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Inside this issue
Commentary: Together, Hillary Clinton and NADA Show Their Team Spirit
Fresh Faces at NADA Get Retail Baptism
VW Calms Dealers, Charts 'Next Big Step'
Chrysler Sales Up 8% in January
Toyota Nearing $40B in Cash, Faces Calls to Make Payouts, Invest in Plants
Ford Won't Require Certification for F-150 Aluminum Repairs
Amid Super Bowl Rout, Automakers Tackle Their Brand Challenges
Click here for more auto industry news at NADAFrontPage.com. .
Top Stories
Commentary: Together, Hillary Clinton and NADA Show Their Team Spirit
By Gabe Nelson


David Wesctcott, 2013 NADA chairman, interviews former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the NADA Convention & Expo in New Orleans on Jan. 27.

They might disagree with her political views, but auto dealers could learn a thing or two from Hillary Clinton. Clinton captivated a crowd of 4,000 last week at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention [in New Orleans], drawing applause despite the Republican leanings of the group's members. She did it by emphasizing shared American priorities on national security and economic growth and by spinning yarns about the cars she had driven, such as the yellow Fiat she owned while teaching at the University of Arkansas until it was stolen and wrecked in a high-speed chase. There was even a verbal wink at the notion of a Fiat reaching high speed. Clinton hasn't driven a car since 1996, but she sure knows how to play to a room full of auto dealers.

It was a softer side of Clinton than the one people got used to seeing during two decades of nonstop political warfare, culminating in her bitter 2008 presidential campaign fight against Barack Obama. Time and again during her speech, Clinton returned to a message of unity -- that in all her travels and trials as secretary of state, she saw that the people of the world are aching to see America overcome its political divides. "Whether Republican or Democrat or conservative or liberal, I want them to see we're all on the same team," Clinton said. "We're on the American team."

It's easy to be cynical, to say Clinton was acting the part of unifier for political gain. But the generous applause at the NADA convention made it feel, for a moment at least, like what Clinton was saying was possible. With NADA in a pitched standoff with the Obama administration over bias in auto lending, both Clinton's message and tone are worth remembering. Americans share certain core principles. We agree that discrimination is wrong. We agree that consumers should not be deceived into inflated prices. And we agree -- yes, even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- that when dealers work hard to make affordable credit available, they deserve to be compensated. Given the agreement on the underlying truths, it's not so far-fetched to think that the CFPB and dealers can treat each other with respect and come to a reasonable agreement.

NADA already is showing its softer, more pragmatic side. Last year, it changed its tack on Obamacare, urging members to gear up for compliance rather than hold out for an unlikely repeal. Last month, on the eve of the convention, it came out with a proposed approach that could help ease concerns about loan discrimination. It was an olive branch to the CFPB and a chance to rub out whatever bias may linger in the auto-loan market. And just look at how NADA treated Clinton last week.

David Westcott, the outgoing chairman of NADA and a Buick-GMC dealer from Burlington, N.C., was every bit the Southern gentleman in his sit-down Q&A with the former first lady. He even brought his wife and his 92-year-old mother backstage to meet Clinton and talk about the family business. It was a courteous gesture and a politically astute one, too. After all, she may be president some day.

Months ago, a few dealers were so disgusted by the selection of Clinton as a convention speaker that they threatened not to show up. The room was plenty full without them. And those who attended did NADA a big political favor by helping to demonstrate that the nation's auto dealers are ready to do business with anyone -- that they're on the American team. "She got quite a few standing ovations," Westcott said, "but that's what we wanted."
Source: Automotive News

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Fresh Faces at NADA Get Retail Baptism

Recently promoted execs press the flesh, state plans

As Dave Zuchowski greeted well-wishers at a star-studded industry party here last week, Toyota stalwart Bob Carter stepped up to congratulate the new CEO of Hyundai Motor America. After Carter introduced Zuchowski to Kazuo Ohara, head of Toyota's U.S. sales arm, and then cracked a couple of jokes, the executives became absorbed in a lively conversation about fuel cell vehicles. It was a merry moment, the kind played out several times during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention as new U.S. chiefs at Hyundai, Volkswagen, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and Mini arrived in New Orleans, along with new national sales bosses at Chevrolet and Chrysler.
Source: Automotive News

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VW Calms Dealers, Charts 'Next Big Step'

New CEO to refocus ads in advance of key launches

Michael Horn is new enough to his U.S. assignment that he's still looking for a permanent home in suburban Washington for his family. But Volkswagen Group of America's new CEO hasn't had a moment to waste getting his corporate house in order. Horn, who headed VW's global aftersales business in Germany before his appointment in December, met with VW dealers here Jan. 26 hoping to quell a near-revolt over stair-step bonuses, shrinking profits and complex commands from the factory. Judging by dealers' reactions to his promises, he seems to have succeeded. "A lot of the issues that we struggled with for the last couple years have been addressed," says Jimmy Ellis, a longtime VW dealer from Atlanta who has called for many policy changes as chairman of the brand's U.S. dealer council. "And I'm confident that as we work over the next few months, those will now be put to bed."
Source: Automotive News
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Chrysler Sales Up 8% in January

Chrysler Group LLC says its January sales climbed 8 percent compared to the same month a year ago, boosted by sales of the company's Ram pickup and Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler sold 127,183 vehicles last month, the 46th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains for the Auburn Hills, [Mich.] automaker. Four of Chrysler's five brands — Jeep, Fiat, Ram and Chrysler — improved their sales versus January 2013. Only Dodge had a sales decline. Analysts are expecting a wide range of sales results for January. The disparities are because of brutally frigid weather that swept most of the nation during January's final week.
Source: The Detroit News
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Toyota Nearing $40B in Cash, Faces Calls to Make Payouts, Invest in Plants

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, whose company has accumulated a cash pile of almost $40 billion, is facing calls to put that money to better use. The world's largest carmaker is seeing profits surge as the yen weakens and demand rises in the U.S. and China. The company will probably report on Tuesday net income quadrupled to 434.3 billion yen ($4.3 billion) last quarter, according to the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg, adding to the 3.88 trillion yen in cash and short-term investments it had at the end of September. Toyoda's reluctance to spend has prompted the likes of Takaki Nakanishi, Institutional Investor magazine's top-ranked Japanese auto analyst, to say the Camry maker should return more money to shareholders or increase capital investments. Options include higher dividend payments, stock buybacks, or building factories in markets such as North America and China, where capacity is strained.
Source: Bloomberg
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Ford Won't Require Certification for F-150 Aluminum Repairs

Ford Motor Co. now says it will not require service center and repair shops to be certified if they they want to do body repairs on the new aluminium-bodied F-150 that debuts later this year. A Ford executive told reporters and dealers Sunday at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans that certification would be required to do body work. But Ford now says it will not require that designation, a Ford spokeswoman told The Detroit News on Thursday.
Source: The Detroit News

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Amid Super Bowl Rout, Automakers Tackle Their Brand Challenges

This year's crop of Super Bowl ads, and the dollars spent on them during Seattle's 43-8 rout of Denver, spotlighted the unique challenges some automakers face in realigning their brand images with their expanding product portfolios. It also illustrated the divergent strategies they are using to build and maintain buzz around their big-budget marketing bets. Drawing on a mix of Muppets, mayhem, matchmakers and "The Matrix," automakers once again dominated the commercial breaks during the championship game, accounting for at least 13 minutes of advertising time in a 3-1/2-hour broadcast, and seeking to impress the game's estimated 100 million viewers with a brand message that, to them, was worth paying $8 million a minute to convey.
Source: Automotive News

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