December Sales Teeter on Fiscal Cliff

First Up 11/20/12

November 20, 2012

Land Rover Photos Get Salesman Fired
A car salesman lost his job over images, including this one, showing a partially submerged Land Rover posted on his personal Facebook page. Automotive News reports that when a car shopper's teenage son drove a new Land Rover into a pond at Karl Knauz Land Rover in suburban Chicago, a salesman next door at company-owned Karl Knauz BMW photographed the partially submerged vehicle and posted the pictures on his personal Facebook page with the caption: "This is your car. This is your car on drugs." The 2010 incident, which resulted in the firing of Facebook poster Robert Becker, has become a closely watched social-media legal precedent. The issue for dealers: Many marketers view social media as a good way for salespeople to engage customers. But salespeople need to behave within limits to protect dealerships' reputations, which is where Becker comes in. In September, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the firing was justified after Becker brought the case. But that same board, by a 2-1 vote, determined that Becker had been within his rights as an employee to criticize in another Facebook posting the BMW store's serving of hot dogs at a 5-series launch event. For the full story, click here.

10 Concept Cars That Didn’t Go Anywhere
Every new auto show brings another exciting round of wild concept cars. But do these ideas ever make it to reality? Some do, but many don’t – or they’re so “evolved” that you wouldn’t recognize them. has identified some of the very best concepts that are now just collecting dust. For example, the Emerg-e was slated to be a significant car for Infiniti. It would be the luxury automaker’s first supercar, plug-in hybrid, and mid-engined vehicle. As positive as all this sounds, Infiniti has reportedly axed the Emerg-E. If there’s any good news from this story it’s that Infiniti says the styling of the Emerg-E foreshadows the next Infiniti G. And then there’s the Audi Quattro Concept. When Audi showed off the Quattro concept, a collective gasp escaped from the hoard of Audi and rallying enthusiasts. Could Audi top their fantastic road-car from the past? Recently the idea was shelved, and Audi’s insistence that the Quattro Concept lives on in the Crosslane SUV concept is disappointing news indeed. Likewise, the funky Mazda Furai was overshadowed by the Shinari concept and the introduction of Mazda’s new KODO design language, and never reached production. For all ten of the best concepts that didn’t make it, click here.

Luxury Automakers Lure with Lavish, Personal Experiences

Most people hear about a new car through a TV or newspaper ad or online, then maybe troop into a dealership. Then there is Land Rover, which previewed the new Range Rover to 22 invited guests at a French-inspired chateau on a current Range Rover owner's $125-million estate a few blocks from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. For luxury automakers, such events increasingly are viewed as a necessity. In stark contrast to the largely impersonal, fleeting encounters between seller and customer when middle America goes to buy a car, luxury makers are getting personal with customers. Intensely personal. The Detroit Free Press reports that face-to-face events include such invitation-only dinners, as well as golf outings, art shows, or other upscale events in tony locales. The goal is to get customers to feel like not just car buyers, but a member of an exclusive club – in hopes they will keep coming back. The practice underscores the intense competition among luxury automakers clamoring to cash in on the truly wealthy. While sales of lower- and midlevel luxury vehicles were flat or down in October, the makers' flagship models at the top end of the luxury segment saw sales growth of 27.1 percent. Click here for the full story.

December Sales Teeter on Fiscal Cliff
Industry-wide, the last 10 days before New Year's Eve are usually some of the best for car sales. But dealers are bracing for the possibility that a protracted fight in Washington over tax increases and spending cuts could keep some consumers out of showrooms this holiday season. Automotive News reports that AutoNation Inc., the nation's No. 1 dealership group, will immediately cut orders to manufacturers and could trim its work force through attrition if automatic tax increases and spending cuts occur on Jan. 1. Before that, the gridlock in Washington could keep some customers out of showrooms. "From Christmas to New Year's it feels like Christmas every day for me," AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said on CNBC last week. "If the country is sitting there transfixed looking at us teetering on the fiscal cliff, that could be very disruptive to those big days for the auto industry." At RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive Holdings in Little Rock, Ark., Senior Vice President Franklin McLarty said the dysfunction in Washington is "looming large" this holiday season, whereas the effect of last summer's debt ceiling debate was murkier. For the full story end of the year on sales, click here.

CarMD Study Ranks Top 10 Manufacturers and Vehicle Health Index
CarMD, a company that sells diagnostic code readers and maintains a database of vehicle trouble codes, released the results of its second annual Vehicle Health Index: 2012 Manufacturer & Vehicle Rankings. Vehicles with the fewest percentage of repair incidents combined with the lowest cost per repair, per number of registered vehicles on the road, were calculated to determine the manufacturer rankings. Edmunds reports that Toyota was ranked the highest for the second year in a row, followed by Hyundai, BMW, Honda, Volkswagen, Nissan, Kia, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Click here for a chart. BMW failed to make the list last year, but jumped to the 3rd position in 2012. The German automaker had the highest average repair costs ($502.48), but made the list due to its low repair incidence rate (1.38 percent). Volkswagen was one of the most improved brands. It jumped from 9th place in 2011 to 5th in 2012. This improvement reflects a general trend of increased reliability among all automakers. General Motors and Ford fell from the top five last year, dropping to 8th and 9th, with Chrysler rounding out the top 10. These drops were attributed to an increased average among repair costs in GM and Ford vehicles. For the complete rankings from CarMD, click here.


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