By on January 8, 2021

 

Syda Productions/Shutterstock

To say the American auto industry faced challenges in 2020 is on par with saying the Pontiac Aztek was only a little bit ahead of its time. Or that Carlos Ghosn is only slightly irritated at some of his former Nissan colleagues.

Predictions of how each company (and the market as a whole) would fare in the face of everything 2020 had to offer came and went and were revised and them were revised again. Finally, after what can only be described as a ‘tactical delay’ by a couple of big-name manufacturers in releasing their data, we have a full and complete picture.

Perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t as dire as some of us feared.

(Read More…)

By on December 7, 2020


Mercedes-Benz is reportedly planning to bring an electric commercial van, presumably the eSprinter, to the United States as early as the third quarter of 2023. While the all-electric van launched earlier this year in Europe, the manufacturer said it wanted to hold off on North American exports for reasons that should be obvious to anybody familiar with the industry. The model’s rather low range (up to 96 miles, depending on load and route) makes it a poor fit for North America’s wide-open spaces, as does its standard 75 mph (or optional 50 mph) top speed. Meanwhile, the necessary homologation efforts required to sell the eSprinter in the U.S. would only increase the price of a vehicle already ill-suited to the nation’s roadways.

Were it to come here now, we’d be looking at a cargo van with an MSRP dangerously close to $60,000 and the top speed and range of a small-displacement dirtbike. Regulatory incentives aside, it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile addition to the North American landscape. But analysts are worried that Mercedes-Benz needs to get a move on and ensure the vehicle comes to the U.S. market before it’s edged out by the competition. It’s a position we’d be inclined to agree with had the eSprinter arrived with more robust specifications. (Read More…)

By on November 23, 2020

Unless you happen to be the primary stakeholder in Amazon, 2020 probably hasn’t’ been the kind of year you’re likely to miss. However, there is no shortage of lobbyist groups and trade organizations willing to praise it as a triumphant time for modernity. This includes the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Chairman Rhett Ricart, who believes digitizing the industry is the best pathway forward. While he hasn’t forgotten that pandemic-related lockdowns closed showrooms and factories, resulting in extremely lean inventories and weak sales, he claims it has accelerated everyone’s willingness to utilize online sales formats.

But there’s little reason to assume such a move would be better for dealerships from our vantage point. Haggle-free, direct pricing and ordering over the internet removes a lot of what the showroom does. This new model runs the risk of obliterating smaller storefronts and relegating the rest into glorified service centers doubling as a delivery hub.

(Read More…)

By on October 22, 2020

Tesla continued to prove itself as the electric automaker par excellence by posting its fifth profitable quarter in a row on Wednesday. The California-based (for now) automaker reported a net income of $331 million and a 39 percent improvement in revenue to $8.8 billion.

Of course, a huge amount of that money came via regulatory credits Tesla sold to its rivals. By nature of being an EV manufacturer, the company was able to sell $397 million in environmental absolution while helping its own bottom line. Though third-quarter deliveries were quite strong as automotive revenue jumped 42 percent to $7.6 billion.

(Read More…)

By on October 13, 2020

With global economies suffering from pandemic-related lockdowns, there’s been just one question burning in the minds of economists: ‘When will Chinese automotive sales finally rebound so that the industry can once again feel comfortable enough to keep pouring resources into Central Asia?’

Now, apparently.

China’s car market just recorded its first quarter of year-over-year sales growth in two years, with last month’s volume rising 12.8 percent (vs 2019) to 2.57 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). While its always wise to keep in mind that the nation has a history of obfuscating figures that might paint it in a bad light, CPCA has been slightly more consistent in its reporting than the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Both outlets also have a tenancy to showcase blind optimism for the local economy, but there appears to have been good reason for that over the last five months.

(Read More…)

By on August 17, 2020

Car dealerships around the nation are reportedly having trouble restocking inventories following the prolonged production shutdowns enacted in response to the pandemic. Despite supply chain issues subsiding a bit, Cox Automotive reported the industry only has a 62-day supply of vehicles. That’s approximately 2.3 million sparkly new units, and would be more than enough to keep consumers happy if people didn’t care which model they drove home. Demand may still be suppressed, but the selective nature of shoppers is not.

For example, you may be able to find a Nissan Rogue (the brand’s biggest seller) without much hassle. But finding one equipped how you wanted may be outside the realm of possibility in 2020, depending upon where you live and the fickle winds of fate. And you could apply that same logic to any number of brands, as most continue to note that some suppliers and assembly lines occasionally have to shut down to comply with health mandates. (Read More…)

By on August 10, 2020

With large hunks of the nation still under varying degrees of pandemic-related restrictions and accompanying panic, auto dealerships haven’t been awash with customers. Many that did reopen have been forced to follow distancing guidelines, frequently limiting the number of people allowed on the premises. Hoping to avoid closing permanently and relinquishing ownership to the bank, they’ve come up with some interesting solutions to keep their clientele interested.

