Richer Americans Are Skipping SUVs for Station Wagons

First Up 01/07/19

Jan. 7, 2019

A New Year – and a New Chairman for AIADA

The New Year has always meant a fresh start, and for AIADA, on January 27th, it brings with it a new Chairman. Brad Strong spent 2018 leading our association through some of its greatest challenges – including threats of 25 percent national security tariffs on imported autos and auto parts and the many complications created for our industry by a newly renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement. The issues we faced in 2018 were mighty big – but our response, united along with the entire auto industry, was mighty strong. We’ve managed to protect your businesses so far, but the fight isn’t over yet. In his blog, Brad writes that he wouldn’t be comfortable handing over AIADA’s reins to anyone in this situation, and that’s why we’re so lucky that it isn’t just anyone taking over. Howard Hakes has politics running in his veins. Most dealers have to be dragged kicking and screaming into meeting with their legislators and engaging in local and national politics. Howard runs in full steam ahead. To read more about how you can attend our Annual Meeting - and Howard's first day on the job, click here.

Toyota Aims For Sci-Fi Styling In Its Upgraded, Tech-Heavy Self-Driving Car

Waymo has begun a small-scale robotaxi program in Phoenix, but self-driving car technology has a long way to go before it’s ready for widespread use. So, in the meantime, Toyota wants to improve the aesthetics of autonomous vehicles in conjunction with the technology as it prepares for its own launch in 2020. Forbes reports that the Japanese auto giant’s California design studio worked with Silicon Valley-based Toyota Research Institute, which leads the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle program, to craft the fourth-generation “TRI-P4” prototype, aiming to better integrate a dizzying array of advanced sensors in a sleek package. Click here for video. The modified Lexus LS 500h hybrid vehicle now has thermal imaging cameras, along with numerous high-definition cameras, multiple forms of lidar sensors and radar housed in a sleek rooftop unit that makes the sedan look like a police car from the future. Click here to see it. Toyota has said it intends to launch its first self-driving vehicle in time for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year but hasn’t yet provided full details of plans for commercialization. For the full story, click here.

Opinion: America’s Lost Markets

The world turns even if America doesn’t. That’s certainly true on trade, where a rebranded Trans-Pacific Partnership has begun with the new year in 11 countries two years after President Trump withdrew. The biggest losers, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board, are American producers. The CPTPP, as it’s known, entered into force in Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore last week, where it will slash 95 percent of tariffs on goods among its members, which account for 13 percent of global GDP. The others include Vietnam, where CPTPP is in force Jan. 14, and Brunei, Chile, Malaysia and Peru, which are in the midst of ratification. Despite the U.S. withdrawal, member economies still stand to make significant gains—some $147 billion in global income benefits, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Canada is due for a larger GDP boost than if the U.S. had remained in the pact, and that comes largely at the expense of U.S. farmers who are likely to be edged out of Japanese markets.  The U.S. withdrawal from TPP was one of the worst own-goals in recent economic history. For the full editorial, click here.

Richer Americans Are Skipping SUVs for Station Wagons

Stately, plump SUVs are running roughshod over the auto industry, crushing sedans, compacts and anything else that doesn’t approximate a 5,000-pound turtle. And yet amid the carnage, the earnest, doughty station wagon has emerged unscathed. In fact, according to Bloomberg, it’s picking up speed thanks to a crowd of new models. U.S. customers drove off in 212,000 brand spanking new station wagons last year, 29 percent more than they did five years earlier, according to new data from Click here for a chart. While the wagon is still the narrowest of niche products, that growth rate bests some of the industry’s most popular machines, as well as the long tail of vehicle sizes and shapes that are fading fast. “The winner in the death of the car is the station wagon,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. “You’ve got the car on one end of the spectrum and the SUV on the other; the wagon sits right in between those two.” Click here for more on wagons, and who’s buying them.

Want to Hear a Secret? N.Y. Group Sure Does

Is it worth $200 a month to glean behind-the-scenes insights into how a dealership's sales and service employees interact with customers? At two Davidson Auto Group stores in upstate New York, the answer is yes, based on the benefits reaped from a long-standing secret-shopper program. "Secret shoppers give us customer insights on an entirely different level," Jerry Heath, general manager of Davidson Chevrolet-Buick-Cadillac-GMC and Davidson Nissan, both of Watertown, N.Y., tells Automotive News. "We all think we know what customers want, but that's not always the case." There are times when store personnel think they handled a customer situation correctly, Heath said, until feedback from the secret-shopper program shows the customer had a very different view of the scenario. BestMark Inc. administers the program, sending some of its more than 500,000 trained secret shoppers (all independent contractors) to clients' stores to test customer service. Dealerships sometimes ask BestMark to secret-shop competitors. For more on how the program works, and how secret shoppers keep from being recognized by dealership staff, click here.

Around the Web

The Suzuki 'Samurai' Pickup is the Cutest Truck You'll See Today [FOX News]

Mazda Just Unofficially Broke The 26-Year-Old Lap Record At Daytona [Jalopnik]

BMW Customized an 8 Series with Actual Meteors [Automobile Mag]

Audi Cancels its European Delivery Option for U.S. Buyers [AutoBlog]