May 1, 2012
Ray on Point: Secure Your Future in Washington, D.C.
AIADA’s International Auto Industry Summit in Washington, D.C. has a different theme every year. This year it is “Securing the Future.” As someone who runs a family business with his brothers, and as the father of two young children, AIADA Chairman Ray Mungenast says that theme really resonates with him. In today’s political environment, and under current economic conditions, maintaining a small business and securing a stable future for our employees and family is every small business owner’s biggest concern. That is why it is absolutely crucial that dealers have a strong presence in Washington, D.C. In addition to dealer meetings on Capitol Hill, the Summit will feature a variety of speakers, including former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, and Missouri Senator Roy Blunt. Automotive News editor Jason Stein will moderate the manufacturer panel, which this year includes Jeff Conrad of Acura, Tom Loveless of Kia, Tim Morrison of Lexus, and Frank Trivieri of Volkswagen. For a full agenda, and to register, click here. Remember, today is the LAST day you can reserve a room at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington under AIADA’s special rate. Click here for AIADA Chairman Ray Mungenast’s entire blog on why dealers need to attend AIADA’s Summit.
Hyundai Adding Third Shift, 877 Jobs at Alabama Plant
Automakers continue to create more jobs in the U.S., and the latest is Hyundai. The automaker will add a third shift of production at its Montgomery, Ala., facility. That will create 877 new positions and push total employment at the plant past 3,000. The plant will be able to turn out more than 20,000 vehicles a year, according to USA Today. This year's booming auto demand, especially for hot models like the Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan and Elantra compact, are making the extra work possible. Sonata production began two years ago and now represents a third of Hyundai's U.S. sales. Elantra output started last year. "The continued success of Hyundai's Sonata and Elantra in North America is a direct reflection of the dedication to quality and craftsmanship" at the plants, said Young Deuk Lim, Hyundai's chief executive officer at its Alabama plant. "This commitment is the key reason Hyundai Motor Company chose to continue to invest in the people of Alabama and increase vehicle production in Montgomery." Hyundai says the transition to three shifts will begin in September. Job applications and pre-employment training will begin this summer. Read about Hyundai’s expansion plans at its Alabama plant here.
Cha-Ching! Dealership Profits Soar
Rising new-vehicle sales are boosting dealership profits. Most public retailers reported much higher first-quarter earnings last week, and other dealers tell similar stories, according to Automotive News. All dealership profit centers are contributing. But it's in used-vehicle sales that many groups see big growth opportunities – along with some challenges, the greatest of which is a lack of inventory. Large retailers are using innovative tricks to get used vehicles. Most say they are relying less on auctions. Instead, they look to increase trade-ins from new-car sales. They also are buying more used cars from internet and newspaper ads. And they are using so-called equity software that combs their own databases to find existing customers with equity in their cars who might do a trade-in. At Swope Automotive Group in Louisville, Ky., sales managers "source the service lane" for potential used-car inventory, says Cary Donovan, director of used-vehicle operations. "You may source the appointments the evening before customers arrive," Donovan says. "You'll know from that particular group if you have a customer who's been in a car for two to three years." For more on what is driving dealership profits, click here.
Gas Prices Flirt with 2012 Peak, but do Car Buyers Care?
Gas prices may often rise during the warmer months, but car shoppers aren’t necessarily thinking about prices at the pump when they’re deciding what car to buy, reports Forbes. Not even two-thirds of car buyers say gas prices affect their ultimate car-buying decisions, according to a recent survey by Kelley Blue Book. A consumer survey on the first quarter of this year found that 66 percent of new car buyers have changed their minds or considered vehicles they hadn’t previously considered to save gas money. The KBB survey results come as some analysts suggest that gas prices may have already hit their peak for the year. A gallon of regular gas today averaged just over $3.81, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Of those who are shopping for a new car, about 19 percent surveyed said they were looking for a vehicle with better fuel economy. Car buyers opting for fuel-sippers might consider the 2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV, the 2012 Nissan Leaf or the 2012 Toyota Prius C hatchback, the top three models on Kelley Blue Book’s list of the 10 Best Green Cars of 2012. Click here for the latest on the impact of gas prices on consumer behavior.
Scion Gets Normal
Nearly a decade after Toyota launched Scion with quirky cars and edgy music, the subbrand's sales have dropped far below their modest peak. And the so-called youth brand's customers are getting older. Now Toyota execs, after a nine-month brand review, are aiming new vehicles at buyers who are more conventional than the spiky-haired youths it chased at launch in 2003. According to MSN Autos, even the ads are different. The edgy animation is gone. So has Scion re-evaluated and changed the brand's original mission of feeding young customers to Toyota? Executives say no. The nine-month internal brand study was prompted by the changing nature of the 70 million young people in Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1999. These young adults, many of them entering prime new-car purchasing years, are adopting new automotive tastes, Scion executives argue. The new buyers still like Scion's fixed pricing policy. But wacky exterior designs have taken a back seat to more traditional traits such as fuel economy and precise handling. And while the pitch has been to youth, the reality is that the average Scion buyer is well older than the oldest member of Gen Y. Click here for more on the changes Scion is implementing to keep and attract buyers.
AIADA Members: Save $15 on OfficeMax Phone Orders Through June 1
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Around the Web
Gerrman Researchers Developing Electronic Tires [Autoblog]
Top 10 Most Notable Land Rovers in the U.S. [Motor Trend]
7 Beautiful Spring Car Deals [CNN Money]
Toyota to Unveil Electronic RAV4 Next Month [Driver's Seat]