Toyota Reshapes U.S. Lineup in Response to SUV Boom

First Up 11/06/18

Toyota Reshapes U.S. Lineup in Response to SUV Boom
According to The Wall Street Journal, Toyota Motor Corp. may drop some underperforming models in the U.S., its head of North American operations said. “We are taking a hard look at all the segments we compete in, to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products that we sell have strategic value to the brand,” Jim Lentz said Tuesday. Models under the microscope include fuel-sipping cars that have lost out to sport-utility vehicles, Mr. Lentz said—such as the subcompact Yaris, whose U.S. sales have plummeted this year. Also, Toyota could sell fewer variants of the Prius hybrid in the U.S., he said, and scale back niche products like sports coupes and convertibles. “Maybe you need one of those, but maybe you don’t need two of them,” Mr. Lentz said. The shift in U.S. tastes isn’t all that is driving Mr. Lentz: There’s also Toyota’s goal of an 8 percent operating margin in North America by the year ending in March 2021. Chief Executive Akio Toyoda wants to boost the profitability of Toyota’s traditional business to allow investment in new technologies. Read more here. 

AutoNation Digs Deeper Into Online Sales
AutoNation Inc.'s $50 million investment in Vroom Inc., an online used-vehicle retailer, could lead to a strategic partnership, CEO Mike Jackson said. But, reports Automotive News, the company isn't committing to that yet. "I like to create different paths to success, and I think this investment in Vroom is a possibility," Jackson said. "But for today, it's an investment." The investment, announced last week, gives AutoNation a 7 percent stake in Vroom. "It may be that we talk a year from now, and I say, 'It was a good investment.' And that's it," Jackson told Automotive News. "On other hand, it could be more. I just don't know the answer to that question today, but I'm excited to go down the road and see." Jackson compared the investment to the company's relationship with Waymo, Google's self-driving car unit. Last year, AutoNation signed a multiyear agreement to provide maintenance and repairs for Waymo's fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrids. The partnership has since expanded. Read more here. 

Court Records: Fear of Factory Floor Fed UAW Corruption
The top echelon of the United Auto Workers was so corrupt officials committed crimes out of fear they would lose six-figure jobs, travel perks and expense accounts and be forced to return to the factory floor, according to federal court filings. The Detroit News reports that former UAW leaders described a culture of blind obedience during a widespread conspiracy involving the union, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the jointly operated UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. Details of life within the top ranks of the UAW emerged in court filings as three people convicted in the corruption scandal face sentencing Wednesday and as prosecutors signal more people could soon be charged with crimes. The trio includes Clarkston resident Keith Mickens, 65, the right-hand man of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield. Mickens struck a plea deal with prosecutors in April, admitting he bought more than $7,000 worth of personal items with money from Fiat Chrysler that was supposed to help train blue-collar workers and used more money to help Holiefield buy a pool. Read more here. 

VW Wants More U.S. Production Capacity; Could Trade Platforms with Ford
The global head of Volkswagen Group says the German automaker is actively looking to add U.S. manufacturing capacity — by enlarging its sole U.S. assembly plant in Tennessee or building new — to make electric vehicles and otherwise expand its offerings to American consumers. Automotive News reports that in an expansive, hour long exclusive interview, Herbert Diess, who took over as CEO of Volkswagen Group in April, also said his company's ongoing discussions with Ford Motor Co. center on small commercial vehicles for Europe. But Diess said the talks between the two on-again, off-again global partners could go much further, including the possible sharing of VW's flexible EV platform and the potential use of Ford's midsize Ranger platform to replace the aging VW Amarok pickup sold outside the U.S. Diess visited Volkswagen Group of America headquarters last week, in part for a town hall meeting with employees to welcome longtime Audi boss Scott Keogh to his new role as VW's North American CEO. Keogh succeeded Hinrich Woebcken on Nov. 1. Read more here. 

Where Your Car is Most Likely to be Stolen in Every State
Motor vehicle theft in the United States in 2017 remained effectively unchanged from 2016, when the rate increased by nearly 7 percent, reports USA Today. Last year, there were 773,139 motor vehicle thefts across the country, a rate of 237.4 per 100,000 residents. Of course, where you live can greatly increase or decrease the chances of your car getting stolen. 24/7 Wall Street determined the city in every state where your car is most likely to be stolen based on data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The city with the highest rate of car thefts in a state is not necessarily the city with the poorest community or with the biggest crime problems. Some cars are also much more likely to be stolen than others. While expensive exotic cars may seem like the most efficient way to a large payout for a criminal, common cars like Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and Chevrolet and Ford pickup trucks are by far the most stolen vehicles in America. Learn more about where your car is most likely to be stolen in the U.S. here. 

The ABCs of SEO for Your Dealership
Studies show that 86 percent of car shoppers search online first, but the most important thing is where they end up. Prioritizing local SEO (search engine optimization) can help ensure your dealership is their destination. “Dealers should look at SEO traffic in two ways; traffic to their own website and partnering with third-party sites that rank well,” says Paul Nadjarian, head of products at Carfax. “Third-party sites ranking well for high-volume used car terms are the ones you want your inventory on.” Carfax Used Car Listings is one of those top-ranking sites, and drives ready-to-buy consumers to dealerships. In fact, Carfax Advantage dealers often see much higher close rates for customers coming from Carfax over other third-party sites. Nadjarian suggests two more steps that can help AIADA member dealers boost SEO traffic to their website:

  • Fill out your full profile on Google My Business. “There’s a lot of information dealers can give Google that can help them rank and get more traffic.”

  • Make sure the dealer name AND city/state are in the title tag of your homepage. “A lot of people are searching locally, and for local searches Google needs your location.”

AIADA members can get additional best practice tips from CARFAX by calling their CARFAX representative or 1-888-788-7715.

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