By on March 29, 2021

Years from now, there’s a distinct chance that humanity will look at blank check firms, better known as special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), with disdain. Today is not that day, however. Cazoo Ltd, which has often been called the British Carvana, is reportedly selling itself to Ajax Holdings for a breezy $7 billion USD.

While the used-vehicle retailer initially planned on an initial public offering in London, merging with Ajax Holdings means it’s to be listed on the NYSE and probably at an astronomical price if the history of SPACs are anything to go by. This one happens to be owned by American billionaire and career hedge fund manager Dan Och, who said he would like to join the company’s board once the deal has gone through.  (Read More…)

By on March 22, 2021

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.  (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2021

Electric-truck startup Rivian has signed the lease for its first showroom in New York City and has selected one of the trendiest spots in Brooklyn. Once known for its high crime rate, Williamsburg has undergone three decades of gentrification and is now awash with luxury retailers normally reserved for the swankiest parts of Manhattan. In the 1990s, the neighborhood was still rough around the edges but had started to become ground zero for the East Coast hipsters, starving artists, and young musicians who gradually influenced its trajectory. The next three decades saw Williamsburg moving steadily upward with rental prices keeping pace. Riverside warehouses were replaced with high-rise hotels, the average household income closed on six figures, and dog parks are situated conveniently near designer ice cream shops.

It’s now the perfect place for a showroom dedicated entirely to electric vehicles, especially one that seems like a merger between Tesla Motors and REI.  (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2021

volvo emblem logo grille

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.

(Read More…)

By on December 7, 2020

When the United States announced it would be offering payroll relief to the countless small businesses it impacted with government shutdowns intended to combat COVID-19 earlier this year, everyone breathed a sigh of relief into their mask. Unfortunately, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) became a confusing bureaucratic mess almost instantly. It wasn’t clear how companies would account for part-time or contracted employees, numerous banks denied help to those with less than stellar financial histories, and the application website repeatedly crashed — which was awful for a service that was designed to accommodate candidates on a first-come-first-serve basis.

There were also numerous provisions that allowed big business to take advantage if their individual locations were small enough and loopholes for companies that weren’t even required to shut down operations. Criticisms understandably began to surface, followed by months of commercials asking concerned citizens to report instances of fraud. One such example came into focus this week after a former sales representative for a Pennsylvania-based dealership group launched a federal lawsuit against their ex-employer alleging that it had violated the False Claims Act in relation to PPP.

(Read More…)

By on November 25, 2020

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.

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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.

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By on November 9, 2020

Nissan will begin encouraging dealerships to place examples of the Toyota RAV4 on their lots so customers will have the ability to compare the best-selling vehicle in America that isn’t a pickup truck against its own Rogue. While pitting your bread and butter against a model that is often better reviewed and outsells it by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 seems foolish, we think we see where Nissan is going with this plan.

Toyota’s RAV4 retails a bit higher than Nissan’s Rogue and its base LE trim is about as basic as it gets for the segment. We’re willing to bet that’s the model that will be used in comparisons. As both are fairly appliance-like automobiles to drive, this gives Nissan an opportunity to showcase the Rogue’s slight advantage in overall comfort and features without being eclipsed by a better-equipped RAV4. Meanwhile, customers finding themselves less interested in crossovers than they were upon arrival are free to browse the rest of the Nissan lot.

(Read More…)

By on November 4, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on November 2, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on October 22, 2020

GMC

With the Hummer EV Edition 1 selling out over what would constitute an extended lunch break, General Motors is clearly aware it has a hot commodity on its hands. While that may not continue into subsequent model years, the electrified monstrosity is seeing demand comparable to what we witnessed with Dodge’s Demon and GM has a similar solution in mind.

Rather than allowing dealers to see what they can get away with on the standard Hummer pickup when it goes on sale next year, GMC will be implementing a strict no-haggling policy. That’s undoubtedly going to be a blow to dealers thinking they could clean up on markups and a blessing to customers who don’t want to spend a few extra grand on their already expensive midlife crisis.

(Read More…)

By on October 12, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

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 17, 2020

Cadillac told U.S. and Chinese dealers they will each need to invest at least $200,000 on electric vehicle chargers and staff training to continue selling the brand’s products after 2022. The message was communicated to dealerships on Wednesday via video messages from Rory Harvey, the luxury brand’s vice president of sales, service and marketing. Cadillac is moving on electrification (seriously this time) and plans to launch the Lyriq EV within the next two years, with more battery-driven models to follow. Update: Cadillac PR has responded, saying that what was communicated yesterday is for U.S. dealers only.

The brand says dealers must be ready for the transition, giving us flashbacks to Project Pinnacle  the Johan de Nysschen strategy that forced stores to spend money to provide a more premium sales experience that differentiated Cadillac as special. At the time of its implementation, many dealers wondered why they should bother taking on more overhead under the assumption that they’ll make extra money over time. While luxury-specific outlets don’t have much choice in the matter, those selling GM’s other brands in conjunction with Cadillac seem to be substantially less eager to implement the changes.

(Read More…)

By on August 27, 2020

vw

While North America isn’t receiving Volkswagen’s ID.3, it might have been for the best. The car launched with software glitches that made certain tech functions inoperable and probably wasn’t suited for our market, anyway, according to the manufacturer. But the ID.4 (formerly ID Crozz) crossover is coming here, and promises to deliver a pleasant electric-driving experience and a range of up to 310 miles — assuming you bought the right package and are familiar with the European WLTP cycle.

Volkswagen also wants to use the model to test its new customer experience initiative, which allows shoppers to make reservations online. While the pandemic has encouraged the industry to do more of its business over the internet, the reservation trend was becoming popular ever since carmakers learned that such fees for in-demand models could preemptively line their pockets with cash.

Originally, this was done to ensure customers were serious about buying models produced in limited supplies, or as a way to help startups fund their production efforts ahead of time. It’s now become fairly common, as everyone seems to understand the scam program. In a virtual press conference Thursday, Volkswagen said it would allow parties to reserve the ID.4 next month for a $100 deposit. Duncan Movassaghi, vice president of VW Sales and Marketing, claimed it was the best solution for dealers — and was in line with how people have to live their lives during COVID-19. (Read More…)

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