By on September 4, 2019

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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 26, 2019

Back when the Dodge Demon originally launched, Fiat Chrysler indicated it would do everything it could to prevent dealer markup. As one of the car’s best features was its comparatively low MSRP, at least for the amount of power Dodge was offering, FCA didn’t want price gouging sullying the monster’s good name. Besides, the factory isn’t seeing any of that extra cash so there’s no incentive for it to support markups.

Unfortunately, gouging still took place. Some dealerships found a workaround by having intermediaries on eBay auction off the right to buy one of their Demon allocations — resulting in customers paying tens of thousands in bidding wars to have the opportunity to purchase the car at its “fair price.”

While grimy, it’s not much different than dealerships automatically tacking on premiums to the likes of the Honda Civic Type R or Toyota Supra. Pretty much every manufacturer building a rare or coveted automobile takes some precautions these days, but there’s always someone waiting to screw you. For example, Porsche is pretty good at selling its rather expensive vehicles at MSRP, yet rarer models are frequently flipped online for a small fortune.

Hoping to cut markups off at the ankles, a subset of buyers interested in Chevrolet’s new Corvette have been busy strategizing — resulting in an effective-sounding plan. (Read More…)

By on August 26, 2019

Image: Ford

Following months of negotiations and tweaks, a temporarily shelved plan aimed at boosting the standing of the Lincoln brand is back on.

While Ford hopes to turbocharge Lincoln sales by compelling dealers to build standalone showrooms for the brand, the automaker’s Lincoln Commitment Program went back to the drawing board late last year after backlash from nervous dealers and a California dealers association. Now, Ford’s effort to make Lincoln customers feel special looks a little different. (Read More…)

By on August 22, 2019

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. (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 August 14, 2019

We’re not singling out the good people of Erie, Pennsylvania, but it’s possible some General Motors dealers in that city may feel a pressing need for extra cash. On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted the owner of Lakeside Chevrolet-Buick and a former finance manager on charges of fraud.

You’ll recall a few years ago when another GM dealer in the city saw its owner and general manager indicted in a phony loan scheme. In the most recent case, the owner formerly held the title of president of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, and the indictments flowed following accusations of phoney sales reports and unpaid floorplan loans. (Read More…)

By on August 7, 2019

With the American public growing less inclined to visit car dealerships, Ford Motor Company is toying with an interesting solution — setting up shop in your local mall. The concept will be similar to the storefront Jake and Elwood crash through in The Blues Brothers after noticing “the new Oldsmobiles are in early this year.” It’ll be small, limited to a couple of showroom models, and will serve as a satellite for local dealerships.

However, shopping malls aren’t nearly as popular as they were in the 1980s. Back then, people actually left the house to do their shopping. But there’s still hope. Many malls are rebranding themselves as shopping centers and focusing more on experiential services and the kind of goods you wouldn’t want to purchase sight unseen. The rest continue to wither on the vine.  (Read More…)

By on June 17, 2019

Due to weakening new-vehicle sales, the United States was staring down the barrel of near-record inventories a couple of months ago. Encouraged by the factory to ensure their lots were filled with the latest wares, dealers have watched their margins evaporate as employees and customers drowned in the sea of metal parked out front.

While still uncomfortably high, U.S. inventories started creeping back down in May. By the end of the month, the number of vehicles waiting to be adopted fell below 4 million for the first time since the beginning of 2019.  (Read More…)

By on May 28, 2019

With Audi’s TT slated to be replaced, eventually, by an all-electric model that doesn’t skimp on the performance thrills, the vehicle needs a send-off special edition. Starting June 5th, such a model will be available. However, the vehicle appears to be more of a way for Audi to test an online-only shopping model than a celebration of the outgoing TT.

Limited to 99 examples, the Audi TT Quantum Gray Edition will be sold exclusively in German using the company’s “initial pilot project for online direct sales.” (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2019

The last couple of weeks (and, um, stories) have been awash in negative press and bad vibes for Nissan. Fortunately, mother nature stepped in to help one Florida dealership restore the cosmic balance by having a family of ducks move in.

A few months ago, a nest of ducklings hatched outside Sutherlin Nissan Orlando. They decided to stick around, creating an interesting incentive for customers. While we doubt the company would implement new dealer conditions that mandate an on-site petting zoo, it could be a novel solution to its sales woes. After all, promoting dogs worked extremely well for Subaru. Maybe Nissan can become the duck brand.  (Read More…)

By on May 10, 2019

When you give your car over to the dealership for repairs, you’re trusting them to fix it. You’re also trusting them not to take your pride and joy out for a Sunday drive so they can teach a co-worker how to drive stick. We figured this went without saying but a video was posted to YouTube last week showcasing exactly that.

A customer affected by Ford’s head gasket recall on the Focus RS had the good sense to install a dash cam before taking it into Hawk Ford of Oak Lawn, Illinois, resulting in eleven minutes of two men discussing all the odd noises the car makes as they clumsily pilot it around a residential area.

Despite the poor sound quality of the clip, some of those noises are audible and likely to cause minor physical comfort among highly sympathetic types. (Read More…)

By on April 29, 2019

Unlike components used in new vehicle assembly, the finished product is not shipped to the customer in a just-in-time manner. There’s usually a healthy amount of dealer-ready vehicles on hand, though recent months has seen inventories slide into obesity. Extended downtime and shift cuts at assembly plants are one result of a bloated supply made worse by falling U.S. sales (Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly is just the latest victim), but autoworkers aren’t the only ones bearing the brunt.

Figures from the beginning of April shows the inventory problem is only getting worse, with pressure growing on the dealers tasked with selling these vehicles. (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2019

Image: GM

A Chevrolet dealer in Chattanooga has a PR problem on its hands, and an FBI task force has a case to get to the bottom of.

Mountain View Chevrolet finds itself at the center of a bizarre story in which a disabled customer claims a salesman kidnapped him and threatened to kill him and his family if he didn’t withdraw large sums of cash from local banks. (Read More…)

By on April 8, 2019

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.  (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2019

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.  (Read More…)

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