By on April 9, 2018

2018 Lincoln Navigator

Lincoln is a brand that never fully recovered from the post-recession sales slump. While volume has improved over the last several years, 2017 actually saw a very slight decrease in overall deliveries. That’s a shame, as we’ve seen Lincoln making efforts to turn things around.

Sure, the domestic luxury brand could still stand to distance itself from mainstream Fords a bit more. But Lincoln has stopped attempting to sell Buick-grade luxury at Cadillac prices and seems intent on pursuing more elegant designs. Still, Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett wants the company’s operational fitness in top form as soon as possible, and getting Lincoln’s overall value up is an important part of that goal.

One way of doing this is by leaning on utility vehicles. Navigator sales have improved dramatically since the fourth-generation model hit dealers and the Aviator seems to hold real promise. But it’s not scheduled for sale until the 2020 model year, which means Lincoln has to do more than just wait around until new and updated SUVs can right the ship. (Read More…)

By on December 27, 2017

2018 Nissan Altima

What was the last car you rented? If numbers reported by The Wall Street Journal are accurate (and we have no reason to believe they are not), chances are it was probably a Nissan.

Why’s that? Well, flying in the face of everything that’s ever been taught in the popular How Not to Scupper Resale Values 101 class,  Nissan has been pumping the rental market full of Rogues and Altimas, to the tune of nearly 300,000 units in 2017. That’s the most of any automaker and 10 percent more than the traditional offender in this field: General Motors.
(Read More…)

By on November 20, 2017

Ford-Special-Service-Plug-In-Hybrid-Sedan, Image: Ford

If Lennie Briscoe were alive today, it’s hard to say how the fictional .38-packing NYPD detective would view this break from tradition. He might dryly wonder aloud whether the force faced an easier time cleaning up its fleet than cleaning up the streets, and went with the path of least resistance.

Nevertheless, as the era of the electric police car is already tentatively here, Ford figured it was probably a good time to give detectives, agents, and other plainclothed types their own plug-in option. The automaker has announced a plug-in hybrid version of its Fusion sedan specifically targeted at government and police.

Never has rolling up to that warehouse near the docks been accomplished with such stealth. (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2017

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - Image: MitsubishiMitsubishi is by no means starting from scratch in the U.S. market — the product lineup is much too stale for that. But with a new marketing agency, Butler Shine Stern & Partners, coming on board and a new crossover, the Eclipse Cross, set to arrive at dealers soon, Mitsubishi is clearly not in the same position in 2017 that it was in 2009.

2017 is set to be fifth consecutive year in which Mitsubishi’s U.S. volume improves and the first year since 2007 in which Mitsubishi sells more than 100,000 vehicles. That’s still a far cry from 2002, when Mitsubishi sold 345,000 vehicles, but Mitsubishi has reasons to be pleased with the growth.

Perhaps more than any other change at Mitsubishi’s U.S. operations, however, the arrival of the plug-in Mitsubishi Outlander symbolizes a new day for Mitsubishi Motors North America. It is, after all, finally here after years of delay, and it’s an exclusive product for Mitsubishi’s dealers, free from direct competition. Yet while the dawn of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV speaks of further commitment to the U.S. market, it’s not by any means about to become a popular vehicle. (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2017

2016 Toyota RAV4/RAV4 Hybrid - Image: Toyota

We’re beginning to pummel a dying horse here but, as you already know, the North American automotive market is shrinking right now. Toyota wants to mitigate this by funneling sales into rental fleets. While this tactic has become unpopular with automakers like General Motors, others have bolstered fleet sales to cope with the lackluster demand. Hyundai, for example, has relied heavily on rental companies to boost its total volume, but the move has placed dealerships and the corporate office at odds with each other.

Toyota’s U.S. deliveries fell 3.6 percent through June of this year, which is 1.5 percent ahead of the industry’s overall decline. The automaker wants to fill the gap by ramping up volume to rental companies before the end of 2017. Like Hyundai, Toyota’s best sellers are passenger cars — which have taken the brunt of consumer apathy of late — but knows it can still unload them on Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz.  (Read More…)

By on July 3, 2017

2017 Hyundai Tucson - Image: Hyundai

Since 2009, Hyundai’s North American volume has seen record sales every single year. While the last few annual assessments haven’t resulted in the same volume boom as the immediate post-recession years, the company hasn’t seen any shrinkage — despite below-average incentive spending and a lineup that doesn’t exactly sync with the region’s evolving automotive tastes. Hyundai dealers are probably singing the brand’s praises and getting its logo tattooed on their staff then, right?

Not quite. While Hyundai has achieved nearly a decade of growth in the Wild West, dealers are growing increasingly disappointed with its tactics and are less than enthused about future business prospects — especially as it doesn’t appear Hyundai has any interest in scaling back car volume for the sake of SUV sales.

In fact, while both the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata remain higher-volume models, both have undergone a noticeable delivery decrease since 2012. Meanwhile, sales of utility vehicles like the Santa Fe and Tucson have nearly doubled in the same timeframe. Hyundai put 62,817 Tucson SUVs onto North American roads in 2012, and that figure rose to 113,502 last year. It could have been more, had the company been better at supplying those vehicles.  (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Cruze Grille logo, Image: General Motors

General Motors has decided to further shrink its outgoing fleet of rental vehicles to prioritize its in-house vehicle lending service, Maven, and focus on getting newer cars to customers. That does mean building fewer vehicles overall, but GM shouldn’t care if it can keep raking in the profits — something rental fleets aren’t particularly good at in lower volumes, unless you’re the one charging a daily rate.

