November 29, 2012

Lexus, Mini are Tops in Sales Satisfaction Again, Power Survey Shows
According to Automotive News, consumers are increasingly satisfied with the auto buying experience, with Lexus repeating as the top-rated luxury brand and Mini again pacing mass-market brands in the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Sales Satisfaction Index Study released on Wednesday. Overall sales satisfaction among new-vehicle buyers and lessees increased to 664 on a 1,000-point scale, up from 648 a year earlier, with most of the gain from better salesperson ratings. For perspective, all 11 luxury brands and nine of the 20 mass-market brands scored above industry average. For the second straight year, Lexus was the top-rated luxury brand with a 737 score. Infiniti was the biggest gainer of all brands at 728, up 52 points from a year ago. Mini topped the mass-market brand list for a third straight year with a 712 score. Ford, Honda and Volkswagen also scored above the mass-market average of 657, with Honda's 30-point improvement moving it to No. 8 this year from No. 12 in 2011. Power Circle Ratings simplify the overall numerical scores, with the top brands receiving five circles. Only three brands – Lexus, Mini, and Buick – received five circles this year. Read complete coverage of J.D. Power’s sales satisfaction survey here.

Almost a Third of New-Car Buyers Now Consult Dealerships’ Online Reviews
Dealership ratings based on online reviews are becoming even more important to potential buyers as the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study showed Wednesday. While nearly 80 percent of new-vehicle buyers use the Internet during their shopping process, J.D. Power also found that nearly one-third consult online ratings/review sites when selecting a dealer. “For years, new-vehicle buyers have accessed the Internet to research model information, vehicle features, configurations and pricing,” said Chris Sutton, senior director of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “Now, neutral online ratings/review sites are playing a key role in dealer selection.” According to Auto Remarketing, the study determined that new-vehicle buyers are much more inclined to use a ratings/review site than a social networking site when selecting a dealer. However, J.D. Power found satisfaction with the dealership experience is significantly higher among new-vehicle buyers who use social networking sites than among those who consult ratings/review sites. The study indicated males are significantly more likely than females to consult ratings/review sites, whereas females are significantly more likely to consult social networking sites. Read more about J.D. Power’s findings regarding online reviews and the purchase process here.

Automakers Add Choices by Revamping Favorites
Automakers unveiled new cars that seemed somehow familiar on the opening press day of the Los Angeles Auto Show. Ford Motor Co. showed off its revamped – and larger – Fiesta family. Fiat SpA, the parent company of Chrysler Group LLC, introduced larger and electric versions of its 500 hatchback family. Toyota Motor Corp., for example, revealed a redesign of its popular RAV4 compact SUV. Jaguar harkened back to its past glory by unveiling the first two-seat, open-top sports car made by the legendary company in 51 years. And Volkswagen AG introduced 1950s, '60s and '70s convertible editions of the iconic Beetle. Those cars aren't "new" per se, but instead represent tweaks and variations on the familiar. Variations of pre-existing cars help both automakers and consumers in a multitude of ways. According to The Detroit News, automakers can save money on development costs – instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars creating a from-the-ground-up new product – by updating specific elements such as exterior trims, seats, and powertrains. Also revealed on Wednesday were Porsche's redesigned Cayman and a very lightly changed Nissan Motor Co. GT-R high-performance sedan. Read about the cars at this year’s LA Auto Show here.

Fiat Plans to Broaden Lineup in U.S.
Fiat SpA, majority owner of Chrysler Group LLC, plans to expand its line in the U.S. well beyond the 500 nameplate by adding larger cars and crossovers, reports The Wall Street Journal. “Sure, the range will keep growing,” said Olivier Francois, chief executive for the Fiat brand world-wide. “We have a very exciting product plan on its way. Most of the new models will be sold in the U.S., as well.” The Italian auto maker, which three ago years took over Chrysler, sells more than a dozen other models under the Fiat brand, including a number of compacts and crossovers. The only car Fiat currently sells in the U.S. is the 500 subcompact. “We’ll see bigger cars. There will be a (crossover utility vehicle) and you will have a complete line up,” Mr. Francois said Wednesday in an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show. He was quick to add, though, that when he says “bigger” the cars will really still be small or compact size compared to U.S. standards. His comments come as Fiat showed off two new models Wednesday: an all-electric 500e and a longer, four-door model, called the 500L. Click here for more on Fiat’s plans for the U.S. market.

U.S. Auto Market showing Signs of Recovery
It’s been the little engine that could, driving along an economy long struggling to avert a double-dip recession. And now, amid growing signs that the U.S. economy is clearly on the mend, industry leaders are increasingly confident the auto industry is heading in fast-forward toward some extremely good – though probably not record – years. According to NBCNews.com, as manufacturers get set to report extremely strong numbers for November, Toyota’s top American executive, Jim Lentz said he expects to see 2012 end with sales of 14.3 million – about 1 million more than a year before and a roughly 40 percent increase from the depths of the recession. That optimism was clearly echoed by other industry leaders gathering for the first of two days of media previews. Auto sales have fallen at least 10 million below the trendline since the start of the recession and several recent studies show that this means the current U.S. fleet is older than ever, the majority of vehicles now in service for around a decade – and about 20 percent at least 16 years old. The revival of the youth market is also clearly helping drive the current demand surge. Click here for more on what’s driving the surging U.S. auto market.

Around the Web  
Just What is the 'Fiscal Cliff'? [Washington Post]
$2.4M Air Conditioned Limo Submarine Perfect for 007 [CNET]
NY Auto Dealers Offer Deals to Hurricane Sandy Victims [NY Daily News]
Fun Cars at the LA Auto Show [USA Today]

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