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At a Glance...
Top Stories
Dealers Buy $1 Million Worth of GM Stock
Despite Auto Trends, Local Dealers Driven to Grow
GM Opens Cutting-Edge Green Dealership Near Detroit
Suddenly, '08 Campaign Spotlight Finds Detroit 3
GM, Ford, Nissan Set Aside Hybrids so New York's Yellow Taxis Can Go Green
Panel Says $200B Needed for Hydrogen Vehicles
Chrysler May Alter Sebring, Avenger
Gore Urges Fast Energy Makeover
Life in the Cute Lane
NADA Update
Ballots for NADA Directors from Kansas and N. Calif. due Today
Auto Dealers Invited to SEMA Show to Learn about $38 Billion Accessory Market
NADA Director Receives Award from Minority Dealer Association
Lenovo Offers NADA Members Savings on ThinkPad Notebooks
STAR Answers Dealers' Questions About Dealership Data Security
Top Stories
Dealers Buy $1 Million Worth of GM Stock

Symbolic gesture shows support for embattled automaker
The 20 members of General Motors’ national dealer council are putting their money where their mouths are. They purchased more than $1 million worth of GM stock this week. “We took a hard look at General Motors and we wanted to show our confidence in General Motors,” says Duane Paddock, co-chair of GM’s national dealer council and owner of Paddock Chevrolet in Kenmore, N.Y. “We firmly believe in GM and that we have the best products to sell, our fuel economy is the best story in the industry and the best way to do it was to buy an investment stock.” Paddock called GM’s sales chief, Mark LaNeve, that day and told him what the council was thinking. “I said, ‘I think that’s great,’ ” said LaNeve, GM’s vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing in an interview with Automotive News. “This is a symbolic show of support.” Paddock says it’s also a good investment. The group bought more than 107,000 shares for a total of $1,057,000, he said. “Customers, media and analysts will say, ‘Hey, these guys are at street level and they have confidence’ and that’s a good thing,” LaNeve said. “I’m not so worried about boosting morale; I’m interested in confidence. The main issue you fight right now is consumer confidence.”
Source:  Automotive News (Subscription required.)

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Despite Auto Trends, Local Dealers Driven to Grow

In the latest in a series of setbacks for automakers, General Motors Corp. announced this week that it is laying off workers, slashing truck production and borrowing between $2 billion and $3 billion to make up for major losses. It's another sign of tough times in an embattled industry. But a look at some of the big players on Dubuque's auto retail scene would seem to paint a picture of growth. Some of the area's bigger dealers have either recently expanded or are planning to put more money into their dealerships despite the sluggish national economy and soft auto market. "Service and used car sales will be important for dealership financial performance at any time, but particularly during current times when new car sales are slow," said Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association... Nearly half the dealership respondents in a recent NADA survey said they have conducted a major remodeling project in the past five years. And Taylor doesn't seem to think the trend will drop off, as dealers strive to offer more choices and match shifting customer demand in a difficult market. Mike Finnin, owner of Mike Finnin Motors, a Ford, Jeep and Chrysler dealership, recently added the Kia line, a new showroom with about 10 new employees. He said the addition was a specific plan. "Basically, they haven't been in the states that long," he said. "I've been talking to them for three or four years and they're just finally expanding into this size market." It is the type of investment, Finnin said, that resonates in a market where consumers are seeking small, compact cars. It's a strategy that Taylor has seen as well, as dealers look to capitalize on the demand for smaller and more-efficient vehicles. "Generally, it would be a good time to open a dealership that offered a wide assortment of economical cars and trucks, but sales will be slowed somewhat by slower economic growth in most parts of the country," he said. "Small car specialists such as Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Suzuki, Toyota and Volkswagen should enjoy higher small car sales in coming months if supplies of these cars are available to dealers."
Source:  Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, Iowa)

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GM Opens Cutting-Edge Green Dealership Near Detroit

Earth-friendly move offers rare bright spot in publicity for embattled automaker
DETROIT -- As it plots major spending cuts and bats back bankruptcy rumors, General Motors on Wednesday celebrated the opening of a $15 million green dealership, LaFontaine Automotive Group's new Buick-Pontiac-GMC and Cadillac facility in suburban Detroit. Among other things, the 64,000-square-foot building has 85 skylights to tap into natural light and reduce light bills and solid doors made of corncobs and wheat. Eight-five percent of its car-wash water is recycled, and rainwater is used for landscape irrigation. "We feel we are pioneers," said ... owner Mike LaFontaine, at a press event. He predicted any new dealership built in the next five to 10 years will be green. When asked about the benefits of his green dealership, he said, "There's a tremendous number of consumers out there who want to purchase from a green dealer." The group sold 4,000 new and used vehicles last year, he added. [LaFontaine's son Ryan, general manager of the dealership,] said the family started talking about a new facility in 2000 because it was outgrowing its old location nearby. But the company decided two years ago to "go green" and probably spent an extra $2 million to do that and to qualify for Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Although the dealership originally expected to recoup the payout for the system in 11 years, Mike LaFontaine said he now expects that will happen in five or six years due to energy savings of up to 54 percent.
Source:  Automotive News (Subscription required.)

