamed if something isn’t done. As a result, we’ve started to see manufacturers publicly chiding showrooms for placing lofty “market adjustments” on new automobiles. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors have both made formal declarations that they’ll be penalizing dealers who issue ludicrous markups on products wearing their emblems, with Hyundai Motor Group issuing similar threats to greedy retailers this week.
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.
Last week, we discussed Volvo Cars’ plan to transition to an online sales model as a larger quotient of its product becomes electrically driven. As luck would have it, the concept hasn’t been a runaway success with auto retailers. Vehicles becoming increasingly digitized, combined with the unparalleled consumer access offered by the internet, has made numerous manufacturers wonder why the dealership role couldn’t be diminished. After all, Tesla has done alright without a traditional sales network.
But Tesla didn’t have a gross of existing showrooms ready to make a fuss. Volvo has nearly 300 and dealerships are reportedly voicing their concerns as the manufacturer does what it can to assuage fears about the possibility of their being put out of businesses in the coming years.
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.
In February, a Texas Toyota dealership and The Genesis Center of Kaufman County joined forces to raffle off a fully restored 1994 Toyota Supra Twin Turbo. Donated by a local resident battling cancer, the entirety of the proceeds from the draw were designated specifically to help fund the center. Genesis is a faith-based shelter which also provides job placement, parenting classes, financial management programs, spiritual counselling, material needs, and medical referrals to women and children in crisis. It is funded largely through the church or via direct donations.
All in all, the dealership managed to raise more than $50,000 for the center. However, when Rebecca Rawl was announced as the winner of the raffle in April, many stated that the name was suspiciously close to that of the wife of sales manager Danny Rawls. Toyota of Rockwall was quick to rectify its mistake, specifying that the name given had been a mistake and “Rebecca Rawls” had in fact been the lottery winner.
As you can imagine, this did not go over well.