October 3, 2012

Dealers See Best September in 4 Years
Driven by a combination of factors, including pent-up demand and cheap credit, September auto sales were the highest since 2008, reports AIADA’s Market Watch. Unadjusted for business days, sales for all brands were up 14.5 percent from September 2011 and 12.8 percent year-over-year. Toyota and Honda led the charge in September, growing their market share 2.6 percent and 1.2 percent respectively from September 2011. Their gain may have been Nissan’s loss; the Japanese automaker saw a drop in share of 1.1 percent from a year ago. Hyundai sales rose 15.3 percent from September 2012, Kia saw an improvement of 35.1 percent, and Volkswagen’s sales were up 34.4 percent. Incentives were down 3.1 percent from August and down 9.3 percent from a year ago. “Home prices, consumer confidence, and credit availability are all on the rise,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “Americans are buying cars again, and that’s good news for dealers, their employees, and the communities they support.” AutoData Corp. estimated the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) at 14.94 million units, the highest recorded level since March 2008. Click here to read the rest of AIADA’s September Market Watch sales report for the international nameplate auto industry.

Increase in U.S. Highway Deaths This Year Puzzles Experts
U.S. traffic deaths rose 9 percent in the first half of 2012 compared with the same period last year, breaking a 5-year downward trend, according to preliminary data that experts cannot yet explain. Road accidents killed 16,290 people from January through June, the most since 2009, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tuesday in a preliminary report that does not examine causes. A final report of vetted and analyzed data could take a year or more. In the meantime, reports Automotive News, experts can only guess about the causes, which could be linked to the weather, the economy, gasoline prices, or traffic safety scourges such as the increase in texting or the use of synthetic or prescription drugs. "While it's too soon to speculate on the contributing factors of any increase in deaths on our roadways, NHTSA is closely monitoring the data," administration spokeswoman Lynda Tran said in a statement on Tuesday. After what the administration called a "historic" downward trend that resulted in a 60-year low for traffic deaths in 2011, "We may just be going back to the way it was before," said Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. Click here for more on rising traffic fatalities.

The Cure for Automotive Technology Overload?
Can’t take your eyes off the big video screen in the dashboard of that new car? Then you should buy the technology that will automatically jam on the brakes if you get distracted and don’t notice that truck stopped up ahead. That may sound strange, but, reports The Wall Street Journal, it’s what the auto industry is telling consumers these days in the way that it pitches technology that tends to draw drivers’ attention from the road and systems that intervene to save a distracted driver from himself. Safety experts and auto industry executives responsible for on-board multimedia technology are well aware of the problems created by connecting cars to the wider, digital world. Researchers with Agero, a unit of Cross Country Group LLC, earlier this year asked a group of 24 drivers, half 18 to 30 years old and half over 65, to drive a car through a closed course while operating a navigation system. The older drivers missed 25 percent of the flashing lights when trying to operate a navigation system by hand, while younger drivers missed 5 percent of the lights when using the simulated hands-on system. Click here for more on the impact of automotive technology on driver attention.

11 Best New Cars in America
It isn't quite like being an Oscar nominee, but the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) organization has announced the finalists for its car and truck of the year awards. The eventual winners will be voted from those lists and their identity will be revealed at the Detroit auto show in January. Endorsements by third parties like the journalists on the NACTOY panel are increasingly important in the car business, and the awards, now in their 20th year, have been growing in visibility. So, reports CNN Money, it is not too soon to start handicapping the contest to see who the early favorites are. Jurors are asked to drive and evaluate cars for factors like innovation, handling, performance, safety, and value for dollar. This year, the short list is balanced – five American cars, five Japanese, one European – but CNN Money says it bets that that hometown pride will once again be the deciding factor in who wins North American Car of the Year. Click here to check out its vote for the 11 best new cars in the U.S. this year.

AutoNation's Big Digital Push
AutoNation Inc. has poured $500 million into store renovations in the past three years. But customers still can't purchase cars as easily as they buy electronics at the Apple Store or books on Amazon.com. According to Automotive News, that's why the country's largest dealership group is trying to remake itself. It wants to compete for the business of millennials and others who dislike traditional dealerships, including AutoNation's 215 stores. The dealership group is investing $50 million during the next three years on new dealership Web sites, tablet computers in the service drive, and a so-called new digital storefront. The vision: Speed transaction time and let customers control their shopping experiences, whether online or in the store. Test drives and bricks-and-mortar will always have their place, but many customers want to do as much online as possible, said AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson. To illustrate, Jackson points to what he calls the first moment of truth in any vehicle purchase – when the customer provides contact information. Today, that happens electronically in one-third of AutoNation's vehicle sales, and that ratio will only increase, Jackson said. For more on what AutoNation is doing to attract millennials, click here.

Join Dealers in Orlando for AIADA’s 43rd Annual Meeting and Luncheon
Each year, AIADA’s dealers gather to consider where the international nameplate auto industry stands and prepare for what the future holds. Join fellow dealers and industry insiders in Orlando, Florida on February 11, 2013 for its 43rd Annual Meeting and Luncheon. This year, we’ll discuss how the economy is Driven by the international nameplate auto industry and what dealers can do to maintain their edge. Featuring keynote remarks by Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Steve Cannon, the presentation of the David F. Mungenast, Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award, and the passing of the gavel from 2012 Chairman Ray Mungenast of Missouri to 2013 Chairwoman Jenell Ross of Ohio, the 43rd Annual Meeting and Luncheon is a can't-miss event for international nameplate dealers, as well as their employees. Register today by clicking here or by calling 1-800-GO-AIADA.

Around the Web  
Take a Walk Through Tokyo's Dense Car Culture [Jalopnik]
Porsche Confirms Sport Turismo Styling Cues for Lineup [Autoblog]
Codemasters Releases New Grid 2 trailers [Edmunds Inside Line]
Mystery Car 158: What is This SUV? [DriveOn]

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