If you thought 2015 was a good year to be in the automobile business, you’ll love prospects for 2016. And December is a good time to start gearing up.
Typically one of the best months of the year for selling cars, December is expected to top off a record year after a very strong November and set the table for another possible record next year.
“U.S. auto sales are now clearly on the path to set a record in 2015, with volume we haven’t seen in 15 years,” said Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive, a marketing intelligence firm.
But there’s little time to relax afterward with tax season and the big month of March around the corner.
While 2015 has seen tremendous and consistent growth in new-vehicle sales, new-car and light-truck sales should go even higher in 2016, Steven Szakaly, National Automobile Dealers Association chief economist, said during a recent press conference, according to F&I Showroom.
“New light-vehicle sales will rise to 17.71 million units in 2016, a 2.3 percent increase from our forecast of 17.3 million sales in 2015 … the seventh straight year of increasing new-vehicle sales,” said Szakaly.
Some experts say 2017 will be even better for light-vehicle sales, hitting 18 million before leveling off.
And the positive outlook isn’t limited to new-vehicle sales, according to industry experts.
“We are looking for used-vehicle sales to continue to grow as we move into 2016,” Tim Fleming, Kelley Blue Book analyst, recently told Auto Remarketing. “Prices should continue to ease from record highs seen a few years ago, making the used market even more attractive to consumers.”
Overall, franchise dealers sell nearly as many used cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans as new vehicles – more than one-third of all used vehicles sold – based on data from CNW Marketing Research. The remainder is sold by independent dealerships and in private-party transactions.
Santander Consumer USA plans to help franchise dealers make the most of the 2016 opportunity by providing support through our knowledgeable sales-and-marketing team, email content and blog posts. If you have questions about working with Santander Consumer USA and Santander Auto Finance, talk to your sales representative or area sales manager or request a visit from a representative online.
General Motors has turned to social media to protect its brand in the future from issues such as the recall that threw the spotlight on the automaker early this year.
The company was criticized for not addressing ignition-switch problems for a decade or more.
In response, now that the worst of the recall worries seem to be past, the company has directed its social media managers, customer service staff and executives to scour social media for early warning signs of quality issues before they become critical.
This is a significant evolution in social media strategy for GM.
The company has moved from solely monitoring official complaints registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which handles defect investigations and recalls, and has turned to sites like Twitter and automotive chat rooms, 24 hours a day, to find consumer complaints.
Senior Strategist Rebecca Harris, who leads the Social Center of Expertise at General Motors, said that although the company has been offering consumer support through social media for a few years now, her department has grown into a much larger organization.
The customer care space has “subject matter experts” in about 120 forums and enthusiast blogs in North America, and Harris’ team pays particularly close attention when GM launches a new vehicle.
“We started in January with the Detroit Auto Show, when we launched the full-sized pickup trucks,” Harris said. “We paid attention to the appropriate places online where there was a lot of chatter, and there were two things trending and becoming issues in the social space.”
“We were able to spot those things early on,” Harris said, “way before we got any feedback from the field, and we were able to take that back to engineering, manufacturing and quality within 30 days.”
In this case, the affected vehicles were retrofitted with new parts through the dealer.
But the social media initiative isn’t just about spotting quality control issues.
Harris’ team recently piloted a sales campaign in which agents gathered social media information from a 60-day period, identified 40,000 possible leads and engaged about 8,000 individuals based on the findings. Out of the group, they conversed with about 2,700 people, initiated “test drive” talk with 330, got 45 of those people into an actual test drive and, subsequently, tracked 13 sales from the effort.
“That’s not saying we sold those cars, that’s saying we helped sell those cars,” Harris said. “And that’s something we hope to provide.”
The lesson is that automakers can engage customers one on one and turn negatives into positives.
With a phoenix-like turnaround, the revamped 2014 Chevrolet Impala has changed the landscape of Consumer Reports ratings by earning the top spot overall for all sedans — and taking a position that has been held by Japanese and European models for at least the last 20 years.
The redesigned Chrysler 300, Ford Escape and Fusion, and Jeep Grand Cherokee also were cited by CR.
The Impala has gone from the bottom of its class in Consumer Reports ratings, with a mediocre test score of 63 — too low to be CR “Recommended” — to an “Excellent” 95 that places it not only at the top of its Large Sedan category, but also among the top-rated vehicles Consumer Reports has tested. Only two vehicles have a higher test score: the Tesla Model S hatchback and the BMW 135i coupe.
“The Impala’s performance is one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing. “We’ve seen a number of redesigned American models—including the Chrysler 300, Ford Escape and Fusion, and Jeep Grand Cherokee— deliver world-class performance in our tests.”
Consumer Reports engineers found the Impala rides like a luxury sedan, with a cushy and controlled demeanor, while delivering surprisingly agile handling, capable acceleration, and excellent braking. The Impala corners quite well for a large car, with prompt turn-in response and controlled body lean. Steering is nicely weighted; it’s light enough for parking maneuvers and provides decent feedback. When pushed to its handling limits, the Impala proved secure, responsive, balanced, and easy to control.
Inside, the spacious cabin sets a new standard for Chevrolet fit and finish, with generally high-quality materials and trim. The backseat is roomy and comfortable, the trunk is huge, and controls are refreshingly intuitive and easy to use. The 22 mpg overall Consumer Reports measured with the Impala’s 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission is competitive, but it’s not the best in its class.
The Impala is too new for Consumer Reports to have reliability data, so it still can’t be “Recommended.” For that rating, a vehicle must perform well in CR’s battery of tests, have average or better reliability in CR’s Annual Auto Survey, and perform well in government and industry crash tests.
Overall, Consumer Reports found the Impala is competitive with cars that cost $20,000 more, including the Audi A6 and Lexus LS460L, as well as the recently reviewed Acura RLX and Jaguar XF.
By Consumer Reports
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Walking onto the floor of the Dallas Convention Center for the 2013 edition of the DFW Auto Show might be enough to glaze the eyes of even the most enthusiastic autophile.
With about 700 cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers in the show, it’s hard to know where to start looking.
Well, Terry Box, auto writer for The Dallas Morning News, offers some helpful guidance on an event that “looks to be extra good this year,” with the slide show about “10 must-see cars at the DFW Auto Show” at GuideLive.com.
Summarizing Box, here are highlights of the auto show, which runs through Sunday:
Chrysler SRT Viper, “revived after Chrysler’s bankruptcy … looks to be back better than ever.”
Chevrolet SS – ’90s Impala SS updated to the 21st century, “a stylish celebration of large, big-engine sedans.”
Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups – “what they lack in styling, they compensate for with new V-6 and V-8 engines.”
Mazda6, a midsize sedan that has “morphed into a polished, boldly styled” vehicle.
Ford F-150 Atlas concept, a pickup that “ignores the industry-wide move to make all vehicles smaller and more boring.”
Jaguar F-type, “a sweet, nicely styled roadster.”
Buick Encore crossover “will make you forget all those nasty things you said about econoboxes.”
McLaren MP-4 12C, “an exotic mid-engine super car that looks even more spectacular in person than in photos.”
Subaru Forester (restyled), “offers all of Subaru’s … goodness in a better-looking package.”
Acura MDX concept, “almost surely (Acura’s) next MDX.”
You’ll have to track them down yourself in the convention center – an auto treasure hunt – but that should be almost as entertaining as seeing the cars themselves.
Meanwhile, if you need fast-and-easy financing for your new car or other vehicle, visit www.RoadLoans.com to get the process started.
For many, the State Fair of Texas is all about the food. That means corny dogs, at least.
Others go for the midway and carnival games, livestock show, Texas Star Ferris wheel or cotton candy.
But many go for the new-model cars and trucks. This year, approximately 400 of them are on display over three-plus weeks across 350,000 square feet of exhibit space in two buildings and an outdoor area.
The list of manufacturers participating in this year’s show runs long and deep.
But not all vehicles are created equal, according to Terry Box of The Dallas Morning News. Five vehicles really stand out among the hundreds in the show, he reported.
In particular, he shines the spotlight on the 2014 Chevrolet Impala, 2013 Ram Heavy Duty pickups, 2013 Ford F-150 King Ranch and F-250 Super Duty Platinum trucks, 2013 Toyota Avalon and 2013 Nissan Pathfinder (see image above, left). One is located in the main Automobile Building (Impala), two in the Centennial Building (Avalon and Pathfinder), and two in the truck village outside the auto building (Ram and Ford pickups).
Here are excerpts of descriptions Box wrote about each: Chevrolet Impala – “The crisp, well-proportioned new Impala reclaims some of the model’s original mainstream style with a chiseled, smoothly flowing shape and upscale interior.” Ram Heavy Duty pickups – “Still possessing their jut-jawed, heavy-hauler exteriors, the new Rams get even more competitive with refined interiors and a load of new technology.” Ford F-150 King Ranch and F-250 Super Duty Platinum trucks – “Both show how good Ford is at pickup design, giving its trucks polished, well-detailed exteriors and high-end interiors that somehow still look rugged.” Toyota Avalon – “The upscale Avalon mid-size sedan is lower, sportier and far more attractive than it appears in its promotional photos. Even in white, the big mid-size sedan looks surprisingly sleek …” Nissan Pathfinder – “All the world needs is another mid-size crossover/SUV. But the new Pathfinder combines a bunch of compelling virtues.”
To borrow a descriptive phrase, another publication refers to the car show’s eye candy for motorists.
Anyone who has ever been to the State Fair’s car show knows that description is accurate. Never more so than this year.
See a vehicle at the State Fair that you can’t resist, but you need financing? Visit RoadLoans.comfor quick-and-easy decision.
Back in May, General Motors announced that, as part of its government-backed reorganization efforts, only 2,400 of the roughly 6,000 current General Motors dealership franchises would not survive beyond October 2010 because of enforced closings and natural attrition. Laurel, Mont-based Fichtner Chevrolet is not one of them. Ken Fichtner, dealer principal, learned his shop was spared the chopping block by way of a letter delivered last May, welcoming him to the new GM.
“I was elated,” says Fichtner. “Everyone was on pins and needles. It’s your livelihood…Folks are depending on you to be the cornerstone of the community. [We] had to wait for fate.” Although GM projects closing roughly 2,000 dealerships over the next year or so, and Chrysler, LLC has already closed 789 franchises through the bankruptcy courts, surviving franchises like Fichtner Chevrolet are optimistic about the future. “I’m not especially worried [about future performance] given the fact that I know my market will increase in size,” Fichtner says. “What [GM] is asking is not unrealistic. They expect us to stock more and sell more. We are well-positioned.”
Some of GM’s remaining-dealer demands include stocking more vehicles, maintaining a quality facility, keeping competition out of the same showcase, and selling more cars. How many more is not yet known to dealers. Fichtner received a follow-up letter that articulated GM will contact each dealer with more specific objectives after the bankruptcy proceedings fade. Fichtner, for one, is already preparing for this future – the dealership is expanding its pavement to make room for more vehicles, a project that commenced the day Fichtner signed the new GM agreement.
Like Fichtner Chevrolet Simms Chevrolet, has also received a renewal letter from GM. The letter stipulated that the Clio, Mich.-based dealership sign an agreement that outlined new dealer conditions, including not suing GM to become part of the new team, says Bruce Simms, owner and manager. As of the end of June, the letter was the only document Simms had received regarding the new GM, but he expected future contacts and mandates to occur now that the manufacturer has reemerged from bankruptcy.
Although the future is uncertain, Simms isn’t worried. “I’m looking forward to [GM] getting it right,” he says. “My sales in Genesee County are pretty good. In my opinion, there [have been] too many dealers to slice the pie up, which makes it tough.”
As dealerships dissipate, GM and Chrysler dealerships like Simms Chevrolet and Fichtner Chevrolet will have more responsibility. Some additional duties include taking redistributed inventory from winding-down dealers, stricter floorplan requirements and additional sales pressure, says Terry Burns, executive vice president of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association. “It’s back to the trenches,” says Burns.
But even with the upcoming onslaught of closings, Burns says retained dealers aren’t afraid of future brand performance. “The dealers have plenty of inventory and great product, and are focused on selling,” he says.
Ron Poulin of Rochester, N.H.-based Poulin Auto Country is well-versed in both termination and non-termination, receiving dichotomous news from his manufacturers: Chrysler said his dealership could carry on with business, while GM told Poulin to wind down.
Poulin says the Chrysler letter was rather generic, not yet placing new conditions on his business. [Chrysler’s sale to Fiat had not yet been finalized when Poulin received this letter.] The dealership aims to become stronger in the Chrysler product line.
“We have taken additional product that is being dispersed from dealers being closed,” Poulin says, noting the process has been smooth so far and anticipates ordering more products as soon as Chrysler rolls them out. As for his GM business, Poulin says, “You always have the hope that Congress will reverse what is going on, but we are basically in wind-down mode.”
Although it has been told it is a “slouch” by the manufacturer, Poulin says the community has rallied behind the dealership. “It’s very heartwarming to know you have much support,” Poulin says. “As we go forward, we know we will have support from the community.”
Fichtner Chevrolet is ready to move forward, too. “I’m very excited about Chevrolet in particular,” says Fichtner. “[It’s} the best products we have ever had….I’m pleased I’m a Chevrolet dealer.”
Government Program Boosts GM, Chrysler Dealerships ’ Sales
Chrysler and General Motors franchises given a reprieve by their manufacturers received a nice summer treat: more sales, spurred on by the U.S. government’s Cash for Clunkers program, which lets consumers trade in their gas guzzlers for up to $4,500 vouchers toward the purchase of a new, more-fuel-efficient models. Specifically, General Motors benefited the most from Cash for Clunkers (officially the Car Allowance Rebate System), scoring 18.7% of the new vehicles purchased under the program, while Chrysler received 10.6% of Cash for Clunkers’ sales, fifth-most in the nation, according to the Department of Transportation.
The Top 10 vehicles purchased through the program, as of early August, were, in order: Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Escape (with two-wheel drive), Dodge Caliber, Honda Fit and Chevrolet Cobalt. And which cars are getting “clunked?” Lots of GMs and Chryslers, including the Ford Explorer, Ford F-150, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan, Chevrolet Blazer, Chevrolet C1500 Pickup, and the Ford Windstar.