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Suddenly, '08 Campaign Spotlight Finds Detroit 3

WASHINGTON -- After years of complaints that Washington cared little about its woes, Detroit's auto industry has become a frequent backdrop for John McCain and Barack Obama to pitch their economic plans. Whether that attention will translate into help for automakers may be evident as soon as September. As Republican presidential hopeful McCain visits the engineering headquarters of General Motors Corp. in Warren today, auto industry allies on Capitol Hill are pushing funding for tens of billions of dollars worth of low-cost loans for automakers to be included in a potential second economic stimulus bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she would bring the bill to the floor in weeks. Those loans -- $25 billion of which were approved but not funded in last year's energy bill -- could be used for revamping old factories and engineering hybrids and other advanced vehicles. While Detroit automakers have disavowed any ideas of a federal bailout, the loan program could be the only aid for the cash-strapped industry Congress considers this year. Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, has backed such programs in the past and voted for their funding last year. A spokesman for McCain said the Arizona senator opposed the loan program because his proposals -- a $300-million prize for developing advanced batteries, a $5,000 tax credit for buyers of plug-in hybrids and requirements for automakers to build more flex-fuel vehicles -- would accomplish the same goals. GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company welcomed the attention from the candidates as a chance to "reaffirm this industry and this company's economic importance to the country."
Source:  Detroit Free Press

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GM, Ford, Nissan Set Aside Hybrids so New York's Yellow Taxis Can Go Green

NEW YORK -- Three major auto manufacturers are promising to reserve 300 new hybrid vehicles each month exclusively for New York as it replaces its entire fleet of yellow cabs. Nissan North America, General Motors and Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that they are setting aside the environmentally friendly cars to help the city reach its goal of making all yellow cabs green by 2012. There are about 13,000 cabs on the street and more than 1,300 are hybrids. New city regulations require that any new cab coming into service after Oct. 1, 2008, achieve a fuel efficiency standard of 25 m.p.g. The following year, that increases to 30 m.p.g. The standard yellow cab in use today, the Ford Crown Victoria, gets about 14 m.p.g. But some hybrid models, which run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, achieve as much as 36.
Source:  Associated Press

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Panel Says $200B Needed for Hydrogen Vehicles

WASHINGTON -- The United States needs to invest $200 billion in new fueling stations and research to speed up the development and widespread use of hydrogen-powered automobiles, the National Academies of Science said in a report Thursday. That figure includes about $55 billion in government funding through 2023, with most of the rest coming from the auto and energy industries. The report said the maximum number of hydrogen vehicles on the roads by that time would be 2 million -- a small fraction of the total U.S. vehicle population of about 300 million cars and trucks. "Such vehicles are not likely to be cost competitive until after 2020," the 256-page report said, but "could grow rapidly" after that to 2 million by 2030. By 2050, they could account for 80 percent of all vehicles. The report comes three years after Congress ordered the National Academy to assess the feasibility of broader hydrogen use and the findings could boost prospects for increasing government research funding.
Source:  The Detroit News

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Chrysler May Alter Sebring, Avenger

Automaker considers scrapping high-end models, adding features to mid-level versions
Chrysler LLC may eliminate the highest trim levels of its Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring sedans while adding more luxury amenities to the mid-level models of those vehicles. The revisions, part of a strategy called "Fight Back," mean less-expensive models would have standard features such as heated seats that are now offered only in costlier versions, according to a document sent to parts suppliers, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday. The strategy may help sales of those sedans, two of Chrysler's more fuel-efficient cars. "Given where fuel prices are at, I'm not sure that people are following the old progression that the higher the trim-level, the bigger the engine," [said Mike Wall, automotive analyst with CSM Worldwide.] "(Chrysler) needs to hit what the customer wants, and that may be a 4-cylinder engine with leather seats and a navigation system."
Source:  The Detroit News

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Gore Urges Fast Energy Makeover

