April 30, 2012
Secure the Future of Your Business by Attending AIADA’s Auto Summit
AIADA’s 6th Annual International Auto Industry Summit is approaching. Join fellow dealers, auto industry leaders, and Washington insiders on May 23 and 24 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., to gain the tools you need to become an effective dealer advocate among your elected officials. This year’s event will feature former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Cook Political Report Editor and commentator Charlie Cook, legislators, and an industry executive Q&A panel moderated by Automotive News editor Jason Stein. Although the House of Representatives will be out of session, Senators will still be in Washington conducting business. The chance for dealers to meet face-to-face with their elected officials and staff members on Capitol Hill is one of the most valuable ways to engage Washington on issues like trade, taxes, and labor that make a difference to their businesses. Don’t wait. Registration for AIADA’s 6th Annual Auto Industry Summit is filling up, so reserve your spot today by clicking here or by calling 1-800-GO-AIADA. Please note that in order to take advantage of AIADA’s group rate at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel, you must make reservations by TOMORROW, May 1.
All Auto Sectors Deliver Strong 1st Quarter Returns
Shareholder values turned upward in the first quarter in all automotive sectors after six months of mixed or losing results, reports Automotive News. Automakers, suppliers, and retailers all posted substantial returns for investors in the quarter, as measured by the Automotive News-PwC Shareholder Value Index. "The automotive sector regained traction, led by the global [Original Equipment Manufacturer] index," said Jeffrey Zaleski, PwC partner for transaction services. "Its 25.7 percent growth exceeded the returns of all major market indicies in the quarter." For the quarter, publicly held global suppliers gained 17.7 percent while public U.S. retailers showed a more moderate 7.7 percent return. Over the three years since the first quarter of 2009, shareholder returns for all three groups have rebounded dramatically. Global automakers have almost doubled in value, jumping 85.8 percent in the period. Returns for retailers have more than tripled and suppliers almost tripled over the past three years. But for the one-year period, results are mixed. Returns for automakers were essentially flat, ticking up a scant 0.3 percent. Supplier returns declined 3.8 percent while retailers' return to shareholders jumped 16.1 percent. Read more about first quarter results from the auto sector here.
Toyota Polishes Its Image
After grappling for three years with one disaster after another, Toyota Motor Corp. is back on track, reports The Detroit News. It is boosting sales and output, bolstering its vehicle-development operations, and ratcheting up the pressure on rivals. Click here to see its projected gains. In the U.S., Toyota has regained its place among the top three players. It outpaced Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. in sales gains during the first quarter to capture a 14.5 percent share of the market – less than 2 percentage points behind GM. Toyota's new Camry is once again the best-selling car in America. The company is expanding the Prius family of hybrid cars and revamping its flagging Lexus line as well. Akio Toyoda, the founder's grandson has focused on streamlining the North American management. Last month, he expanded the responsibilities of top executives in North America and formed an integrated management group that can respond faster to market conditions. Toyota also is stepping up output and hiring in the U.S., partly to counter the yen's strength. It is launching 19 new or updated models in the U.S. this year, including nine from Lexus. For the latest on how Toyota is engineering its rebound, click here.
Kia's Brash Marketing, Quirky Styling, Behind Gains
Kia Motors America is finding it harder to operate under the radar these days. Tom Libby, analyst for R.L. Polk's North American sales forecasting group, said Kia is fielding new cars and crossovers at an impressive pace – nine products in 30 months, to be precise. "They just go from one product to another – consistently and relentlessly redesigning their products," Libby said. "Frankly, I think it is driving the industry to change." Kia expects to sell more than 100,000 of three models in the U.S. for the first time ever this year. Two of those three – the Optima midsize sedan and Sorento crossover – are made at its plant in West Point, Ga. Kia has combined edgy styling and low prices with out-of-the box marketing to carve out a growing niche. According to The Detroit Free Press, Kia has also hit its stride with marketing. The cheerful dancing hamsters in commercials for the Soul have become instantly recognizable ambassadors for the Kia brand. Kia also has established an edge in its production capacity. In 2011, Kia invested $100 million to expand the 300,000-vehicles-per-year Georgia factory to make an additional 60,000 vehicles a year. Read the latest on Kia’s achievements in the U.S. here.
The New Horsepower Race: Bigger, HD Dashboard Screens
Automakers have discovered the big screens as a way of exciting tech-crazed customers. They're installing increasingly larger displays in new models as they roll out increasingly sophisticated infotainment and navigation systems, reports USA Today. Screens are growing as customers opt for ever-larger flat-panel TV screens in their living rooms. Showing how priorities are changing, few automakers are jockeying to make new models longer or wider on the outside. They are, rather, competing with bigger high-definition dashboard displays. The most vivid example is the screen in the new Lexus GS, one of the largest among luxury cars at 12.3 inches measured diagonally, up from 8 inches in the previous generation. One reason to go bigger was to create a display with a split screen, Lexus spokesman Bill Kwong says. One side shows maps and other navigation information, while the other shows climate control or audio settings. "Why go to play the radio if it kicks you out of the map?" he asks in explaining the split screen. Likewise, the screen in the 2013 Santa Fe crossover was boosted to 8 inches from 6.5. Click here for the latest on the trend toward growing dashboard screens.
Around the Web
Midsize Sedan Comparison Test [Edmunds Inside Line]
James May on the Fisker Karma [TopGear]
Land Rover Was Born This Day in 1948 [Motoramic]
Before Flying Car Can Take Off, There's a Checklist [NY Times]