Category Archives: Deland Toyota Scion

Toyota looks to regain momentum with new redesigned 2012 Camry

 Toyota showed off its all-new Camry on Tuesday, aiming to recover lost sales momentum with price cuts and a high-powered ad campaign for its flagship sedan that remains America’s best-selling car.

Sales of the Camry are down 8 percent this year but it is still No. 1 in the United States despite market-share gains by mid-size rivals the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata.

Losing sales this year has been the Honda Accord, which has fallen to No. 4 among mid-size cars from its No. 2 position in 2010.

The launch of the new Camry comes at a time when Toyota is struggling to shake free of the damage from costly safety recalls and the more recent problems caused by production shortages after the March earthquake. The Japanese automaker has seized on the redesigned Camry as a symbol for its own return as a force in the U.S. market.

Toyota unveiled the 2012 Camry with unusual fanfare at events staged in Detroit, Los Angeles and New York that featured a live video link from a plant in Kentucky where President Akio Toyoda drove the first production vehicle off the assembly line.

Camry’s U.S. sales peaked in 2007, as Toyota extended a lead over GM in global auto sales. That was also the first year of the current generation of Camry.Some 15 million Camrys have been sold worldwide since it debuted in the U.S. market in 1983. It has been the top-selling car in the U.S. market for nine years running and 13 of the last 14 years according to Toyota.

Overall, U.S. Toyota sales fell 7 percent through July for the No. 3 spot behind GM and Ford. Most of its competitors gained, led by Hyundai with a sales increase of 23 percent.

The Camry’s reputation for worry-free reliability made it a favorite of a generation of American consumers now entering or already in their retirement years. The average age of the U.S. Camry buyer is 60, which the automaker hopes to lower with the 2012 model, the sedan’s seventh generation.

The mainline gasoline-powered sedans will begin showing up at U.S. dealers in early October, ahead of an October 17 launch of an advertising campaign that will climax during the early 2012 Super Bowl broadcast, said Carter.

Hybrid versions of the Camry will be at U.S. dealerships by December.

Among competitors, the new Chevrolet Malibu goes on sale in early 2012 followed later in 2012 by new versions of Honda’s Accord and Nissan’s Altima.

Earlier this month, General Motors said it expected Toyota and major Japanese automakers to be “back with a vengeance” in the U.S. auto market as they are able to recover from the March earthquake. A sign of that may be the pricing of the 2012 Camry lineup. Of the six versions of the Camry, five will have lower prices than their 2011 counterparts, which Toyota executives say is partly because of the intense competition in the mid-size sedan market.

While Camry prices are lower, fuel economy ratings are higher, led by the Camry Hybrid LE, the lower-priced of two hybrid offerings. It will get a combined city and highway average of 41 miles per gallon. The four-cylinder gasoline models will get a combined 28 mpg.

Price War: Honda and Toyota Get Down and Dirty, helping to boost March auto sales

Price wars and discounting used to be the province of beleaguered companies from Detroit. Now Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) are down in the bargain mud, too — and helping to boost March auto sales.

Forecasts for annual U.S. auto sales for the month are around 12.5 million range for theSeasonally Adjusted Annual Rate. That’s a sharp improvement from a 10.8 million SAAR in January 2010 and 10.4 million in February.

“The shape of the U.S. SAAR over the rest of the year will largely depend on how long the industry’s pricing battle goes on,” saidBrian Johnson, auto industry analyst for Barclays Capital.

Toyota kicked off the discounting this month with offers of zero-percent loans, to boost demand in light of the unintended acceleration disaster. Honda responded with cheap, no-money-down lease deals.

Such steep discounts are unusual for the Japanese carmakers, because their cars have typically been in higher demand than U.S. brands. Last month, before the current round of price-cutting kicked in, said Honda’s incentives averaged about $1,400, less than half the level of Chrysler, Ford and GM. Toyota incentives averaged about $1,800, according to the shopping and research web site.

Meanwhile, ChryslerFord (F) and General Motors are bending over backwards to cut production and try and reduce the need for deep discounts, especially since Chrysler and GM went bankrupt last year. The results have been mixed. CEO Jeremy Anwyl said in a written statement the Toyota deals are unlikely to last, because Toyota’s inventories of unsold cars aren’t that high. The Toyota deals are set to expire April 5.