Power Grid Could Go Renewable in 10 Years, He Says
Former vice president Al Gore yesterday called on Americans to convert all electricity generation to wind, solar and other renewable sources within 10 years and end their reliance on fossil fuels for the sake of the U.S. economy and the world's climate. He said that Americans need to "shake off complacency" and "throw aside old habits," and he asserted that the falling cost of solar power, the ample winds of the Midwest and the high price of oil make the shift to renewable energy "achievable, affordable and transformative." He also called on automobile companies to make plug-in electric cars and advocated an overhaul of the national electricity grid "to link areas where the sun shines and the wind blows to the cities in the East and the West that need the electricity." Energy experts greeted Gore's speech with skepticism... "It's extremely important to have people like Al Gore who are pushing and pressing the edge of the envelope," said Philip R. Sharp, president of Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank. "But at this point I don't think there's anyone in the industry who thinks that goal, as a practical matter, could be met. This is not yet a plan for action; this is a superstretch goal." Half the nation's electricity comes from coal plants, and most of them have expected operating lives beyond 10 years; replacing them would require massive capital investment and throw scores of big energy firms into turmoil. Moreover, solar and wind equipment manufacturers would be hard-pressed to supply enough wind turbines and solar panels to meet Gore's goals in a decade. [Gore] finished to a standing ovation and left to the music of U2's "Beautiful Day." As people filed out of the hall, three black cars waited for Gore and his entourage. A young woman walked up to the first one, a Lincoln Town Car, and stuck a handwritten note on the windshield: "I wish I were a Prius."
Source:  The Washington Post

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Life in the Cute Lane

To Curb Fuel Costs and Emissions, SUV Drivers Downshift to Stylish, Super-Compact Smart Car
Elizabeth Szewczyk saw a tiny picture of the Smart Fortwo in a car magazine, and knew it was her next ride. She already owned her ideal car -- a bright yellow 2005 Jeep Wrangler -- but the gas mileage was horrible. She remembers watching the fuel gauge drop as she drove down the highway and realizing it was time to trade in her childhood dream. She loved the strong American feel of the Wrangler, but the eye-catching Smart car helped her get over it. "Here I am driving this thing and I still feel amazing," said Szewczyk, 27. "The Jeep was stylish, but I never got the attention before that I get with this." The two-seater Smart car, manufactured by Mercedes-Benz Cars and sold in Europe for a decade, hit the U.S. market in January. Most range from $14,000 to about $18,000, taxes and fees included. By the end of June, Smart had well over 30,000 people on a waiting list -- which is now about a year long -- and had sold almost 11,400 cars. Smart markets its car as an eco-friendly vehicle that appeals to trendsetters of all ages and income levels. The car's tagline exhorts consumers to "open your mind to the car that challenges the status quo." But don't expect Smart car centers to be filled only with Greenpeace activists. Many local Smart car buyers are owners of the iconic symbol of American consumerism: the sport-utility vehicle. And they aren't necessarily going from monster to midget cold turkey; many keep their gas guzzlers and use their fuel-efficient car for city driving.
Source:  The Washington Post

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NADA Update
Ballots for NADA Directors from Kansas and N. Calif. due Today

Ballots for nominating members to serve as NADA director from Kansas and runoff ballots to elect a director from Northern California must be returned postmarked by today. The newly-elected directors take office Jan. 27, 2009 and serve a 3-year term. The winners will be announced at the 2009 NADA Convention & Exposition in New Orleans.

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Auto Dealers Invited to SEMA Show to Learn about $38 Billion Accessory Market

DIAMOND BAR, Calif. -- While the nation’s new-car and -truck dealers continue to make major investments in their dealerships to improve sales and customer satisfaction, one area of potential new business has remained relatively untapped—the $38 billion accessory market. That’s why Phil Brady, president of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), and Chris Kersting, president and CEO of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), have announced a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive “Dealer Day” program designed exclusively for NADA members at the 2008 SEMA Show. “Dealer Day” is designed to give dealer principals several ideas, tools and resources on how to integrate a strong and successful accessory program at their dealerships. The half-day program is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 5 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It’s the first time the SEMA Show will dedicate an exclusive program just for NADA members. There is no cost to attend “Dealer Day. “At a time when many dealers are looking for new ways to generate additional revenue and sales, this program will provide dealers with new ideas and strategies to help improve their bottom-line performance by creating profitable accessory programs,” says Brady. “Through a series of activities and presentations, dealers will learn about what’s happening in the specialty industry and discover how profitable an accessory program can be, and they will learn how to successfully incorporate such a program at their dealerships,” Kersting says. As an added feature, participating dealers will have an opportunity to meet directly with proven experts who will share real-world case studies. To register or receive more information about the program, e-mail dealerlink@sema.org.
Source:  NADA Newswire

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NADA Director Receives Award from Minority Dealer Association

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Dale Early was the recipient of the Jesse Jones Visionary Award presented by the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers. Early is a director at-large of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The award, which recognizes an individual’s vision, vigilance and work initiatives that have increased opportunities for ethic minorities, was presented to Early at the 2008 NAMAD Annual Membership Conference held July 9-12 in La Jolla, Calif.

