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Today’s FirstUp

December 19, 2014 

Kull’s Commentary: Looking Forward to 2015

This time of year, you can’t turn around without seeing another retrospective on 2014. Taking a look back can be fun. But, like most dealers, AIADA Chairman Larry Kull would always rather look forward than back. And dealers certainly have a lot to look forward to in 2015. First on the agenda: AIADA’s 45th Annual Meeting and Luncheon in San Francisco on January 25. One of the most forward thinking executives in the industry, Audi of America President Scott Keogh, will provide keynote remarks, and Kull will pass the Chairman’s gavel on to 2015 Chairman, Bradley Hoffman of Connecticut. In 2015, dealers can also look forward to some cracks in Washington’s legendary gridlock. International nameplate dealers will need to unite behind AIADA’s one voice and one message in order to promote TPA, and the pending trade agreements with Asia and Europe. Dealers can also anticipate new moves by the CFPB, the National Labor Relations Board, and other agencies that seek to further regulate our already HIGHLY regulated industry. We may not look forward to their actions, but we can look forward to our own robust response. Read the rest of his holiday blog post here

Consumer Reports' Names Camry Best Value for 2015
The best value car for 2015 is the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Consumer Reports said Thursday. "Smooth and capable—but not exciting," the $29,000 vehicle is "affordable for the roominess, comfort, and all-around functionality," the magazine said. According to CNBC coverage, the vehicle gets 38 miles per gallon, which the report said "is impressive for a midsized sedan." Consumer Reports' annual roundup of the best and worst cars considered road test scores, reliability surveys and estimated cost per mile over the first five years for 200 cars. For the best value among small SUVs, Consumer Reports recommended the Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium, which costs 58 cents a mile to run, well under the 76 cents-a-mile average. The top pick for sports cars or convertibles was the Mazda Mx-5 Miata. The Jeep Wrangler topped the list for the worst value cars, which included the luxury Mercedes-Benz S550. The latter "performed well in our tests but it's expensive to maintain and reliability is well below average," Jennifer Stockburger, director of auto test operations, said in a Consumer Reports video. Click here for full coverage of Consumer Reports’ picks for 2015 cars with the best value

U.S. Gas Prices Drop Below $2.50 a Gallon, Boosting Year-End Auto Sales
U.S. drivers are paying less than $2.50 a gallon at the gasoline pump for the first time in more than five years. Retail gasoline averaged $2.477 a gallon on Wednesday, data from AAA show. That's down from this year's peak of $3.696 in April and the first time it has dipped below $2.50 since October 2009. By New Year's Day, gasoline may be selling for $2.25 to $2.40, the lowest seasonally since 2008, AAA said. According to Automotive News, tumbling crude prices and rising fuel output have sent gasoline prices lower, leaving more money in the pockets of consumers. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries declined to reduce its output target at a meeting last month, letting prices drop to a level that may slow U.S. output that's surged to the most in more than three decades. U.S. refineries operated at the highest level in more than nine years earlier this month. The decline in U.S. gasoline prices is helping drive continued gains in sales of new light vehicles, notably crossovers, SUVs and pickups. U.S. light-vehicles sales are on pace to reach nearly 16.4 million in 2014. For more on how falling gas prices are impacting the U.S. vehicle market, click here

Toyota to Invest $126 Million in Ann Arbor Expansion
The Detroit Free Press reports that Toyota plans to expand its Ann Arbor area operations again, investing $126 million to build a 260,000-square-foot facility and relocating 85 workers from California. The expansion adds to the automaker's previously announced consolidation of about 250 positions from its procurement and supplier engineering operations in Kentucky, a move that was revealed in April. "We are continuing to grow our operations here in southeast Michigan and pleased that it's going in this direction," Toyota spokesman Bruce Brownlee said in an interview. "This is all part of our efforts to consolidate our North American R&D operations here." The company plans to construct a new $50 million, 260,000-square-foot prototype development facility on its York Township campus and will expand a current building on its Ann Arbor Township campus by 50,000 square feet in a $76 million powertrain engineering investment. Collectively, the facilities are called the Toyota Technical Center and currently employ about 1,200 people, Brownlee said. After the company completes the relocation of 250 workers from Kentucky and 85 from California, it will have more than 1,500 employees at the Technical Center. Click here for more on Toyota’s expansion plans for its Ann Arbor operations facility

U.S. to Sell Final Ally Shares, End Auto Bailout
The U.S. Treasury will end its historic six-year intervention into the U.S. auto industry as early as Friday, as it launched an offering to sell its remaining 11.4 percent stake in Ally Financial Inc. The Detroit-based auto lender had received $17.2 billion in bailouts. According to The Detroit News, the government plans to sell its remaining 54.9 million shares of the company. The Treasury confirmed the plan to sell the shares but didn’t comment. The sale will end the government’s $85 billion bailout launched under President George W. Bush and expanded by President Barack Obama. The Treasury’s offering hasn’t priced yet, but at current trading prices the government will raise around $1.25 billion. If the offering is completed on Friday it will come on exactly the sixth anniversary of Bush’s decision to rescue the auto industry. Taxpayers will end up receiving more from Ally, a bank holding company, than they loaned—$18.3 billion in proceeds to date—though much of that was in the form of dividends. Ally, previously known as GMAC and General Motors Corp.’s lending arm, sold off most of its international lending operations to GM. For more on Treasury plan to sell final Ally shares, click here

Around the Web 
What Should You Avoid in Your Dealership Follow Up Emails? [CBT News]
McLaren Releases Third Teaser for New Sports Series [MotorAuthority]
Google's 'Android M' Will Hook Cars Directly to the Internet [Engadget]
10 Things People Don't Know About Their Cars [Autoblog]


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