Automotive News is reporting a serious backlash from car dealers regarding the North American Dealers Association’s choice of keynote speaker for the annual industry confab in January: former first lady and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
AN spoke to one dealer that not only cancelled his trip to the NADA conference, but revoked his dealership’s membership outright over the association with Clinton. In defense of its choice, NADA Chairman David Westcott argued that the dealer advocate wanted “somebody well-known, with a name – a draw.”
Still, NADA members aren’t pleased with the choice, with dealers delivering a barrage of angry messages since Clinton’s selection, according to Automotive News. Some of the angry messages relate to the former secretary of state’s politics, no doubt, but some might just be upset about the expense of such a big-name speaker – AN cited media reports that Clinton commands about $200,000 per speech.
NADA isn’t backing down, though, with its president, Peter Welch, delivering a level-headed response to AN’s inquiry about the choice: “Our job is to provide our members with exposure to all facets of business and government that can affect their dealerships. Like her or not, Senator Clinton is perhaps the most prominent woman of modern times.”
It’s been three decades since the German maker first introduced – after much internal debate – the original “Baby Benz,” the line that became today’s C-Class. It’s more recently added downsized B- and A-Class lines, as well, the X- expected to be even smaller. And that’s on top of all the other new models that have rapidly fleshed out the Teutonic marque’s lineup, from the G to the GLK, not to mention CLS, CLA (above) and SLK.
It’s an alphanumeric soup, and Mercedes isn’t alone, as a quick perusal of the BMW and Audi lineups – never mind the expanding mix at Cadillac, Lincoln, Lexus and Jaguar – reveals. These days, luxury makers seem to have an adversity to white space. They’re struggling to fill in every possible gap in what is a luxury market that is both rapidly growing and quickly changing.
Paul A. Eisenstein is Publisher of TheDetroitBureau.com and a 30-year veteran of the automotive beat. His editorials bring his unique perspective and deep understanding of the auto world to Autoblog readers on a regular basis.
They say records are made to be broken, and the auto industry broke more than a few last month. Sales for the month of March added up to a number of all-time best months for automakers, like Nissan (+0.39 percent to 126,623) and Subaru (+13.32 percent to 36,701). General Motors reports it had its best March in five years (+6.45 percent to 245,950), Audi (+14.4 percent 13,253) achieved its second-best sales month ever, and some individual models like the Ford Fusion (+6.0 percent to 30,284 units) and Explorer (+32.5 percent to 17,509 units) also set new sales records.
Most automakers made out on the positive side of things, and many that didn’t had excuses.
Indeed, even with one fewer selling day in March 2013 versus March 2012 (27 vs. 28), most automakers made out on the positive side of things, and many that didn’t had excuses. Lincoln, for instance, down 22.47 percent to 6,825 sales, was still hampered last month by quality concerns with its new MKZ sedan that suppressed availability. That car’s production, however, is now where it should be, so Lincoln’s numbers should look much better for April. Likewise, Kia saw sales fell 14.57 percent to 49,125, largely due to production constraints on the new Forte. Mitsubishi, meanwhile, which fell 26.17 percent to 5,286 units, is down a few discontinued models compared to last year, but word on the street is that more help is coming, including a new-for-2014 Mirage subcompact.
Also worth noting is how intense the sales battle has become in the midsize sedan segment. Long dominated by the Camry, Toyota’s family sedan was knocked off its pedestal last month by the Nissan Altima, which posted 37,763 units sold to the Camry’s 37,663. The Honda Accord was right there with 36,504 sales, and the Ford Fusion crept into the mix with its 30,284 units sold. We’ll be watching this segment as the year progresses to see if Toyota will keep its crown or lose it to the Altima, Accord, or maybe even the dark-horse Fusion.
*Brands and companies are displayed in descending order according to their percentage change in volume sales. There were 27 selling days in March 2013 and 28 selling days in March 2012, so there is a difference between the change in monthly sales volume and the change in average daily sales rate (DSR) for each brand/company. Also, brands are combined and reported as companies only if their sales figures are released jointly.
The debate over whether it’s better to buy or lease a car is nothing new: Salesmen and experts, consumer advocates and financewriters have argued over the merits of leasing for decades. But between the still-shaky job market and Americans’ stagnant wages, the question of whether it’s better to own your rolling iron or rent it has taken on an additional urgency.
To get a better feel for the costs and benefits of leasing versus buying, we asked DailyFinance’s readers to tell us about their experiences — and you had a lot to say.