“Although this SAAR sounds promising,”Anwyl concluded, “it’s too early to wave the flag and say that the economy has turned the corner.”

Toyota Sales Surge, Despite Wave of Bad News

Toyota showed a dramatic U.S. sales recovery in the first two weeks of March. Of course, so did the rest of the industry, which is on track to sell 12 million cars in 2010, compared to just over 10 million in  2009.

But it was Toyota’s performance that stood out, given the endless bad publicity it has been enduring. My theory is that people’s personal experience with Toyotas trumps the second-hand bad news. They worry somewhat about sudden acceleration, but they’re reassured by statistics that suggest it’s very unlikely to happen to them.

Part of my evidence for this is anecdotal, since no less than three people (including my mother) told me, unsolicited, of their loyalty to the Toyota brand in the last few days. They’d buy Toyotas again.

Toyota’s reliability is not in question. In a J.D. Power survey released March 18, the Lexus brand was third overall, and the Toyota brand fifth. Four Toyotas (the Highlander, Prius, Sequoia and Tundra) were first in their segments, more than any other manufacturer. (Here’s a summary of 2010 Toyota ratings by J.D. Power.)

A warning sign for Toyota, though, is that the latest report fromKelley Blue Book shows Toyota falling from the top spot in brand loyalty. Hyundai was number three, but now Toyota occupies that spot and Hyundai is number one, and Honda second. Given the circumstances, being third is still a very good showing.

Incredible incentives are also helping Toyota. I’ve heard from many friends who say they’re attracted by Toyota’s great deals, especially because (unlike FordGM and Chrysler) the Japanese automaker has rarely discounted before.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, “The Japanese auto makerusually refrains from big incentive campaigns, but began offering zero-percent financing, cash rebates and subsidized leases to halt a slide in its U.S. market share in the past two months.”

Jeff Schuster of J.D. Power’s global forecasting unit warned that Toyota could spark an “incentive war” among major carmakers, andJeremy Anwyl, chief executive of, cautioned that the sales bounce we’re seeing is largely due to the incentives—take those away, and the bounce goes away, too.

Despite its many missteps on sudden acceleration, Toyota has built very good cars for a very long time. Don’t bet against it coming out of its crisis and regaining its status as America’s favorite car company.

Dealer Marketing Magazine’s Advice to Auto Dealers


Marketing your dealership used to be so much simpler. There was television, Radio, newspaper, and direct mail — and that was it. Those were the days weren’t they? Today, however, with the advent of the Internet, things have changed. Now every dealership, big and small, has to have a Website in order to survive. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small dealer in rural Alaska selling trucks and 4x4s or a luxury dealership in Los Angeles selling Porsches, without a Website, you might as well not exist.

Websites are only one aspect of Internet marketing, however. In order to really take advantage of the changes brought on by the Internet, you need to have a marketing strategy that takes advantage of all the Internet has to offer in order to help you grow your business and succeed, in good times and bad.

Internet marketing has many different facets, from Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to promoting your online presence with your offline marketing efforts, website building, and everything in between.

In order to help you negotiate the maze of different strategies and technologies that are out there, we spoke to several Internet experts and convinced them to share some of their secrets with you.

Combining traditional marketing and Internet marketing
Ten years ago, a Website was just a marketing add-on; today it is the first view most of your customers have of your dealership, because the Internet is the first place most customers start their vehicle search. Conversely, however, most customers still hear about your dealership through your offline advertising.

What this means for dealers is that it is time to stop separating Internet marketing and traditional marketing. All of your offline advertising needs to lead to your Website and your Website needs to reflect what you say in your offline advertising, thus creating synergy in your marketing. Synergy is an overused word, but what it literally means is two or more things that when combined create more than when they act separately, which is what happens when you combine your offline and online marketing.

“Based on the data, there is no better way to promote your Website than through traditional marketing an online placement. In other words, advertising your Website address in every ad medium you use generates the best results,” confirms Jason Ezell, national sales director, director of industry relations, and one of the original founders for DealerSkins.

One of the reasons that many dealers’ online and offline marketing do not work in sync is because their advertising agency and their Website provider do not work together.

“Your Website provider should give you the most powerful Website with the most effective backend tools, and your ad agency should give you the most cutting-edge creative and marketing strategy,” offers Dean Evans of “They should work together as a team and share information; work in partnership with the Website developer and the agency to maximize the investment for dealers.”

Measuring your success
John Wanamaker, whom many consider the father of modern advertising, once said, “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.” That, however, was the nineteenth century and things have changed. Today, with the marketing metrics made possible with the Internet and other new technologies, you should be able to calculate your return on investment so that none of your budget is wasted. This is one area where the vast majority of marketing experts agree.

“The statistical information we gain from shoppers’ ‘tire-clicking’ is vital to running all aspects of the dealership,” says Jason Ezell. “These stats can tell us exactly where a dealer’s marketing dollars are best spent, which cars are most and least popular, and what other cars a shopper is considering before sending a lead. In the ‘new economy,’ this data will be invaluable.”

Remember, however, when you measure your marketing efforts to compare your online and offline efforts, you may be surprised which forms of advertising deliver the best return on investment. As Dillon McDonald, chief operating officer for Jumpstart Automotive Media, reminds us, “Measure traditional media and digital media against the same scorecard, which is a mix of car sales, audience engagement, and leads generated — not solely lead count.”

Lead generation to vehicle purchase: What’s The Weakest Link?

The Weakest Link

The path leading from ‘searching for a vehicle’ to ‘purchasing a vehicle’ involves many information transactions. The buyer often starts by searching online, looks at vehicle detail pages, initiates contact with some sellers (by phone or email), corresponds a few times to narrow down the field, schedules appointments with some subset of the sellers with whom they corresponded, and finally purchases one of the vehicles.

Links in the chain
From an industry standpoint, the path that follows is like a chain: The generator, the lead itself, the dealership, and the staff member working the lead are all links in that chain. There are strong and weak lead providers who produce strong and weak leads; there are strong and weak dealerships that employ strong and weak staff. By the time leads have run the gauntlet of links from lead generation to vehicle purchase, they have had several opportunities to hit a weak link. As long as the links in the chain stay strong, the lead progresses toward a sale; as soon as there is a bad link, the lead is most likely dead. If it goes really poorly with the staff member link, you not only lose this sale but probably also lose the opportunity for service business or future vehicle sales with this lead. The point is that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link and your success with each lead hinges on having a strong chain.

Taking control
As a dealer, you have little control over how a lead is generated; however, you do have some control over how your existing and potential customers are treated by your staff, which determines, in the minds of consumers, whether or not you are a good or bad dealership. You also have control over the staff you employ and their training. This is link in the chain that you must focus on, if you want to get more out of your leads.

The dilemma
The salespeople working the leads have made no investment and are therefore less inclined to really work every lead. Often, the staff will take only a single pass or not work leads at all and just blame the lack of success on lead quality. I suggest a new model for your consideration: Let your staff invest in the leads! Have them buy the leads themselves or share in the cost with you and provide a performance-based way for them to earn their investment back. If your staff is invested in the leads they work, they will be much more likely to work those leads until they buy or die, which will produce an immediate, profound change in your lead closing ratio.

Keep making sales
Yes, sales are down, way down. However, people are still searching for cars, buying cars, and selling cars. Traffic, searches, and private party listings have held relatively steady throughout the economic downturn. Of course, there wass a slight drop in all three areas, it was not nearly proportional to the drop in sales at dealerships. Sales are out there but in the current economic climate staff must work harder to get them: Don’t let a staff member be the weakest link in your chain.


Toyota Camry is more American than the Ford F-150 according to’s American-Made Index.


Saturday, July 4, 2009
Survey: Camry more American than F-150
Alisa Priddle / The Detroit News
The Toyota Camry is more American than the Ford F-150, at least according to’s annual American-Made Index.

The findings further muddy the buy American debate that rages across the country.

Toyota Motor Corp. also is the most American car company, according to the rankings of the index in terms of U.S. content in its cars and trucks.

The findings are based on where each vehicle is built, its popularity based on sales volume and the percentage of the parts made in the U.S. based on the cost or value of those parts.

This year, the Camry (not counting the hybrid or the Solara) dethroned the F-150 which had been a five-time winner. The Ford truck came in at No. 2.

Toyota had the most individual models on the list with four, including the Sienna minivan in the sixth spot, followed by the Tundra full-size pickup, and the new Venza crossover at No. 10.

Detroit’s Big Three automakers collectively have five vehicles in the top 10 spots, which is their lowest showing since started the index in 2006 and was conducted twice a year initially.

“This year was unique for our index, to say the least,” said Patrick Olsen, editor of “The difficult sales environment and changes in cars’ domestic-parts content — both important factors in our index’s equation — played a huge role in how the rankings changed from last year.”

The results likely won’t go over well in Detroit, said analyst Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting Inc. in Short Hills, N.J., but the more important point is that the vehicles and many of their parts are made in the U.S. and “we need all the payroll generation we can get.”

To its credit, Toyota has maintained its headcount in the U.S., Phillippi said. “There have not been wholesale firings and mass layoffs and they continue to employ a lot of people even in a downturn and their game plan is to continue to employ more.”

General Motors Corp. results were impacted because the methodology used excludes models slated to be discontinued that do not have a clear successor. That wipes out the Pontiac G6, for example, which has scored well in the past, but has fallen victim to GM downsizing. Also absent from the list this year is the Chevrolet Cobalt, which has fewer domestic parts and seen its sales fall off because it, too, is being discontinued. It will be replaced by the all-new Chevrolet Cruze next year.

GM retains three vehicles in the top 10 with the Chevrolet Malibu taking the third spot and the Chevrolet Silverado (5th) and GMC Sierra 1500 pickup (8th).

The Ford Taurus had the most domestic parts at 90 percent but landed 9th on the list, largely because the new Taurus is selling about 2,000 units a month compared with about 25,000 Camrys a month.

Chrysler Group LLC has no vehicles in the top 10. The company’s high-volume minivan is made in Canada.

Phillippi said while the results may surprise some consumers, it likely will have little impact on buying decisions and he doubts many shoppers research domestic content. “These days, price and incentives are at the top of the list given the squeeze on peoples’ budgets.”

The index provides some justification for consumers who have been loyal to imports, Phillippi said.

Jim Hall, analyst with 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, called the claims “spurious” and questioned the math given that the index uses a parts count but does not go deeper and calculate the number of labor hours to make each part — a figure that varies greatly with an engine being very labor-intensive, for example.

In terms of validity, “it’s like Michael Jackson saying he’s the King of Pop,” Hall said of the self-proclamation of the superstar and the Web site in its findings.

Toyota’s U.S. Car Sales Drop Outpaces Market Decline

Toyota’s U.S. Car Sales Drop Outpaces Market Decline

July 2 2009 (Bloomberg) — Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. sales in June fell more than predicted after the company pared incentives and overall market demand failed to beat May’s level, delaying a U.S. rebound for Asian auto brands.

Toyota had a 32 percent drop in June. Sales for Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second- and third-largest carmakers, fell 30 percent and 23 percent, and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. fell 24 percent. Total U.S. sales fell 28 percent, the 20th straight monthly decline.

Recession and rising unemployment pushed down auto sales in this year’s first six months to the lowest since at least 1976, according to Bloomberg data. Still, signs of recovery and a federal rebate program to encourage people to trade in old vehicles should spark stronger demand in the second half, said analyst Jesse Toprak.

“In the last week of June there was lots of ‘wait and see attitude’ for the ‘cash for clunkers’ program,” Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for in Santa Monica, California, said today in an interview. “We’re not going to see the impact of the program until the last week of July and in August.”

Under the program that starts July 24, consumers get vouchers worth as much as $4,500 if the new car they buy gets 10 miles-a-gallon better gas mileage than the model they are trading in. For light trucks, the improvement must be 5 mpg better than the older model, and for large light trucks, 2 mpg. estimates the vouchers will generate 250,000 additional sales. Automakers’ incentives rose to $2,930, up $489 from a year ago, according to Toyota cut such spending to $1,362, down from May’s $1,714, while Honda’s rose to a record $1,686, Toprak said.

