May 2, 2012
Strong Auto Sales Continue in April
An unusually warm winter led some analysts to fear a decline in spring auto sales, although their predictions have yet to materialize. In April, overall U.S. auto sales continued to grow; unadjusted for business days, they rose 2.3 percent from April 2011 and 10.3 percent for the year-to-date. According to AIADA’s April edition of Market Watch, among international brands, Volkswagen saw the sharpest improvement with sales rising 31.5 percent to 37,525 vehicles – their best April in 40 years. Audi experienced a 15 percent increase in sales, and Toyota saw sales up 13.5 percent from April 2011. Honda’s sales were down 3 percent and Nissan, which cut its incentives by an average of $330 per vehicle, fell 0.9 percent. Because AIADA calculates its sales numbers without adjusting for business days, and April 2012 had three fewer selling days than April 2011, those numbers are somewhat skewed. “Incentive spending is trending down, and sales continued to climb in April,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “That’s a good sign for both dealers and the economy.” the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for light vehicles estimated by AutoData Corp. at 14.4 million units, versus 13.2 million units a year ago. Click here for AIADA’s complete Market Watch sales report for April.
Auto Ad Spending Will Grow 14% in 2012, Report Predicts
As the U.S. auto industry motors toward a broad recovery, Borrell Associates forecasts that national and local advertising spending will rise nearly 14 percent in 2012, to $30.8 billion, and that about 40 cents of every media dollar will be channeled toward digital. According to a report prepared by the Virginia-based consulting firm that tracks local ad spending, the trend toward digital media – at the expense of print, radio, and direct mail – will continue "largely unabated." CEO Gordon Borrell said the firm foresees the industry, including dealers and dealer associations, spending $11.9 billion on search buys and online banner ads, and trending toward repurposing manufacturers' agency spots for local video usage "tailored to their own purposes." Automotive News reports that the $11.9 billion figure marks an overall increase of 39 percent from 2011. According to Borrell's prognostications, nearly 90 percent of the additional dollars will be earmarked for digital. Most of the automobile ad spending will occur in the May-to-August frenzy as dealers push Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day sales. This differs significantly from other businesses, which tend to advertise in late spring and into the fall as the holidays approach. Click here to read the latest projections on auto ad revenue.
April Sales of Electric Cars Fall Despite High Gas Prices
According to The Detroit News, electric vehicles had a mostly tough month in April despite near-record high gas prices. About 3,500 electric vehicles were sold in April in the U.S., down from about 4,000 sold in March, the best-ever month for electric car sales. General Motors Co. said it sold 1,462 Chevy Volts in April, up 200 percent from the 493 sold in April 2011, but down from the 2,289 sold in March 2012. Nissan has sold 2,103 Leafs in the first four months of the year. That means Nissan needs to average more than 2,200 a month for the remainder of the year to hit the target. The Japanese automaker sold 9,679 Leafs in 2011. Toyota Motor Corp. said it had its best-ever month for its Prius plug-in hybrid electric, nearly doubling sales in April to 1,654, up from 891 in March. Mitsubishi sold 79 of its electric MiEV in April, up from 56 in March. Ford Motor Co. sold no Focus Electrics for the third straight month. For more on electric vehicle sales in April, and how they stack up against other months, click here.
Stick Shifts Popular Again, Despite Lower Gas Mileage
Americans have a growing crush on manual transmissions, according to USA Today. To be sure, the percentage of new vehicles with stick-shift gearboxes remains a small slice of the new vehicle market, because most of today's models don't even offer manuals. But in the first quarter of this year manuals were in 6.5 percent of new vehicles sold, and that's getting close to double each of the past five years. It's also the highest since 7.2 percent in 2006, according to Edmunds.com. That high "take rate," as the industry calls it, is even more impressive because just 19 percent of the 2,360 different models on sale offer manuals, according to Edmunds.com. Five years ago, 29 percent of the 2,391 available styles did – yet only 2.9 percent were sold with stick shifts that year, the lowest "take rate" in a decade. Manuals no longer are the safe-bet mileage champs. They often do much worse, in fact, than today's computer-controlled, mileage-tuned automatics. Instead, the lures of a car with a clutch pedal are related to price, performance, driver-habit, and user-friendliness. Read more about the allure of stick shifts here.
Turn Signal Neglect a Real Danger, Study Shows
Forget distracted driving. A new study says there’s a far more serious problem that’s responsible for as many as 2 million accidents annually. According to research by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), drivers either neglect to use their signals when changing lanes – or fail to turn the signals off – 48 percent of the time. And when making a turn the failure rate is around 25 percent. According to MSNBC, that works out to 2 billion times a day drivers fail to use signals, or 750 billion times annually. A lack of courtesy? Laziness? Poor training? Whatever the reason, the SAE study says the problem results in about 2 million roadway collisions annually. Anecdotal evidence suggests that police put little effort into enforcement, less than they devote to speeding, or running stop signs, and red lights. Other than shifting priorities, the new study suggests an alternative that it dubs the “Smart Turn Signal.” Such a system would automatically shut off a turn signal, likely by timing out after a set delay or by detecting when a vehicle has finished changing lanes – much as today’s cars automatically cancel the signals after making a turn at an intersection. Read more about the dangers associated with drivers who fail to use their turn signals here.
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