By on October 12, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on September 22, 2020

Shutterstock/OlegGr

Hi there! You’ve probably learned a bit about your author during my time at TTAC, but you might not know I toiled in the service department of various car dealerships early in my career.

I started as a porter in high school, then eventually worked as a greeter in the service bay (basically, managing the flow of cars and customers in the service drive), before finally working as a service writer (aka service advisor). I did that final job both in an express-service lane at a dealer (think oil changes and basic maintenance) as well as in a capacity as a “regular” advisor (not just oil changes, but all types of repair). (Read More…)

By on August 24, 2020

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. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2020

The automotive industry has borrowed an estimated $132 billion since the world started taking the coronavirus more seriously, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg.

Despite migrating around the planet months before anyone thought to close down a single airport or suggest masks were necessary, March is broadly viewed as the start of the pandemic in the Western World, as that’s when most governments started taking direct action and businesses started looking for handouts. Still, it’s exceptionally difficult to follow the money if you didn’t devote yourself entirely to the task of tracking payments while under shelter-in-place orders.

We do know that a lot of money was being thrown around, however. Car dealerships were among the largest recipients of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds in the United States, garnering anywhere from $7.5 billion to $12 billion in government aid to maintain staff. Plenty of criticism over exactly where that money went arose as the press questioned which businesses were more deserving and who was just taking advantage of the system.

But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. PPP funds don’t need to repaid unless they weren’t earmarked entirely for payroll purposes; the government also used the program to send over $600 billion to support banks in extending low-interest loans to companies during the pandemic. The automotive industry was one of the largest beneficiaries of that arrangement.

(Read More…)

By on June 4, 2020

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.  (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2020

Updated social distancing guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Friday indicates the automotive industry is now an essential business.

Version 3.0 (for those keeping count) of what constitutes “essential critical infrastructure workers” added a number of job descriptions as the federal government mulls how to restart the U.S. economy. Among them is pretty much every job related to automotive manufacturing and sales. (Read More…)

By on March 30, 2020

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.  (Read More…)

By on February 21, 2020

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.  (Read More…)

By on September 4, 2019

lincoln navigator grille badge lincoln logo

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.  (Read More…)

By on August 20, 2019

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.  (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2019

2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class Camo

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.

(Read More…)

By on June 21, 2019

If there’s one thing I loved about spending time in the offices of General Managers and dealership principals, it was hearing about the harebrained schemes they had to bring customers into the dealership. GMs see an average of 80 or more vendors every single month — there’s always a new piece of software, a new way to buy inventory, even a new way to wash the windows. Invariably, due to some combination of pressure to meet unrealistic sales goals and the attractiveness of the sales rep, managers would fall for something that would make me shake my rather large head in disbelief.

The tough part was always maintaining a straight face when they told me about their plans. One of my fondest memories was listening to a GM explain that he had canceled all of his third party advertisers and ordered two Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubemen. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see that the store was out of business 90 days later.

But one of my all-time, tried and true favorites is the “gypsy sale.” Click the jump to see our friend Greg’s question about these direct mail pieces and whether or not they actually work. (Read More…)

By on November 12, 2018

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

Dealership advisory firm Presidio Group has painted a very bleak picture for its clients. With analysts predicting a downturn in auto sales, the company recommends dealers establish a robust 20-year plan that will enable them to perform in the new climate or get out of the business entirely.

Brodie Cobb, founder of Presidio Group, cites a glut of studies claiming dealerships will struggle as manufacturers shift into mobility companies and alternative modes of transportation are more broadly encouraged.

“We’re not particularly pleased that the world is changing the way it is. We would rather have it stay the same, because owning dealerships is a very nice return and profitable business that we enjoy very much,” Cobb told Automotive News in an interview. “So when we talk about this, it hurts us, too. We, too, need to understand the future, form a plan and not just put our head in the sand and hope it goes away.” (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2017

cars dealer dealership, Image: HappyAlex/Bigstock

Roughly 8,000 U.S. dealers will share in a $335 million payday resulting from a colossal 2010 antitrust investigation. The issue? Suppliers were involved in a widespread price-fixing scheme that lasted decades, and nobody noticed until the FBI raided the offices of Yazaki North America Inc., Denso International America Inc. and Tokai Rika Group North America.

In the end, 65 individuals and 47 companies were charged by the Justice Department — resulting in over $2.9 billion in fines and jail time for a swath of fresh white-collar criminals.

However, none of that money made it to manufacturers, dealers, parts retailers, or consumers. Those players had to resort to filing civil suits in federal court against the companies. In 2012, the multitude of claims were consolidated and transferred to Judge Marianne Battani and the U.S. District Court in Detroit. Over $1 billion has been set aside for affected parties, with around $335 million of the sum going to dealerships.  (Read More…)

By on September 18, 2017

Old Mazda dealer- Burdick Mazda - Image: Mazda“We have been working more closely with our dealers to evolve their businesses and through that process,” Mazda tells Automotive News, “some new dealers have chosen to begin working with us, while others have made the decision to leave the Mazda brand.”

Mazda has been open about its goal of earning 2 percent of the U.S. market while being forthright about the brand’s intentions to do so only on solid ground. This means fewer discounts, a premium vibe, and the kind of higher margins that make dealers happy.

On the dealer side of the equation, Mazda now wants those dealers to improve. In some cases, that means a new location. In others, a new exterior design is necessary. More thoroughly trained staff members is key, as well. But it’ll be slow going. Of Mazda’s roughly 600 dealers, the brand acknowledges that some have forsaken the automaker, though Mazda won’t say how many. Since the efforts to revamp dealers began last year, only 26 have been upgraded so far. By the end of the decade, Mazda believes roughly one-sixth of its network will have undergone a remodel.

In the meantime, Mazda is getting further away from reaching its 2-percent goal. (Read More…)

Recent Comments

  • Art Vandelay: Just go buy a Town Car or a Buick…that’ll be nice and comfy.
  • Johnster: At least initially, it seemed that Honda thought their redesigned Accord was so good that they didn’t...
  • volvo: Great Summary Johnster NA ice engines with great power/displacement and multispeed ATs. What’s not to...
  • David Cardillo: …hmmmm…Who owns Bloomgerg…? Following statement’s older than...
  • Johnster: The 4-cylinder LE is a surprisingly good car and in larger metropolitan areas they are selling for under...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber