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Tuesday, April 8, 2008 RSSSEND TO A FRIENDPRINT
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At a Glance...
Top Stories
Industry Redeploys Big Guns for Emissions Fight
Car Makers Try to Copy Green Halo of Prius
Ford Enhances Used-car Plan
Detroit Sets Bold Goal: Exporting U.S. Cars
Nissan Plans to Change Mississippi Plant's Focus
Formal Talks to Resume in American Axle Strike
Road for Electric Car Makers Full of Potholes
Opinion: Time to Go Back to the Basics
NADA Update
IRS Issues Guidance on Dealership Cost Segregation Studies
2009 Convention Workshop Proposals Now Being Accepted
Lenovo Offers NADA Members Discount on Thinkpad Notebooks
STAR Answers Dealers' Questions About DMS Vendors
Top Stories
Industry Redeploys Big Guns for Emissions Fight

WASHINGTON -- Automakers and dealers are teaming up on a fresh lobbying effort aimed at preventing states from getting the authority to enforce their own greenhouse gas emissions rules for vehicles. Top lobbyists for groups representing dealers, the Detroit 3 and import-brand automakers are making joint presentations to lawmakers and others ... One such presentation late last month was made by Mike Stanton, president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers; Shane Karr, vice president of federal government affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association; and David Regan, vice president of legislative affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association. An objective of the campaign is defeating proposed legislation that would overturn the Bush administration's denial of permission to states, led by California, to enforce their own greenhouse gas rules. [A] spokesman for the auto alliance said ... the latest lobbying effort is simply a continuation of industry “education” about the importance of a single, tough national standard on fuel economy.
Source:  Automotive News (Subscription required.)

[Editor's Note: NADA is continuing to urge lawmakers to support the single, national fuel economy standard, which recognizes the importance of consumer demand, contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act signed into law late last year.  California’s attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is simply an effort to circumvent this new national standard.  With 16 to 20 states adopting or likely to adopt the same California standard, dealers could be faced with a multi-state fuel economy standard that disregards consumer demand, threatens safety and vehicle availability.]

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Car Makers Try to Copy Green Halo of Prius

DETROIT -- When Tom Weatherbee swapped his minivan for a Toyota Prius hybrid two years ago, he was mostly hoping to save money at the gas pump. But he was pleasantly surprised by both the requests from friends for a test drive and the grins its aerodynamic profile drew at the grocery store, and he basked in the attention. "Even the people who own more expensive cars acknowledge the Prius as being pretty cool," said Weatherbee, 51, an electrical engineer who lives outside Traverse City, Michigan. That, in a nutshell, is the challenge for Toyota Motor Co. as it looks to build on the success of the Prius, the leading hybrid vehicle in the United states, and for rivals such as Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., which are seeking a share of the projected boom in greener cars. Even with U.S. gas prices over $3 a gallon, up 50 percent in three years, marketing experts say U.S. buyers want hybrids that not only reduce fuel consumption and emissions but also make a statement about the driver's commitment to the environment.
Source:  Reuters

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Ford Enhances Used-car Plan

Automaker's certified program helps dealers, thrifty shoppers

Ford Motor Co., buoyed by the improved quality of its vehicle lineup, is enhancing its certified used vehicle program to help dealers struggling with a downturn in new car and truck sales. Ford's new emphasis on used vehicles comes as consumers worried about their finances look for budget-friendly alternatives. Other automakers say their dealers also are looking to certified used vehicle programs to help offset the decline in new model sales. Recent surveys by J.D. Power and Associates and Wachovia show overall demand for used cars, and for certified used-car sales particularly, is increasing across the board. Ford Americas President Mark Fields said the quality gains are helping to reduce warranty costs and improve brand perception, as well as allowing the company to beef up its certified used program. Dealers were notified of the changes last week via e-mail. Ford plans to let consumers know with an online advertising campaign targeting Web sites ... that are popular with used-car shoppers.
Source:  The Detroit News

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Detroit Sets Bold Goal: Exporting U.S. Cars

Last year's landmark labor deals and the weak dollar are breathing new life into U.S. auto plants, leading Detroit's auto makers to plan sizable exports of U.S.-made vehicles to markets around the world. For years the U.S. has been one of the most expensive places in the world to make cars. But the new contracts with the United Auto Workers union signed last fall significantly improve the global competitive position of Big Three plants. The weaker dollar, which makes production in the U.S. less expensive, is also helping to turn the economics of domestic production upside down. The U.S. last year exported $50.66 billion worth of cars and light trucks, according to the Commerce Department, or about a third of what it imported. Roughly half of its exports are to neighboring Mexico and Canada. Much of the rest consists of higher-end vehicles unavailable elsewhere. Detroit's auto makers believe they can now export more mass-market vehicles. Until the new contract was signed, auto labor in the U.S. was 50 percent more expensive than in France and Japan. Only Germany had higher labor costs than the U.S.
Source:  The Wall Street Journal (Subscription required.)

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Nissan Plans to Change Mississippi Plant's Focus

Nissan says it will stop making the Quest minivan and its two full-size SUVs, the Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX56, at its Canton, Miss., factory and use it to make "light commercial vehicles" starting in the first quarter of 2010. The automaker did not say when or where — or if — it will build next-generation versions of the minivan and big SUVS, which are slow sellers in declining market segments, when the plant switches to the unspecified commercial trucks. "The decision has not been finalized. The intention is to continue them, but we don't know where we will manufacture them," Nissan spokeswoman Frederique Le Greves said Monday. "When we get to the end of each vehicle's cycle, we look at the market" and decide the fate of each vehicle, she said.
Source:  USA Today

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Formal Talks to Resume in American Axle Strike

Full bargaining teams from the UAW and American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. are expected to meet Wednesday in the first formal talks between the two sides in a month. The scheduled talks come after UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and American Axle CEO Dick Dauch met privately Monday in a session that a company spokeswoman called productive. Perhaps echoing the rapid progress after a high-level meeting during the recent TV writers' strike, Monday's tête-À-tête is being followed quickly by a number of developments in the 6-week-old strike by 3,650 American Axle workers at four plants. It has forced thousands of layoffs at General Motors Corp. and several suppliers, all of which have had to cut production.
Source:  The Detroit Free Press

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Road for Electric Car Makers Full of Potholes

Lacking the acumen of traditional automakers, the start-ups building the vehicles are struggling with production problems

On an overcast Friday in February, about 100 people gathered behind Tesla Motors Inc. headquarters, awaiting the future of transportation. A truck pulled up with a trailer, which disgorged a sleek black electric sports car that promises to change the world as much as the Model T did a century ago. The crowd toasted with champagne as Elon Musk, Tesla's chairman, climbed a staircase and made a triumphant speech. "This is the culmination of an enormous amount of work," he said. What he didn't mention was that Tesla's Roadster had arrived months behind schedule with an improvised transmission that reduced acceleration by 40 percent. Or that Tesla plans to make fewer than 1,000 of the cars this year -- and sell them for $100,000 apiece. Tesla and more than two dozen other start-up companies -- most based in California and backed by piles of venture capital -- are in a feverish race to develop a viable electricity-powered alternative to the internal combustion engine. Yet even environmentalists and investors who want to see these companies succeed question whether they have the know-how or leadership to replace the nation's gasoline fleet with one that runs on electrons. "There are real questions about whether they can do this," said Chelsea Sexton, who worked with General Motors Corp. on electric cars in the 1990s and is now executive director of Plug In America, an advocacy group. "There's a lot of talk, but it's still vaporware."
Source:  The Los Angeles Times

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Opinion: Time to Go Back to the Basics
by Keith Crain

Most American auto dealers have become accustomed to seeing swings in the retail market over the past few decades. Well, it's time to go back to the basics. This is a great opportunity for dealers to look at the rest of their operations beyond new-vehicle sales. In the past, most dealers knew how to make good profits on used cars, service and parts. This is the time to take a hard look at those profit centers and not worry about the entire business relying on new-car sales. Dealers should view each department as a stand-alone profit source. Dealers may not be able to rely on robust new-car sales for the foreseeable future, but they can still be profitable. It takes a good, strong operator to make money in tough times. That's why it makes sense to get back to the basics.
Source:  Automotive News (Subscription required.)

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NADA Update
IRS Issues Guidance on Dealership Cost Segregation Studies

The IRS has issued new technical guidance to its field examiners on dealership cost segregation studies, which many dealerships use to determine the appropriate depreciation period for different components of its facility. The new guidance and a Motor Vehicle Technical Advisor Automotive Alert explaining it are available at www.nada.org/regulations under “Recent Federal Agency Publications.”

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2009 Convention Workshop Proposals Now Being Accepted

Proposals are now being accepted for speakers who are interested in presenting a workshop at the 2009 NADA Convention & Exposition in New Orleans January 24-27. To download the proposal, go to www.nada.org/workshops. Please read through the entire application before submitting. Completed proposals should be postmarked by midnight, April 25, 2008.  For more information, contact NADA Management Education at (703) 821-7227 or workshops@nada.org.

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Lenovo Offers NADA Members Discount on Thinkpad Notebooks

NADA members can save three ways during the month of April:

  • Instant savings with discounted Web pricing
  • Save even more with your NADA discount
  • Extra savings with eCoupon USXSAVE4SPRING at checkout

To take advantage of these savings, visit www.nada.org/ProductsServices/Technology, click on "PC Purchase Program" (member log-in required), then click on Lenovo, or call 800-426-7235. Enter eCoupon USXSAVE4SPRING at checkout for your cumulative discount. Free ground shipping is offered on all Web orders! Visit the Web site often for special limited-time eCoupons.

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STAR Answers Dealers' Questions About DMS Vendors
Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail (STAR) has developed new guidelines when dealers are evaluating Dealer Management Systems Dealer Management System vendors. Visit STAR's Dealer Infrastructure Guidelines (DIG) publication.  To learn what issues to consider when choosing a network provider, click here.
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Quotable
 
"There are real questions about whether they can do this. There's a lot of talk, but it's still vaporware."

    -- Chelsea Sexton, who worked with General Motors Corp. on electric cars in the 1990s and is now executive director of advocacy group Plug In America, referring to the ability of start-ups to replace the nation's gasoline fleet with one that runs on electrons, The Los Angeles Times, April 5
Video Reports
 
April is Automotive Career Month. Learn About Careers in the Auto Industry.

 Learn about careers in the auto industry. 

 NADA/USA Today Innovation Award Goes to "Green" Dealership in Vermont.
 NADA Convention Heads to New Orleans in 2009.
 NADA Foundation Contributes to Canine Companions for Independence.
 2008 Convention Highlights

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