For a lot of car buyers, investment is a big concern — and a complex one. After all, as a car ages, it depreciates in value, particularly during the first few years of ownership. Then you have to add in maintenance costs, which rise as a car gets older, making the vehicle that much more expensive to maintain during a period when it has already become worth far less. To further complicate things, these all tend to happen not so long after most people finish paying off their car loans.
One reader, Jacqueline Price, advocated ownership, noting that, when you buy a car, “At least you have something that is yours after you pay it off.” Not only does this nicely shortcut the issue of buying a lease car at the end of the term, which Jacqueline notes can “costs a fortune,” it has another bright side: “It is nice to look forward to not having a car payment.”
“Redwolf0849” echoes Jacqueline’s concerns, asking “Why put thousands up front to lease a car when you can use it as a deposit on a car you buy?” “Joe” offers a similar perspective, noting that “I have learned over the years that the most economical way to get around is to buy a high quality new car, take care of it, and keep it until it won’t run anymore.” That way, he claims, “You get the new car experience, beat the new car depreciation curve and you know what has and has not been done to the car.”
But the investment issue can cut both ways. One reader, “Virginia,” argues that the question is whether it’s wiser to “invest $20,000 or more in an asset that depreciates in value, or in an asset that appreciates and generates income.” Noting that all new cars lose some of their value, she goes on to point out that they are often technically inferior. After all, she writes, “safety features are constantly improving each new car year,” and a 10-year-old car lacks “all the improvements in rear mirrors, side air bags, and tire pressure readouts” that have developed over the last decade.
Across the country, car sales have been steadily gaining ground in 2013. But with more and more consumers starting to consider a new car, a classic question is once again rearing its head: is it better to buy or lease?
In the best of times, the question isn’t easy, and it requires a new car purchaser to weigh lower payments against potential resale value, out-of-pocket repair costs against extended warranties. Now, however, the lease or buy question is being further complicated by the issue of lingering economic instability. Between sequestration, the debt ceiling debate, the issue of rising taxes and falling wages, it’s getting harder and harder to make a long-term economic commitment. And with continued economic crises on the horizon, it doesn’t look like things are getting better any time soon.
So which path is wiser? To answer the question, we’ve decided to ask you — our readers — for your thoughts. What are your experiences with buying and leasing? Do you have any great money saving stories to tell? What about horror stories? Are you considering a new car purchase or lease and weighing the alternatives? We’d like to know!
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below; alternately, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a Twitter at @bruce1971.
You know, people, getting through this life from one end to the other in one piece really does require just one rule: don’t be a prick. If you ever find yourself in a situation of dubious moral standing, take a step back and ask yourself, “Am I being a prick to any person or thing?” If the answer is “yes,” then stop what you’re doing, apologize and go home. One dealership in Wisconsin could possibly have benefitted from that course of action when it reportedly helped David McMurray con his elderly and disabled parents into buying a brand-new $42,000 GMC Terrain for his use.
According to local news reports, a representative from Palmen Motors visited Harold and Christen Thomsen’s home to collect signatures for a loan agreement three weeks before the 89-year-old, legally blind Harold passed away. The World War II veteran was on morphine and in hospice when he signed for the GMC, and his 90-year-old wife suffers from dementia. Even so, upon being discovered, the dealer initially said everything was done “legally.” According to Barb Tinkler, McMurray’s sister, the sale was a scam that remained hidden until he was busted for an unrelated criminal charge.
An attorney for Palmen Motors has now said they regret the way the transaction went down and the dealership will buy the car back and pay off the loan. State police have opened their own investigation after the local news station brought the issue to light. You can watch the video report below.
When Alfa Romeo makes its triumphant return to the US with the all-new 4C by the end of this year, it appears that some customers could have a hard time getting their hands on one of these sporty little coupes. Automotive News is reporting that not all Fiat dealers will be getting Alfa Romeo franchises, and that allocations of the 4C, at least initially, will be limited to the best-performing dealers.
Fiat plans to ship only 1,000 4C models to the US each year, but it isn’t clear how many Fiat dealers will actually sell Alfa Romeos and which will be the first to sell the 4C. Currently, there are 202 Fiat dealers in the US, and that number is expected to increase to 220 by October. A previous stipulation for Fiat dealers to sell the Alfa Romeo brand was the mandatory inclusion of an attached service department, but this requirement is being pushed back until more Alfa Romeo models are on sale in the US, which should happen in 2015.
Each year, J.D. Power and Associates surveys original owners of three-year-old vehicles to find out what kinds of problems they have had experienced over the last 12 months, and then it uses this data to create its annual Vehicle Dependability Study. This means that the models in the 2013 study are 2010 model year vehicles, and J.D. Power rates each make as well as the top individual models based on how many problems were experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100).
