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Inside this issue
For Dealers, Many Paths to Success
Aha! Hiring Retirees Proves to Be a Wise Move
Fisker Sales Talks Fall Apart
Ford, GM and Fiat Worst Hit By 10% Drop in European Car Sales in February
Audi On a Roll: Automaker Setting Annual Sales Records
Higher-Volume Cars Get Carbon Fiber
Automakers: 'Quiet Cars' Rule too Loud, Requires More Time
At 50, Mustang Must Balance Youthful Appeal, Tradition
Click here for more auto industry news at NADAFrontPage.com. .
Top Stories
For Dealers, Many Paths to Success

Small groups lead the way in per-store retail sales

The top 125 U.S. dealership groups in 2012 have driven different paths to success. Their business models are as diverse as the vehicles they sell, as the data in our ranking show. Collectively, they accounted for almost a fifth of all U.S. light-vehicle sales last year, up about a percentage point from 2011. Only seven are publicly owned, multibillion-dollar corporations. Six of those are in the top 10 ranked by new-vehicle retail sales. The seventh, the used-car powerhouse CarMax Inc., was only No. 107 -- but it sold a whopping 408,080 used units. Most of the 125 groups have between 10 and 20 stores. Fifteen groups run 30 or more dealerships -- and five have more than 100.
Source: Automotive News

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Aha! Hiring Retirees Proves to Be a Wise Move

In 1997, fixed-operations manager Richard Bauman opened up a whole new world of hiring possibilities for Cascade Auto Group's Michelle Primm. Bauman, then 61, had worked at a nearby dealership until it closed, but he wasn't ready to leave the business permanently. Though he didn't want to work full time, Bauman wanted to stay busy yet have a flexible schedule. Primm, who was finding it increasingly difficult to hire dealership employees, decided to bring him on at her family's dealership in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. "It works great. He has trained my last two parts managers and really mentors them and helps with different inventory projects. I work around the births of his grandchildren and his golf game." Moreover, the experience convinced Primm of the benefit of hiring retirees or near-retirees to work in the dealership. Sixteen years later, Cascade employs a dozen people fitting that description and ranging in age from their late 50s to their 80s. They make up about 19 percent of the company's work force.
Source: Automotive News

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Fisker Sales Talks Fall Apart

Chinese auto makers have pulled back from talks to buy Fisker Automotive Inc. over a disagreement on whether to revive a loan agreement with the U.S., leaving the Anaheim, Calif., company's future uncertain ahead of an April loan payment. Fisker management had proposed to the Chinese that as part of any sale it tap the remaining portion of a $529 million U.S. loan, a move that would commit a new owner to building Fisker cars at a former General Motors Co. auto factory in Delaware, a person familiar with the situation said on Monday. The U.S. government gained collateral on Fisker assets under its Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan and would essentially control the company in the event of a default or bankruptcy. The U.S. could agree to extend the deadline for payment or otherwise restructure the $192 million loan. The Chinese auto makers that have been discussing an investment in Fisker, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and Dongfeng Motor Corp., recently backed away from discussions, three people familiar with the matter said. One factor in their decision was the potential requirement that company build cars in Delaware, one of the people said.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Ford, GM and Fiat Worst Hit By 10% Drop in European Car Sales in February

Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Fiat were the automakers worst hit as European passenger car registrations fell 10 percent to 829,359 in February. The region's deepening recession continued to deter customers from buying cars despite steep discounting. Ford's sales in the EU and EFTA countries were down 21 percent last month, according to figures released by industry association ACEA. Ford said its sales have been hit by production stoppages at its factory in Genk, Belgium, which is due to close next year. GM's European sales were down 20 percent with Opel/Vauxhall's volume declining by 15 percent and Chevrolet down 38 percent. Fiat Group posted a 16 percent drop in European sales.
Source: Automotive News

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Audi On a Roll: Automaker Setting Annual Sales Records

Audi dealers across the country are struggling to meet demand for many of their models, with U.S. officials pressing the factory back in Germany to up their allotment. It's a far different situation from what Volkswagen's luxury subsidiary faced two decades ago. Still roiling from a safety scandal for which it was eventually cleared, Audi sales all but dried up. And in 1992, the maker came close to pulling out of the U.S. market, a decision it reversed only at the last minute. Today, Audi is one of the market's fastest-growing luxury brands, setting a series of annual sales records.
Source: MSNBC

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Higher-Volume Cars Get Carbon Fiber

Suppliers find ways to cut cost of the strong, lightweight material

Carbon fiber has finally broken out of its European supercar niche. The 2013 SRT Viper and the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Corvette have carbon fiber hoods and other parts, and the Corvette's production is likely to top 20,000 units this year. That's a far cry from the early days of carbon fiber, when a hand-built component took hours to produce and was too costly for volume vehicles. That's the good news. The bad news is that carbon fiber is still expensive. The raw material for a carbon fiber part costs $10 to $15 a pound, according to one estimate. That cost must fall to $5 a pound for economical mass production, industry insiders say. Some suppliers are working hard to bring down the cost because carbon fiber is strong and lightweight. General Motors says the material is 10 times stronger than steel but weighs one-fourth as much.
Source: Automotive News

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Automakers: 'Quiet Cars' Rule too Loud, Requires More Time

Major automakers say the Obama administration's "quiet cars" rule to help blind pedestrians avoid electric vehicles and other nearly silent vehicles would result in warning sounds that are too loud. Two trade groups representing Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and other major Asian and European automakers raised serious concerns about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's proposed rules mandating minimum sound levels to warn the visually impaired as well as bicyclists. The rule "is too complicated and is unnecessarily prescriptive. If implemented as proposed, it would result in alert sounds that are louder than necessary, create driver and occupant annoyance and cost more than necessary," said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of Global Automakers in joint written comments to NHTSA.
Source: The Detroit News

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At 50, Mustang Must Balance Youthful Appeal, Tradition

Millions of passionate fans are waiting for the all-new 50th anniversary Ford Mustang that will go on sale as a 2015 model next year. One thing's certain: Whatever Ford does, some of them will hate it. "There's a fervent debate about the next Mustang," said Matthew Anderson, transportation curator of the Henry Ford Museum. People come to the Henry Ford every day for a look at the first Mustang ever built. Rumors that Ford would ditch tradition for a radically new look infuriated some last year. "The challenge is to address buyers who are old enough to understand the design of the original, and younger ones who don't have any connection with that car," said design consultant David Rand. "If you create a car that appeals to both, you've got a hit on your hands."
Source: Detroit Free Press

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Quotable
"If you create a car that appeals to both [young and old buyers], you've got a hit on your hands." 

    -- David Rand, design consultant, commenting on the all-new 50th anniversary Ford Mustang expected to go on sale next year, Detroit Free Press, March 17
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