January 23, 2013

Social Media Emerge as Tool to Find Vehicle Defects, Complaints

Using the auto industry's newest tool to detect vehicle defects is as simple as logging on to Twitter, Facebook, or other social media Web sites, reports Automotive News. And federal regulators already are doing it, too. National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigators use various forms of social media to do their jobs, an agency spokeswoman acknowledged last week. In addition to direct consumer complaints and information sent directly from auto and equipment makers, NHTSA investigators routinely search auto Web sites, fan sites, bulletin boards, trade publications and popular magazines for information that might lead to an investigation, the NHTSA spokeswoman said. They also search social media sites for specific issues if they believe available data are inadequate for assessing a problem. James Edge, a digital marketing manager for Grappone Automotive Group, said the fourth-generation New Hampshire-based dealership group loves Facebook because it opens the lines of communication with customers. "There were times we could have potentially lost a customer, but we collaborated with them on Facebook," Edge said. Click here for more on social media’s role in detecting vehicle defects and customer complaints.

Automakers Poised to Make Big Plays with Super Bowl Ads
During last year's Super Bowl, a now middle-aged Matthew Broderick spoofed his 1986 role as Ferris Bueller to hype the Honda CR-V. The year before that, Eminem drove a Chrysler 200 through the gritty streets of Detroit, and a little Darth Vader thought he started a Volkswagen Passat by calling on The Force. It's too early to know what commercials will be breakout hits during Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3. But nine auto brands have purchased airtime on TV's most-watched annual event. According to The Detroit News, Fiat, Volkswagen, Audi, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz will make appearances. "Automakers always have a massive presence," said Mike Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, who tracks Super Bowl advertising trends. "The fact they keep showing up is a statement of how they expect the economy and auto sales to go this year, and this year is building on last year." Last year, almost 20 percent of all ads were 60 seconds or longer, about twice as many as the year before. Half of auto ads this year are expected to be 60 seconds or longer, allowing creators more time to tell stories. Read about what to expect from this year’s Super Bowl here.

U.S. Trade Rep Ron Kirk is Leaving Administration
As expected for a couple of months, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced Tuesday that he’s leaving the administration at the end of February. The Washington Post reports that he had told President Obama of his intentions shortly after the re-election in November. Kirk, who has headed the agency since March 2009, was elected in 1995 as the first African-American mayor of Dallas. He left that job in 2001 in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2002. Kirk has also been a partner in the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins. Kirk most likely is headed for a private sector position back home in Dallas. Possible successors include Fred Hochberg, a businessman who had been acting Small Business Administration chief in the Clinton Administration and is now chairman of the Export-Import Bank; Francisco Sanchez, currently Commerce undersecretary for international trade and before that assistant secretary of transportation in the Clinton administration; and Jeff Zients, former CEO of The Advisory Board Co. and now acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. Read about the departure of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk here.

Toyota Near Final Deal to License Fuel-Cell Technology to BMW
Toyota Motor Corp. is nearing a final agreement to license its fuel-cell vehicle technology to BMW AG, reports Automotive News. Under the agreement, to be made official as early as Thursday, Toyota will provide the world's largest premium carmaker with drivetrain and hydrogen storage technology, the business daily said. BMW will use the technology to build a prototype vehicle by 2015, with plans for a market release around 2020, according to a report by the Japanese publication, the Nikkei. The two automakers have been expanding their R&D ties over the last year. In December 2011, they said they will work together on green car technologies, including the joint development of lithium-ion batteries. BMW would also supply diesel engines to Toyota in Europe as part of the tie-up, the companies said at the time. Then last June, Toyota and BMW expanded the relationship by signing a memorandum to cooperate on developing fuel cells to power and designing components for a future sports car as the automakers expand on their joint work to produce next-generation car batteries. Click here to read more about a potential deal between Toyota and BMW.

How Automakers Keep Customers Coming Back
Automakers are paying close attention to consumer attitudes about sticking with a brand, because loyalty isn't just an admirable personal virtue to them. It's money in the bank. According to The Wall Street Journal, the latest R.L. Polk study of brand and vehicle loyalty in the auto industry, released last week, found that 48 percent of people who bought a car in 2012 bought from the same brand they were already driving. Click here for an interactive comparing brand loyalty. Polk says the three brands with the most loyal customers were Ford, with 61.2 percent repeat buyers, Mercedes-Benz (57.7 percent), and Toyota (54.4 percent). Reasons for staying loyal can vary. For buyers across the vehicle and price spectrum, the top attributes that inspire a purchase include fuel economy, reliability, and pricing, according to consumer research firm J.D. Power and Associates. In the luxury segment, though, the top three criteria include performance, quality of workmanship, and exterior styling. Because automakers recognize the revenue potential in loyal customers, they are offering more incentives to stay with the brand. Read more about how automakers are working to keep their customers 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
Kia Provoke Concept Teased Ahead of Geneva Motor Show [Motor Authority]
Rolls-Royce Teases New Wraith Coupe [Kicking Tires]
Here is the Best Picture of a Child in a Power Wheels Ever [Jalopnik]
Aston Martin Rapide S Adds an Extra Consonant Worth of 550 HP [Autoblog]

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