Debunking the idea that carryover models are more dependable than new or updated models, the 2013 study found that the average carryover model experienced 133 PP100, while all-new or redesigned vehicles for the 2010 model year had 116 PP100; vehicles that received minor changes fared the best with just 111 PP100. The overall average for all makes was 126 PP100, which is the lowest figure since the findings were first issued in 1989.
For 2013, Lexus and Porsche remained in the top two spots, respectively (and each experienced fewer problems year over year), but there were plenty of shakeups elsewhere in the list. The biggest mover overall was Ram, which moved up 20 spots from one of the worst performers in 2012 to sitting pretty in the top 10. Other big positive movers include Mazda, Infiniti and Ford. On the opposite side of things, Scion dropped 13 spots, falling from the fifth-best score down to No. 18. Cadillac, Audi, Volvo and Mitsubishi were other makes that saw big drops in their dependability results.
In terms of dependability for individual models, Toyota products grabbed the top spot in seven of 18 vehicle segments and General Motors also performed well among its individual makes, being named most dependable in four categories. The total breakdown as well as the official press release are posted below.
An alleged US order guide for the 2014 Jaguar F-Type has made its way online courtesy of the good people at F-TypeClub.com, documenting everything from wheel color options to special equipment packages. From the looks of things, buyers will be able to choose from a total of eight wheel designs in sizes ranging from 18 inches on the base model all the way up to 20 inches. While most of those rollers are available in either silver or black finishes, the 20-inch blade-style wheels are not only forged, but come with carbon-fiber trim. Fancy.
Depending on trim, F-Type buyers will get to choose between two types of seat, including a set of performance-style 14-way power adjustable thrones, complete with seat belts in black, red or tan. Other fun tricks include available power folding side view mirrors and a 770-watt, 14-speaker Meridian sound system.
The F-Type will offer owners a rash of option packages that bundle popular equipment choices together, including three premium packages and two performance packages. There are also a number of aesthetic packages to be had, including a Black Package that swaps the standard grille, hood louvers, splitters, vents, roll hoops and rear valance for gloss black bits. Jaguar hasn’t said one word about specific options pricing, however, model pricing is set to start from $69,000, and there’s a rudimentary configurator already online. Check out the full order guide by clicking through the gallery, and be sure to head over to F-TypeClub.com for more information.
Recent news about the price cuts on the Ford Focus EV and Nissan Leaf are proof positive that despite all their eco-goodness, pure electrics as well as plug-in hybrids remain a tough sell to the American mass market.
There’s no doubt automakers are committed to electrifying an increasing portion of their product offerings. The problem is that no one needs to buy an EV or plug-in hybrid. But with CAFE standards doubling to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 and California’s mandate that major manufacturers sell zero-emission vehicles as a percentage of their overall fleets (a measure also adopted by 13 other states), carmakers have to sell EVs and plug-in hybrids to avoid costly penalties or face caps on the number of vehicles they are allowed to sell.
Matt DeLorenzo is the former editor-in-chief of Road & Track and has covered the auto industry for 35 years, including stints at Automotive News and AutoWeek. He has authored books including VW’s New Beetle, Chrysler’s Modern Concept Cars, and Corvette Dynasty.
If you live in Japan and you want to get something for your special someone for Valentine’s Day, then slow dance down to your Fiat dealer and check out the Fiat 500 Fiore Rosa. A holiday special, the pale metallic pink Cinquecento is limited to 150 examples and only on sale from February 14-17. But beware the connotations, because as far as we can glean from Google Translate, the 500 Fiore Rosa is a bargain model, getting halogen lights instead of bi-xenons, manual air-con instead of climate control, 14-inch steel wheels instead of 15-inch alloys, and going without chrome trim, glass roof, parking sensors and alarm.
It’s fitted with the TwinAir engine and gets the same price as the regular 500 TwinAir, however – 2,200,000 yen ($23,559 US). Other than the special name, we can’t figure out where the 500 Fiore Rosa is hiding its treats, especially because it gets the el-cheapo wheel covers of the 500 Pop fitted with the 1.2-liter engine instead of the 500 TwinAir wheels. But if you want to make a statement, it’s there. And we’re talking to the women of Japan, because apparently they’re the ones who buy the gifts on Valentine’s day in Nippon.
We’re only a month into the 2013 calendar year, but with January’s strong sales continuing the momentum from 2012, some are already predicting that this year will be the best sales year since start of the recession. According to Automotive News, the two main vehicle segments expected to drive sales in 2013 are full-size pickup trucks and family sedans.