Virtual test drives aren’t exactly new, but they have become an increasingly popular avenue for dealerships hoping to drum up business in 2020. While we’ve seen salespeople giving tours of new product as they hit the lot for years, on-board video is typically reserved for independent review purposes. That’s largely because nobody really expects a fair assessment from the person selling the vehicle. However, with in-person test drives becoming quite difficult, showrooms want to exercise every option they have to draw in customers. (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2020

Surprising exactly no one, sales numbers for the automotive industry in this country are grim. With stay-at-home edicts being encouraged in most states and various social distancing measures in place to help temper the spread of COVID-19, it’s understandable that a limited numbers of customers are darkening the doors of the few showrooms that remain open.

The first two months of this year were reasonably robust, so the negative numbers can almost entirely be chalked up to March’s challenging conditions (to put it mildly). As a programming note, the brands of Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz won’t we releasing their numbers until later in the month. This explains the holes in our chart.

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By on March 17, 2020

As we attempt to wean ourselves off endless discussions the new coronavirus, we’ve noticed there’s not exactly a glut of alternative news out there. Trade shows are being delayed, factories are being idled, and the whole world seems to be in standby mode as we attempt to stall the spread of COVID-19 following its migration out of China.

Regional quarantines in Asia were already doing a number on supply chains, and it wasn’t long before manufacturers around the world began idling production to further slow the virus’s spread. By the beginning of March, it was becoming quite clear that auto sales would suffer significant impacts as people spent the next several weeks isolated in their own homes. Now, the push is on to assess just how much this whole ordeal will impact an OEM’s bottom line.  (Read More…)

By on August 6, 2019

We’ve spent the better part of 2019 describing how unwell the automotive markets of China, Europe and North America have become, which might accidentally lead some to believe that most other markets are performing better. While Brazil expects continued expansion and a presumably healthy 2019, its rosy outlook is unique.

Japan saw a modest decline in registrations (just 0.3 percent) through the first half of the year, while Russia recorded slippage of 2.4 percent. But figures from India were far worse. In fact, the country is looking at the biggest sales slump in almost twenty years. Early estimates suggest passenger vehicle registrations may have plunged as much as 30 percent in July, after falling 17.5 percent just a month earlier. Most annual outlooks forecast a double-digit decline in overall sales.  (Read More…)

By on March 4, 2019

Subaru Ascent

Most people don’t care to venture out into the frigid weather unless it is absolutely necessary, instead reserving time for indoor activities such as enjoying the heated delights of the nearest wood-burning stove. Given the sales results shown here for February, it would indeed seem that car buying doesn’t rank too high on the Top 40 of most Americans when the weather is foul.

Overall, sales were off nearly three percent compared to this time last year, fuelling speculation by talking heads that 2019 will be the first calendar year in ages that the industry fails to collectively move more than 17 million units.

(Read More…)

By on February 12, 2019

 

Ren Cen. GM

Last month, General Motors announced a plan to introduce more than 20 new and refreshed models in China in 2019 to “maintain its growth momentum in the world’s largest vehicle market” and pump EVs into what is probably the most electric-friendly region on the planet.

GM appears to love China and not without good reason. As the automaker’s largest retail sales market since 2012, GM hasn’t been afraid to fully embrace it — at the expensive of looking like it’s playing favorites and putting its homeland in the doghouse. But is that what’s really happening, or does it just feel that way when an iconic American company starts playing patty cake with a foreign entity?   (Read More…)

By on August 23, 2018

https://www.flickr.com/photos/autohistorian/25516489743/

There’s a popular notion that young people are ruining the automotive industry. It probably has something to do with the steady climb of average transaction prices and a median income for millennials that’s comparatively worse than that of their parents at a similar age. Plenty of evidence exists that younger individuals aren’t particularly fond of the car-buying experience.

They don’t seem particularly fond of the car selling experience, either. Millennials account for nearly 60 percent of dealer hires but shops lose over half of them every year, according to a study by the management firm Hireology. That’s an impressively high turnover rate that probably isn’t helping turn around stagnating car sales, as it takes a while to master any profession.  (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2018

All-new 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara

Major manufacturers saw their fortunes take a dip in July, with red ink spilling across the page like an airport departures board during a snowstorm.

More than ever, sales performance seems tied to the number of crossovers and SUVs available at a given OEM. Sedan heavy marques are taking a beating. Even Ford’s strong selling truck line could not drag the company’s results into the black, thanks to a tanking of sedan sales.

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By on October 17, 2017

british-leyland-mini

While some of Europe saw modest auto sale gains through the first nine months of 2017, the region has mirrored North America’s decline in deliveries since the end of the summer. The United States saw eight consecutive months of declining sales this year, with a positive bump in September and better than expected volume in Canada.

Europe, meanwhile, saw the inverse. Passenger car registrations fell 2 percent year-over-year to roughly 1.43 million deliveries in September, despite August seeing a 5.6-percent improvement. Overall, 2017 has the makings of a unsatisfactory sales year for both regions. But Europe seemed to be doing alright before the U.K. suddenly stopped buying cars.

British registrations took a massive nosedive after Brexit. By September, it represented a monthly decline of 9.3 percent, compared to Germany’s 3.3 percent slide. Even though the rest of the continent saw a gain in sales, having Europe’s two largest markets lagging guaranteed the net loss.  (Read More…)

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