Alan Batey, president of GM’s North American operations, claims sales to rental fleets should drop by about 50,000 units this year and an undisclosed amount in 2018. It follows the company’s trend to scale back fleet sales in general. Big businesses accounted for 16.1 percent of its total U.S. sales in 2014, but that was reduced to 11.7 percent in 2016.  (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

2017 Ford F150 XLT SuperCrew Towing, Image: FordWith its Ford and Lincoln brands, the Ford Motor Company reported 240,250 U.S. sales in May 2017, a 2-percent year-over-year improvement.

General Motors, which has outsold Ford Motor Company in 14 consecutive months, sold 237,364 new vehicles in May 2017, a 1-percent year-over-year drop.

In May 2017, for the first time since March of last year, the Ford Motor Company outsold General Motors.

The Mark Fields era at Ford, a period in which the company’s value crumbled, is over. But if Fields took the blame for what ailed Ford, doesn’t he get the credit for what went right? Besides a handsome severance package, the Mark Fields era ended with Ford Motor Company out in front of General Motors.

But how did Ford make it happen? With pickups and fleets.

(Read More…)

By on February 24, 2017

2015 Nissan Quest profile – Image: Nissan USA

Skeptical of the Nissan Quest’s future in the latter portion of 2016, we demanded — on more than one occasion — to know whether there would even be a Nissan Quest in the 2017 model year.

Despite all the signs that pointed to a discontinued product, Nissan eventually confirmed that there would, in fact, be a 2017 Nissan Quest in the United States. Much rejoicing was heard among enthusiasts of JDM vans.

Yet nearly two months into 2017, Nissan still isn’t displaying the 2017 Quest on its consumer website and has only just added the Quest to the list of 2017 models on its media website. With only a handful of vans at dealers at the beginning of the year, Nissan somehow managed to reported an 11-month high in Quest sales in January 2017.

You didn’t buy a 2017 Quest. Your neighbour didn’t buy a 2017 Quest. There aren’t any 2017 Quests available at your local Nissan dealer. The 2015 and 2016 Quests are very nearly gone. Yet Nissan sold nearly 1,900 Quests in January. How curious.

Sure, the 2017 Nissan Quest exists, but it doesn’t exist for you. Instead, it’s apparently a fleet special for consumers named Enterprise, Budget, and Hertz. (Read More…)

By on December 29, 2016

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

North America’s romantic entanglement with the sport utility vehicle is not limited to retail consumers, as police fleets in the United States and Canada have been getting in on the action for a while now. Valuing durability and flexibility above all else, law enforcement’s gradual shift toward SUVs seems to have been inevitable.

Ford said that sales of its Explorer-based Interceptor Utility surpassed its Taurus-based Interceptor Sedan in 2014, claiming that the SUV had “officially” become North America’s most popular police vehicle. While that might not be entirely accurate until current fleets retire the horde of large sedans that proved so popular in the past, the utility trend is growing and departments have plenty of praise for them — especially departments rife with oversized officers.  (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2016

Ford Fleet Transit

With nearly a third of its volume heading to businesses and government agencies, Ford is a bit of a fleet queen. However, the Blue Oval has been fairly uniform with General Motors in terms of volume when it came to selling its vehicles in bulk.

Not so this year.

General Motors is gradually pulling back from fleet sales, leaving FCA and Ford with a larger piece of the pie. GM’s total U.S. sales in November were up more than 10 percent from the previous year, giving it a larger share of the retail market and the confidence to abandon some of its fleet dependance. Meanwhile, Ford’s seems happy staying the course so long as the endeavor remains vaguely profitable.  (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2016

2017 Buick Cascada - Image: BuickFront-wheel-drive, soft top, four-cylinder engine, hefty curb weight— the ideal car for the Enterprise Rent-A-Car lot at Miami International Airport?

Not so.

On sale since January, the Buick Cascada has attracted 6,154 individual U.S. buyers over the last ten months.

According to Buick, General Motors has only seen three Cascadas make their way into fleet use, for a total of 6,157 Cascada sales through the end of October. (Read More…)

By on November 3, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacificas

Debt-heavy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could do with some more spending money, so why not try something new?

Figuring it can squeeze more money out of its products — and boost its stock — if it focuses less on volume, FCA has embarked on a new sales strategy that isn’t new in the industry. Call it the General Motors Approach.

Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2016

2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE

The next-generation Ram 1500 is still expected to trundle out of Sterling Heights in January of 2018, but don’t expect a familiar face to go away just yet.

As it readies a new full-sizer to better challenge Ford and General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to keep the old Ram 1500 in production for the 2018 and 2019 model years, Automotive News reports. (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2016

2016 Nissan Murano Front Three-Quarter, Image: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars

Nissan is closing in on its goal of owning 10 percent of the North American market, but it opened itself up to plenty of risk along the way.

The surging automaker beat rival Honda in sales during the first half of this year, but only because of boosted incentives and increased fleet sales, Bloomberg reports. Big volume doesn’t always mean big profits. (Read More…)

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