January saw monthly sales top one million units for the first time since 2008, and these figures have led analysts to peg their annual sales projections between 15 million and 15.5 million total units in the US, fed by increased sedan and truck sales to the tune of 19 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
Well, that happened quickly. The $441,600 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster is, according to reports, already sold out in every market around the world until at least the middle of 2014.
Boasting a 6.5-liter V12 that churns out a heady 690 horsepower, there’s little wondering why the cars are so popular. But with its finicky carbon fiber rooflet, $3,700 gas guzzler tax and and an MSRP that sits considerably higher than the hardtop version’s price tag, the Aventador Roadster requires a very specific type of buyer. Lamborghini isn’t saying how many of the new dropheads have been sold, but we’re told hand raisers won’t get their keys until mid-summer at the earliest.
If you need a refresher on what makes this particular Lamborghini worth nearly half a million dollars, you can check out the photos and videos from the machine’s unveiling in Miamihere.
Is there anything else to discuss this month besides the fact that By the Numbers has a new graphic? Since sometime in 2006, I’ve dutifully collected this monthly sales data and published it in table form for your perusal, and I’ve always accompanied the data and my analysis of it with that funny little graphic of a green car going up (or down) a red hill. I’ve no idea where I found it, probably a Google image search, and have resisted changing it for so long partly on account of laziness, but also an obstinate will to maintain consistency. That will, good people, has been broken, and for the better I think, based on the lovely new graphic you see above these words.
On to the numbers, which for the most part were pleasantly high across the industry. American brands lead the way with Cadillac posting a 46.97-percent surge in sales and Dodge a 37.43-percent jump. Lexus and Buick were also up over 30 percent in January.
Of the big brands selling close to or over 100,000 units per month, Toyota took top honors with a rise in sales of 26.05 percent, though not far behind was Ford with a 23.35-percent lift. Chrysler appeared in the teens at 17.56 percent, while Honda (12.74 percent) and Chevrolet (10.85 percent) each reported healthy increases, as well.
Nissan, however, showed a mere 1.76-percent rise in the raw number of vehicles it sold last month. When converted to the change in the Daily Average Sales rate, that number falls to -2.31 percent. Other surprises at the bottom of the list include Hyundai (2.39/-1.71 percent), Kia (2.21/-1.88 percent) and BMW (0.66/-3.37 percent), while Jeep and Mazda both sold fewer models last month than the year before no matter which column you look at.
*Brands and companies are displayed in descending order according to their percentage change in volume sales. There were 25 selling days in January 2013 and 24 selling days in January 2012, so there is a difference between the change in monthly sales volume and the change in average daily sales rate (DSR) for each brand/company. Also, brands are combined and reported as companies only if their sales figures are released jointly.
Each extra inch in the wheelbase of the six- and seven-passenger 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, compared to the five-seat Santa Fe Sport, will cost you $100. The larger version of Hyundai’s new people carrier is 3.9 inches longer, and whereas the Santa Fe Sport was priced at $24,450, the roomier Santa Fe comes in four flavors that start at $28,350 for the front-wheel drive GLS version. Adding all-wheel drive to the GLS tacks on another $1,750, stepping up to the front-wheel Limited takes you to $33,100, the all-wheel drive Limited topping things out at $34,850. For the true price, you’ll need to add *$845 to those prices for freight.
The base price is the same as Hyundai’s previous seven-seater option, the Veracruz, slapped on a vehicle with much better looks and more features. Compared to the Santa Fe Sport, the six- and seven-passenger option has 8.5 extra inches in overall length, 1.9 extra inches of second-row legroom and that third row of seating in its hind quarters. The second row can be had as a traditional bench or captain’s chairs on the Limited. Under the hood is the same 3.3-liter direct-injection V6 with 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed Shiftronic transmission, and the same EPA estimated 25 highway miles per gallon for the FWD version.
You also get extra standard amenities like a 115-volt socket, power liftgate and rear-seat climate controls. Check out the press release below to find out all about them.
Consumer Reports has released its annual Car-Brand Perception Survey, and the list looks awfully familiar. The top six brands are identical to last year’s results, with Toyota, Ford and Honda continuing to occupy the podium. All told, Toyota walked away with 133 points, putting it 15 ahead of second-place Ford. Honda jumped 26 points this year, narrowing Ford’s lead to just four points in total.
Consumer Reports polls buyers from across the country on how they see multiple brands in seven categories, including quality, safety, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation and environmentally friendly/green. Researchers then combine the findings to come up with the total brand score.