Combined market share for Asian brands was 45.8 percent, down 0.4 point from a year ago, according to Autodata Corp.


Toyota’s sales fell to 131,654 new Toyota, Lexus and Scion brand vehicles. A bright spot for the Toyota City, Japan-based company was the 10 percent increase in Prius hybrids. June was the first full month of sales for the revamped gasoline-electric car, rated by the U.S. as getting 50 mpg.

Sales of Prius are “off to a fantastic start,” Toyota U.S. Vice President Bob Carter said on a conference call yesterday.

The company’s adjusted decline of 35 percent exceeded the 32 percent average forecast for the company of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“The fact that Toyota decided to hold back on incentives seems to be why they came in a little low,” Toprak said.

While Toyota remains the second-largest automaker in the U.S. by sales volume, it fell behind Ford Motor Co. for a third straight month. Toyota’s market share was 15.3 percent for the month, down from 16.2 percent a year ago, according to Autodata.

Toyota rose 0.6 percent to 3,610 yen in Tokyo trading, and has gained 24 percent this year. Honda fell 2.3 percent to 2,585 yen and Nissan rose 1 percent to 590 yen. Hyundai Motor fell 1 percent to 72,500 won in Seoul.


Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President Janet Yellen said this week that the U.S. economy may be about to “turn the corner” and repeated that she expects the recession, which began in December 2007, to end later this year.

Honda sold 100,420 autos, a 32 percent decline on an adjusted basis. That beat the average estimate of a 35 percent drop by three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Increased incentive spending by Honda led to higher sales of Odyssey minivans and Pilot sport-utility vehicles. The company also sold 2,079 units of its new Insight hybrid, designed as a lower-cost competitor to Prius.

Sales of Insights should pick up in July and August as a result of the “clunkers” trade-in program, Toprak said.

Honda’s market share was 11.7 percent, down 0.3 from a year ago.

Nissan, Hyundai

Tokyo-based Nissan sold 58,298 vehicles, an adjusted decline of 26 percent, compared with an average drop of 28 percent forecast by three analysts.

Declines for most of Nissan’s car and truck models were moderated by a 72 percent increase in sales of Maxima sedans and the addition of the Cube mini-wagon, which sold 2,137 units in its first full month.

“Sales still haven’t recovered in terms of sheer volume numbers, but things are stabilizing,” Al Castignetti, U.S. vice president for Nissan, said in a telephone interview.

Nissan’s market share improved by 0.4 point to 6.8 percent.

Seoul-based Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, sold 37,943 vehicles. The 24 percent decline exceeded’s expectation of an 18 percent slide.

The annual sales rate fell to 9.69 million cars and light trucks last month, from 9.9 million in May and 13.6 million in June 2008, Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata said. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had projected the annual pace for June would rise above 10 million for the first time this year.

The analysts’ company estimates were adjusted for one more sales day last month than in June 2008, and some automakers report results on that basis. Bloomberg uses unadjusted figures, which for June would be about 4 percentage points better than the adjusted numbers.

Consumers Intend To Spend But Remain Cautious of Where



Consumers Intend To Spend But Remain Cautious of Where
By Mike Duff | June 7th, 2009 @ 8:33 pm
Consumer intent to purchase is rising a study by research firm NPD Group suggests, but the sales benefit from that may be limited to the very same bargain retailers that have been most successful in the recession thus far.

NPD’s Retail Response Indicator, which measures consumer spending intentions on scale where zero corresponds to definitive plans to spend less and 100 represents definitive plans to spend more, rose almost 4.5 points, from 39.5 in April to 43.9 in May. The indicator has been on an upward swing since March and has reached its highest level since October of last year.

Of course, consumer confidence also gained in May with the Conference Board reporting that its index now stands at 54.9 up from 40.8 in April.

Despite that, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported last week that major retailer sales fell 4.6% in May versus the same period last year, deeper than the two percent decline the organization expected.

Generally, consumer attitudes toward the economy and spending are predictive of actual purchasing but, despite gains, the numbers are historically low. Evidence from monthly financial announcements that major retailers made last week demonstrates that May retail sales generally were weak except at low price retailers, especially dollar stores.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD, explained the increasing intent to purchase amidst mixed retail sales by resorting to an increasingly common refrain, stabilization. He said:

The continued increase suggests that stabilization is holding. We are seeing consumers move toward replacement and replenishment purchasing and these are the kinds of purchases that would indicate we have taken the first step toward recovery.

