NADA Headlines - 12/26/2012 (Plain Text Version)
Lodge styling at store isn't OK with Chevrolet
Marc Heitz, Oklahoma's top-selling Chevrolet dealer, last week sold his hunting lodge-style store in Norman rather than change the facade and interior to comply with General Motors' facilities standards. The sale came less than three months after Chevrolet sales chief Don Johnson visited the store and rejected a Heitz compromise so the store could continue collecting about $250,000 per quarter in dealer-excellence money from the Essential Brand Elements program. "This way we didn't have to give up our principles for the money," Heitz, 48, said of the sale. GM spokesman Tom Henderson declined to comment. Previously, GM had said the brand elements program, which pegs incentives to vehicle sales and quality benchmarks, would be unavailable to dealerships choosing "not to complete an image compliant facility." Heitz, a first-generation car dealer who grew up on a dairy farm in Norman, said his decision to sell the business was difficult but necessary. He said in addition to the loss of incentive money, he faced a ruptured relationship with Chevrolet that might have eventually hurt his discretionary vehicle allocation and cost him his Mark of Excellence award among other certifications for highly rated sales and service. "I'm not a big fan of GM right now and the guys making decisions there," Heitz said. "My guess is they won't be around to see the results of their actions."
The Senate on Friday cleared a measure that would end a requirement that car dealerships supply insurance rates to consumers. The Senate endorsed the measure (HR 5859) by unanimous consent. The House passed it by voice vote July 23. Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration distributes a copy of the information to car dealers, who are then responsible for providing the information to consumers upon request. A study by the National Automobile Dealers Association found that 96 percent of dealers said none of their customers had ever asked to see the booklet. Under current law, dealers are subject to a $1,000 fine per violation for failure to have the information on hand if it is requested.
One month after crossing the 15 million-unit threshold for the first time since February 2008, the U.S. light-vehicle sales seasonally adjusted annual rate has a legitimate shot at reaching the 16 million mark. U.S. auto makers will record 1.38 million light-vehicle deliveries in December, lifting the monthly SAAR to 15.7 million units, according to a WardsAuto forecast.
Toyota Motor Corp., poised to regain its title as the world’s biggest carmaker this year, said its vehicle sales may rise 2 percent next year to a record, led by demand from overseas markets. Toyota is counting on the U.S. to boost sales next year, countering a projected 15 percent drop in Japan, where government subsidies to purchasers of fuel-efficient vehicles expired in September. The automaker’s 2013 forecast surpasses the previous high of 9.37 million units in 2007, before the global financial crisis sapped demand.
American Suzuki Motor Corp., the U.S. distributor of Suzuki cars and motorcycles, will import about 2,500 more autos to meet demand that jumped after the company filed for bankruptcy with plans to end U.S. sales. "When we told dealers, 'We have one last chance,' the dealers said, 'Go get them,'" M. Freddie Reiss, the company's chief restructuring officer, said Thursday in an interview. "No more cars are being manufactured" for the U.S. market, he said. American Suzuki's November auto sales rose 22 percent to 2,224 units, the company said this month. Dealers reported that sales also climbed in December, mainly because of generous incentives and a seven-year warranty program, Reiss said.
General Motors and Saab Automobile Parts North America said they have reached an agreement on warranty service coverage for Saab owners in the United States and Canada. The agreement says SPNA will provide warranty administration and related services for 2009 vehicles and prior Saab vehicles still covered under GM's limited warranty, the companies said in a joint statement... "Our agreement with General Motors is an important step in supporting Saab owners in North America and ensuring they have access to Saab Genuine Parts, service programs and technical support for years to come," Tim Colbeck, CEO of Saab Automobile Parts North America, said in the statement.
On Dec. 3, Lincoln formally rebranded itself the Lincoln Motor Company, kicking off a marketing barrage for Ford’s sole remaining luxury division. A Facebook post announcing the brand’s name change attracted nearly 2,000 comments. Timed to coincide with the introduction of the redesigned MKZ sedan, Lincoln’s rebranding is clearly intended to help differentiate its cars from the Fords on which they’re based.
If the federal government is selling, does that mean that everyday investors should be buying stock in General Motors? Or should those who already own GM take a clue from Uncle Sam and sell GM, too? One point to consider if you're pondering this question: GM stock already has floored it with Camaro-style speed in just a year. GM stock has climbed nearly 43% in a year -- or more than three times as fast as the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the same time frame. GM closed at $19.05 a share on Dec. 19, 2011 -- and then zoomed up to close at $27.18 a share on Dec. 19, 2012.
Many dealers and their employees give back to their communities all year long. But the end-of-the-year holiday season brings a surge in activity. For example, New England Acura dealers recently pledged to raise $500,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital. Priority Automotive Group in Chesapeake, Va., is spending $20,000 this holiday season to support pet adoptions from local shelters. Many retailers lead toy drives and fund holiday meal baskets. AutoNation’s Mitch McGuire is in his 21st year of organizing Christmas parties for underprivileged children.