While value and performance remain important to buyers, CR found quality and safety are still on top when it comes to significance. Scion and Mitsubishi found themselves at the bottom of the pack with the worst score of all, tied at just six points. Ram, Fiat and Mini filled out the lowest five with scores of seven, eight and 10 points, respectively. You can read the full press release below for more information, or head over to the Consumer Reports site.
Here’s a chance to acquire a celebrity-owned vehicles, and this time at a discount instead of a premium. So the celebrity in this case is Consumer Reports, that magazine that could be equally adored and abhored by car enthusiasts. CR buys all of its test vehicles and usually finds willing second owners within its own ranks, but its opening its small used-car lot to the public. On the forecourt are four roadsters: an automatic 2012 Audi TT 2.0 TFSI Quattro S-Tronic with 6,600 miles for $36,500, a manual 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i with 8,400 miles for $45,000, a manual 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK250 for $39,500 and a manual 2013 Porsche Boxster with 7,000 miles for $48,000.
Those numbers mean a savings of $9,000 to $10,000 before haggling – each car is listed with an “Asking price” so there could be some wiggle room if you show up with pockets full of dough and eyes full of serious intent. Since the money CR earns from the sales go back into the magazine’s budget to buy more test cars, however, it probably won’t take any oddball trades, so you can forget about getting any purchasing help from that track-day AMC Javelin project on blocks in the back yard.
The vehicles have been taken care of and spiffed up for sale; buyers will take delivery at the CR test track in East Haddam, Connecticut and get a tour of the facilities. While you’re there they’ll even take you on a lap around the track so you can feel how your car handles when driven by one of its testers. They will probably not help you with advice on which toaster and dehumidifier to buy – you’ll still need to get a subscription for that. Have a look at the video below to see a day in the life of a CR test car.
The whole new range of diesel models will be powered by Audi’s 3.0-liter TDI V6, good for 240 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque in this application. Of course, Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, and even in the big A8, the diesel grunt will be enough to propel the long-wheelbase flagship to 60 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds (almost a full second slower than the A8 3.0T we reviewed last fall). That said, the A8 TDI should still be a pretty engaging steer, and considering the fact that this thing will reportedly return fuel economy figures of up to 36 miles per gallon on the highway (24 in the city), a slightly slower launch time is well worth it. (The A8 3.0T tops out at 28 mpg highway.)
Elsewhere in the segment, Mercedes-Benz offers a diesel version of its S-Class flagship, retailing for $93,000 and good for fuel economy figures of 21/31 mpg city/highway. By comparison, the A8 TDI seems like a steal, and we’ll be interested to see where the forthcoming BMW 7 Series diesel falls into the class of huge oil-burning barges.
The 2014 Audi A8L TDI will hit showrooms in the US this spring. For the full details, scroll down to read the automaker’s brief press blast.
With the 2014 Ford Transit coming with more available factory configurations than the E-Series ever offered, Ford has come up with a quick and easy way for customers to choose from numerous build combinations. To help display which body styles, wheelbases and roof heights can be equipped with one another, the “2014 Transit Combinator” gets the job done.
The Euro-style Transit allows for an amazing number of options including four body styles, four roof heights and six wheelbase/frame options, and the Combinator offers an easy drop-down menu allowing potential customers to research the van before it goes on sale this fall; of course, this doesn’t even factor in the Transit’s three possible engine options. Even if you’re not sure which version of the full-size van you might need, the self-explanatory random configuration button is always there for assistance.
2012 was a rocking year for hybrid vehicle sales here in the US, and Ward’s Auto has written up an interesting piece that breaks some of the sales data down. The number-crunchers have tallied, for instance, that the 427,605 hybrids sold in 2012 is a 64-percent increase on the 261,507 sold in 2011.
Those numbers are big enough to beat out whole other mainstream segment sales, says Ward’s, including midsize luxury cars, small crossovers/utility vehicles, and three separate SUV segments.
However, if we step back and take a closer at the real numbers for actual hybrids, the jump that Ward’s is highlighting might actually be more a product of a booming market than anything. For instance: the article points out that USmarket share for “alternative-fuel” vehicles grew from 2.8 percent in 2009 to 3.3 percent in 2012. Of course, diesel vehicle sales from Audi and Volkswagen account for more that 100k of that group, and another 11,000-odd EVs push up that market share, too. (Read the handyAutoblogGreen alt-fuel sales report for the end of 2012, if you want a more complete breakdown.)
All of that means that true hybrid market share was less than three percent for 2012 – and closer to the 2009 levels – despite having a much improved total volume in a much improved car market. That’s good news for car makers, for sure, but we’re slightly less bullish than Ward’s about the pro-hybrid message being sent by US car buyers.