But what kind of recovery? On Friday, Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, told employees and shareholders at the company’s annual meetings that it would hold on to customers who had begun shopping its stores in the recession. His predecessor Lee Smith last year declared that a new consumer would emerge from the economic downturn, one who valued thrift, who would be determined to get the most from a dollar, who, basically, would shop at Wal-Mart.

The recession as it impacts retail may be bottoming out. The United States Commerce Department’s May retail numbers are due Thursday, and Bloomberg is predicting they will relate a 0.5 percent increase with automobile sales boosting the numbers. Overall, the evidence suggests that consumers intend to purchase but still intend to do so cautiously. The longer that attitude prevails, the longer bargain retailers gain and their more upscale rivals suffer. The suffering may come in the form of lower profits, sales or – for those retailers who have kept other numbers looking good by cutting costs — market share. In the meantime, consumers will become increasingly acclimatized to shopping at bargain retailers they once might have bypassed, which could prove Duke and Scott correct.

What You Can Learn from Small-Town Auto Dealers


Voices » John Baldoni » What You Can Learn from Small-Town Auto Dealer

12:15 PM Monday May 18, 2009


Until recently, one of the less-reported aspects of the crisis in the automotive industry is the effect that its radical downsizing is having on auto dealers. Now that General Motors and Chrysler have axed roughly 1,100 and 800 dealers respectively, stories of dealerships closing are front page news. While cuts have come largely at the expense of urban dealers, some smaller rural stores are surviving — at least for now.

Many of these smaller dealerships are family enterprises; three and even four generations old. Their longevity is a testament less to Detroit’s products and more to their smart and sharp business practices. And now that some of their competitors are closing they may do even better. Let’s consider what business leaders can learn from these small-town auto dealers.

Know your customers. Small-town auto dealers know what vehicles their customers prefer. This comes from having long-lasting ties to individual families, selling new cars and trucks to grandparents and parents, and putting the children into affordably priced used cars. Part of knowing your customers means considering their changing tastes. Decades ago many of smaller dealers signed franchise agreements with Asian and European manufacturers like Honda, Nissan, Toyota and VW to provide their customers with even more makes and models from which to choose.

Service matters. Dealers will tell you they make more servicing cars than selling them. Manufacturers pay for warranty repairs but good dealers, particularly those in small towns, will keep their customers returning after the warranty expires because they provide reliable servicing. They also have a reputation for honesty, a word that is not often associated with automotive retailing. Local dealers have no alternative to treating their customers right; they live in the community, and word gets around.

Invest in the community. In many areas, car dealers are the soft touch for youth sports teams as well as school musicals and church raffles. True, it is good visibility to have your store’s name on scores of soccer uniforms and and church bulletins, but something more is at work. Car dealers are part of the life of these towns; their philanthropy supports causes and activities that add texture to the community.

Maximize opportunity. Dealers are entrepreneurs. Those who are not closed will get aggressive. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, surviving dealers will buy up inventory at a good price, add salespeople (some from former competitors), and expand their sales reach. One Dodge dealer in Jackson, Michigan — right in the heart of “downturn valley” — said, “I’m going to buy every car I can find with every dollar I have until I run out of money.” While that attitude may have led investment bankers to run Wall Street into the ground, hearing it from a dealer sounds more optimistic. He has faith in himself, his business, and his community.

Not every dealer is worthy of imitation. Just as there are poor businessmen in every field, there are less-than-reliable automotive retailers, especially ones who cheated their customers, not to mention their own employees. But these smaller, successful dealerships can teach us a lesson or two that may help us grow our own businesses.

As a youngster I recall the dealer showroom windows that were papered over every September in anticipation of the sparkling new models that would soon be introduced. I still remember drooling along with my chums at the brand-new 1963 Corvette parked at the corner of Carl Schmidt’s Chevrolet in Perrysburg, Ohio. We ran our fingers over the radical new lines of the first Stingray. No salesman shooed us away; our ogling and awing was a kind of third-party endorsement.

