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 February 18, 2020

A Cadillac crossover that heralds a slew of other electric models will make its public debut in April, Cadillac executives told dealers on Monday. The meet-up, reported by Automotive News, comes as General Motors readies a surge of EVs over the next few years. Cadillac will play a major role in that product transition.

Per that same meeting, Cadillac’s dealer council has created a subcommittee made up of dealers and brand execs to help smooth the entry of gas-free product. (Read More…)

By on February 17, 2020

BMW had a decent 2019, besting historic rival Mercedes-Benz with 324,826 U.S. deliveries — a 4.4-percent improvement over the previous year. The brand expects more good news in 2020 as new product begins to hit its stride and more models start arriving. While the company currently enjoys an almost even sales breakdown between cars and crossovers, BMW National Dealer Forum Chairman Patrick Womack said its Westernmost offerings could be further refined.

U.S. dealers want a sumptuous German wagon to compete with European marques already providing one. (Read More…)

By on January 23, 2020

The extended UAW GM strike of 2019 was the longest the automotive industry endured in a couple of generations. At the time, General Motors said the situation would delay production across its entire model lineup, including the 2020 Corvette. The mid-engined C8 is all-new, encouraging plenty of interest. It was assumed the model was destined to be sold out months before the strike occurred.

While GM later confirmed models were still available, it warned that the strike might delay its launch and could impact dealer allocations. In November, the manufacturer said the C8 wouldn’t arrive until February of 2020, though the latest word from retailers indicates GM will cut back on allocations of the C8. (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2020

A long-standing legal battle pitting Tesla against the state of Michigan has finally been resolved. It was announced Wednesday that the automaker’s 2016 suit against the state, which forbids the direct-sales model employed by Tesla, ended in a settlement a day earlier.

The result? A way for Michigan residents to own and conveniently service a Tesla in the notoriously protectionist state. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2020

nissan

Japanese executives traditionally take company failings very personally, often performing penance in the wake of scandals and downturns. In the case of fresh-on-the-job Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida, his punishment for the automaker’s dismal financial situation and tumbling sales was an earful from a group of angry U.S. dealers.

The dealers let Uchida have it during a recent meeting at Nissan’s U.S. headquarters — the first such meeting since Uchida’s elevation to CEO late last year. It’s not like he didn’t ask for it. (Read More…)

By on December 18, 2019

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) released its annual new-vehicle sales forecast for 2020, estimated a modest decline in U.S. volume. The announcement dropped on Tuesday, citing rising transaction prices as the probable cause. With fewer sedans on the market (especially among domestic automakers), customers are shifting to crossover vehicles with higher price tags. Fortunately, the United States’ economy has remained roughly as stable as the cost of fuel — avoiding market conditions that normally encourage customers to swap into affordable economy cars or simply hold onto their current ride.

“We expect new light-vehicles sales will come in at 16.8 million units for 2020, roughly a 1.2 percent drop from 2019 sales volume,” NADA senior economist Patrick Manzi explained. “As for 2019, it appears new vehicle sales will best the expectations of most in the industry by topping 17 million units for the fifth straight year.” (Read More…)

By on November 12, 2019

Certain Fiat Chrysler dealers aren’t happy with the inventory buildup that took place over the summer, claiming the automaker is headed back to the bad old days with the creation of a sales bank.

FCA, which just sealed a merger agreement with France’s Groupe PSA, claims its inventory is under control, touting a significant reduction in unsold vehicles during the third quarter. (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 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…)

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