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Inside this issue
From Warren Buffett to Bill Gates: How Auto Dealerships are Attracting a Whole New Class of Investor
Honda Hires U.S. Engineering Firm Exponent to Investigate Takata Airbags
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind Tackles Technology Revolution in Automotive
UAW Prepares to Set Strategy for Contract Talks
Porsche Dealers' Profits Keep Piling Up
GM to Launch Teen Driver System on '16 Chevy Malibu
A Long Drive: 100-Year-Old Still Selling Chevys
Click here for more auto industry news at NADAFrontPage.com. .
Top Stories
From Warren Buffett to Bill Gates: How Auto Dealerships are Attracting a Whole New Class of Investor

There are certain must-have status symbols for the rich and famous: yachts, private jets, mansions in the Hamptons — and now, apparently, car dealerships. Warren Buffett became the latest billionaire to buy into the industry when his Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s acquisition of the Van Tuyl Group, the largest privately held dealership group in the United States, closed. It was the biggest acquisition in automotive retail history, giving the newly dubbed Berkshire Hathaway Automotive 81 dealerships with more than $9 billion in annual revenue, and Mr. Buffett signalled that this is just the start of his foray into the car-sales business. Mr. Buffett joins an impressive list of magnates who have invested in car dealerships. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates owns more than 15% of U.S. dealership group AutoNation Inc., while Eddie Lampert, founder of hedge fund ESL Investments and CEO of Sears Holdings Corp., owns 12%.

“In my mind, there’s still a bit of a question if this is just the latest thing every billionaire has to have,” Steven Szakaly, chief economist at the U.S. National Automobile Dealers Association, said in an interview. “They’ve got a jet and a yacht and now they all have to have car dealerships.”
Source: Financial Post

Editor's note: Warren Buffett and Larry Van Tuyl will participate in a panel session during the 2015 NADA/J.D. Power Automotive Forum in New York City on March 31. The session will be moderated by CNBC's Becky Quick.
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Honda Hires U.S. Engineering Firm Exponent to Investigate Takata Airbags

Honda Motor Co. has hired Exponent, a U.S. engineering consulting company enlisted by Toyota Motor Corp. during its recall crisis in 2010, to investigate the cause of ruptures in some airbags made by Takata Corp. The hiring of Exponent was first reported by Japan's Jiji News today and confirmed by a Honda spokesman in Tokyo. A consortium of 10 automakers led by Toyota and which includes Honda has separately commissioned engineering firm Orbital ATK to conduct independent testing of Takata's airbag inflators, which can rupture with too much force, shooting metal shards into vehicles.
Source: Reuters

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NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind Tackles Technology Revolution in Automotive

Mark R. Rosekind has taken the helm of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at a critical juncture for the federal agency. Not only did he fill the role of NHTSA Administrator in the midst of the massive GM ignition-switch and Takata airbag recalls, but also at a time when technology is quickly transforming automotive. The car industry  is facing enormous changes due to innovations ranging from autonomous driving to vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and these will also have a profound influence on NHTSA’s main priority of ensuring vehicles are safe and reducing traffic deaths.
Source: Forbes
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UAW Prepares to Set Strategy for Contract Talks

At this convention, UAW President Dennis Williams must prepare for contract talks with automakers at a time when they are more prosperous than at any time since the 1999 contract talks.

For the UAW, 2015 will be a year of managing great expectations borne out of a recovering economy after years of sacrifices during tougher times. And negotiations will occur against a backdrop that includes the restoration of the right to strike by two automakers and right-to-work legislation in states including Michigan. This year, the union built by Walter Reuther is renegotiating contracts with all three Detroit automakers along with the state of Michigan and John Deere. Those employers alone account for about 43% of the UAW's roughly 400,0000 members.
Source: Detroit Free Press
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Porsche Dealers' Profits Keep Piling Up

The reason Porsche dealers are generally happy? They make a lot of money, and that only improved last year. Porsche Cars North America CEO Detlev von Platen said Porsche's U.S. dealerships posted an average net profit margin of 3.9 percent in 2014, up from 3.6 percent the year prior. That compares with 2.4 percent for the nation's average dealership through the first 11 months of 2014, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. When measured on a per-vehicle basis, Porsche dealers make more money than any other mainstream brand, save for probably Land Rover, auto dealer buy-sell adviser Alan Haig says.
Source: Automotive News
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GM to Launch Teen Driver System on '16 Chevy Malibu

General Motors Co. Friday said it will debut a new Teen Driver system on its redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Malibu that mutes the radio when front seat passengers haven't buckled up and give parents a report card of their teen's trip. Teens also will get an audible and visual warning if a vehicle travels over pre-set speeds (between 40 and 75 miles per hour) by Mom and Dad. Radio volume can be set to a lower level that can't be exceeded. GM called its system a first in the auto industry that can let parents view on the car's display how their teen drove the car.
Source: The Detroit News
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A Long Drive: 100-Year-Old Still Selling Chevys

Derrell Alexander has lived a century, and for most of that time, he's been on the showroom floor. The Wyoming car salesman celebrated his 100th birthday on March 17. Despite his age, "like clockwork," he reports for work at White's Mountain Motors in Casper at 8 a.m. sharp and leaves at 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, new-car manager Marco Castillo said. The Chevy salesman has outlived much of his loyal customer base, but now that group has expanded to include the children and grandchildren of his regulars. "Sixty-year-old ladies remember him selling their parents cars," Castillo said. "Rarely will there be somebody [who] he doesn't remember what car they had or something about them."
Source: Automotive News
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Quotable

"Cecil and Larry [Van Tuyl] have given us the ideal platform with which to build an auto dealership business that will be thriving and growing 50 and 100 years from now. The fun has just started."

   --- Warren Buffett, commenting on his recent acquisition of the Van Tuyl Group, Financial Post, March 20

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