Maybe that’s another lesson; let the kids touch the merchandise and one day, he’ll tell his friends about you.

Despite downturn, these cars are still selling


Despite downturn, these cars are still selling
The models — including more than a few SUVs — still leave showrooms
The Hyundai Tiburon led the list by selling 3,353 cars in April, up from 894 the year before. Its suggested retail price is $17,270.

The Audi S5 coupe packs a 354-horsepower V8 engine, a taut sport suspension and three customized drive modes into one sleek ride. At a time when the auto industry is in the pits, the S5’s boldly refined body, complete with adaptive halogen headlights, a panoramic sunroof and a rear spoiler, is seducing reluctant buyers to open their wallets.

The Audi comes in fourth on our list of 19 cars that broke out of the auto doldrums and sold better or held steady last month compared with April of 2008. With a base price of $40,700, 680 S5s sold last month, compared with 484 in April 2008.

To compile our list, we used sales records from Autodata Corp., a data and analysis provider for the auto industry. The list ranges from the very affordable sixth-best seller, Hyundai Accent at $9,970, to the rather pricey $88,475 Jaguar XKR, No. 19 on the list. The Jag sold the same number of cars in April 2009, 127, as it did in April 2008.

Many of the cars that fared well this April have simply continued their positive sales from March: Jeep’s $21,460 Wrangler, Nissan’s $29,930 350Z, Volvo’s $23,800 C30 and Subaru’s $19,995 Forester among them.

Others, like the $37,915 Chevrolet Tahoe, $27,045 Hyundai Veracruz, $36,800 Lexus RX and two models from Land Rover, proved that crossover and sport-utility vehicles aren’t going anywhere, even if they are getting a bit smaller.

James Bell, the editor of, an automotive information provider, says full-size SUVs and large pickups are holding onto buyers at the moment too, because people need the vehicles for work.

Though this spring has been a rough time for auto sales, some SUVs performed relatively well. “The assumption has been that people are holding off purchases, but the nice thing about having the desperately hard months like this is that it’s just helping to build more pressure into this pent-up demand, which is eventually going to release,” Bell says. “It’s kind of like a volcano, I guess you could say. It’s definitely feeling the pressure.”

Notably, no vehicles from quality stalwart Honda or luxury automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz made the list. Despite their tanking stock price and desperate grasp for government cash, American brands Chrysler, Fordand General Motors each had at least one model in the lineup. The $19,000 Ford Fusion, selling 18,321 cars this April, did the best of the Americans, coming in at No. 7. That’s a nearly 22 percent hike from last April.

In fact, Ford beat Toyota last month in overall sales, although company-wide sales at Ford tumbled 31.3 percent last month. At Toyota, April 2009 sales plunged 41.9 percent over last year. Here’s how a few other brands compare: Audi sales were down 9.3 percent, Hyundai lost 13.6 percent and Subaru declined just 6.7 percent for the month. In this market, that’s almost as good as a gain.

Still, Chrysler’s takeover by Fiat and the overall sales decline from domestic automakers (down 36.3 percent in the U.S. in April) make for a bleak spring. All told, 819,540 vehicles sold in the U.S. last month, down 34.4 percent from 1,248,370 units in April 2008.

Meanwhile, Chrysler’s dealers are awaiting their fate while the bankruptcy deal is hammered out, and General Motors is refiguring its viability plan yet again. GM’s Pontiac woes will have a direct, lasting and negative impact on car sales, says Lonnie Miller, the director of industry analysis for R.L Polk & Co.

“It impacts loyalty,” Miller says. “Will it impact people’s consideration to buy a Pontiac? I believe it will. I think it’s going to make them pause for a minute.”

Sales of several models last month did hold some surprises, even if they didn’t beat last year’s figures. In a shift likely related to the domestic auto industry’s ill health, the $20,905 Honda Accord sedan unseated the $21,565 Ford F-150 as the best-selling vehicle in America. The F-150 has been the annual top-seller for decades, selling 29,212 units last month over the pickup’s 28,757. Still, each of those sold fewer year-over-year, with the Accord down 15.6 percent and F-150 down 35.8 percent.