"I am honored to receive this award because Jesse Jones was my first dealer role model," said Early, owner of Deerbrook Forest Chrysler Jeep in Kingwood, Texas, and chairman of NADA's public affairs committee. "To be honored with an award that bears his name as well as the principles he stood for is extremely special."

NAMAD also recognized three longtime members with Lifetime Achievement Awards. The winners were Nathan Conyers, Mel Farr and William Shack. The award recognizes individuals for a lifetime of significant contributions to the automotive industry and to the spirit of diversity and inclusion.

"These three pioneers—who founded NAMAD—together have created opportunities for all minority dealers," said Damon Lester, NAMAD president. "Today, we are the beneficiaries of their achievements and foresight."

"They committed their resources to building an institution dedicated to creating opportunities for minorities especially in the automobile industry but not limited to this industry," Lester added.

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Lenovo Offers NADA Members Savings on ThinkPad Notebooks

 

NADA members can save up to $650 on ThinkPad notebooks by using the eCoupon USXSUMMERHEAT at checkout until July 29. To take advantage of the discount, visit NADA's PC Purchase Program Web site (member login required), then click on the link for Lenovo or call 1-800-426-7235, Option 1, Ext. 4838. Enter eCoupon USXSUMMERHEAT at checkout. Free ground shipping is available on all Web orders.

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STAR Answers Dealers' Questions About Dealership Data Security

Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail (STAR) has developed new guidelines to help dealers evaluate their data security. Visit STAR's Dealer Infrastructure Guidelines (DIG) publication for more information. Also, to learn what features to look for in a good backup and recovery system, click here.

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Featured Video
 

Iowa Dealership Endures Extensive Flood Damage

More Video Highlights
Quotable
 
"We firmly believe in GM and that we have the best products to sell, our fuel economy is the best story in the industry and the best way to do it was to buy an investment stock."

    -- Duane Paddock, co-chair of GM’s national dealer council and owner of Paddock Chevrolet in Kenmore, N.Y., explaining why a group of GM dealers purchased $1 million of GM stock this week, Automotive News, July 17


"There's a tremendous number of consumers out there who want to purchase from a green dealer."
  

    -- Mike LaFontaine, owner of LaFontaine Automotive Group's new LEED-certified Buick-Pontiac-GMC and Cadillac facility in suburban Detroit, Automotive News, July 18


"... these guys are at street level and they have confidence and that's a good thing."
           

    -- GM's sales chief Mark LaNeve, referring to GM dealers purchasing $1 million of GM stock, Automotive News, July 17


"Service and used car sales will be important for dealership financial performance at any time, but particularly during current times when new car sales are slow."
          

    -- NADA Chief Economist Paul Taylor, Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, Iowa), July 17


GM welcomed the attention from the candidates as a chance to "reaffirm this industry and this company's economic importance to the country."
       

    -- GM spokesman Greg Martin, responding to renewed interest in the auto industry by presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, Detroit Free Press, July 18


"Such vehicles are not likely to be cost competitive until after 2020 but could grow rapidly" after that to 2 million by 2030. By 2050, they could account for 80 percent of all vehicles
.       

    -- The National Academies of Science report detailing the need for the United States to invest $200 billion in new fueling stations and research to speed up the development and widespread use of hydrogen-powered automobiles, The Detroit News, July 18


"Given where fuel prices are at, I'm not sure that people are following the old progression that the higher the trim-level, the bigger the engine. (Chrysler) needs to hit what the customer wants, and that may be a 4-cylinder engine with leather seats and a navigation system."
           

    -- Mike Wall, automotive analyst with CSM Worldwide, The Detroit News, July 18


Americans need to "shake off complacency" and "throw aside old habits," and he asserted that the falling cost of solar power, the ample winds of the Midwest and the high price of oil make the shift to renewable energy "achievable, affordable and transformative."
       

    -- Former vice president Al Gore, The Washington Post, July 18


"I wish I were a Prius."
   

    -- A young woman stuck a handwritten note on the windshield of a Lincoln Town Car awaiting former vice president Al Gore as he left George Washington University following his speech that called for an energy makeover plan, The Washington Post, July 18


"The Jeep was stylish, but I never got the attention before that I get with this."
       

    -- Consumer Elizabeth Szewczyk referring to her Smart Fortwo, The Washington Post, July 18
Video Highlights
 
 

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On the Lighter Side
 
 

WEIRD SCIENCE?

" . . . it can't look like a science project. It's got to be something that people want to buy."

    -- Bob Boniface, GM's design director of flexible electric vehicles, on the Chevy Volt.

Source:  NADA's Auto Exec Magazine

 
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