By on July 22, 2021

Years ago, waiting for a haircut, dental appointment, or psychological evaluation meant thumbing through a paperback filled with local listings of automobiles you had convinced yourself you might be in the market for. While primarily an exercise for wasting one’s time, there was always a chance you’d run to a payphone or whip our your Nextel to contact the seller so you could begin the delicate dance of commerce.

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By on May 24, 2021

Last quarter Ford launched its new Blue Advantage used car buying service, in an attempt to turn clicks into sales for its Ford dealers. Ford promises an excellent experience on its Blue Advantage cars, and the service includes cars from other marques. Dealers have signed up in droves.

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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 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.

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By on March 4, 2021

General Motors intends to launch a digital retail tool aimed at facilitating electric vehicle sales. However, this does not appear to represent a total shift away from the traditional dealer model — even if it technically furthers that cause.

While EVs have grown in popularity, they’re still a niche segment and perhaps not suited to the needs of all customers. That makes it risky to stock your showroom with them, depending on the geography. So we’ve seen multiple manufacturers embrace online sales and the flexibility that offers the manufacturer as a way to get around this. Some companies, like Tesla, even prioritize direct sales models above the alternative — and we’re seeing brands like Volvo beginning to do the same. GM said it would be using Tekion (founded by Tesla and Oracle bigwig Jay Vijayan) to help it sell EVs over the internet.  (Read More…)

By on December 3, 2020

 

off-road retailer

SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, has released its Fall 2020 State of the Industry report, which denotes the health of the automotive aftermarket despite the disruption caused by COVID-19. This report provides companies with the information needed to make good business decisions, not to put a positive spin on a time of uncertainty.

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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…)

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 30, 2020

Cox Automotive eliminated around 1,600 jobs this month as it prepared to better embrace online commerce (and nobody having any money). The company axed nearly 300 employees in June after having furloughed over 12,000 people in response to the coronavirus pandemic this spring. A large number of those positions were related to its Manheim auction arm, which suffered the hardest due to stringent lockdown protocols that prohibited public gatherings.

Now it’s talking about improving some of the digital features it added to Autotrader this year and embracing the virtual landscape to future-proof itself while forecasting a 25-percent cut in annual profits, and letting people go  with the majority of the layoffs coming to furloughed Manheim employees. (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 21, 2020

Don’t expect the Present Year to come close to the sales tallies racked up in 2018 or the year before. No analyst foresees such a scenario; globally, LMC sees auto production taking a 20-percent haircut in 2020.

But the return to normality is underway in the U.S., aided by the federal government’s reopening plan (a set of guidelines to be acted on by individual states), but especially by the realization of governors that car buyers need some way to bring a vehicle home. Michigan, via an executive order, greenlit online sales on April 9th. Now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn. (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 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 March 12, 2019

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

If Tesla doesn’t exist anywhere on your shopping list, it’s easy to ignore the turmoil surrounding the automaker. If Tesla’s your employer, however, the past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride.

Retail employees, who, along with store managers and regional managers, learned of the automaker’s plan to divest itself of stores through media reports, claim they’re hanging by a thread, stripped of their commission and still in the dark. (Read More…)

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