Category Archives: Ford Lincoln Mercury and Hyundai of Gainesville

Auto sales: Ford and Chrysler Group post a 25% gain from year-ago levels

Ford Motor (FFortune 500) and Chrysler Group both posted a 25% gain from the year-ago levels, although Ford sales fell by 9% from March. Chrysler managed a 3% gain on its March sales total. Toyota Motor sales rose 24% compared to a year ago, but that marked a 16% drop from its March sales total. General Motors reported a more modest gain in April sales compared to a year ago and also fell short of the March sales total.

Results at GM and Ford were roughly in line with forecasts and matched the trend expected across the industry. Forecasts are for total U.S. auto sales to be up between 21% to 23% from a year ago, but down between 5% to 7% from March.

Toyota fell far short of forecasts of a 33% to 39% rise from year-ago sales.

Only Chrysler’s sales were a bit better than forecasts, which had put its year-over-year sales gain in the 11%-19% range.

It wasn’t difficult for automakers to top numbers from last April, when bankruptcies loomed at GM and Chrysler, and the economy and financial markets were also in far worse shape, with job losses over the first four months of last year hitting record levels.

So comparisons to March sales might be more relevant, and somewhat less encouraging.

But George Pipas, director of sales analysis for Ford, said the company was not concerned about the month-to-month drop in industrywide sales expected in April. He said March’s sales were inflated by the storms in February, which pushed back some purchases, and the recall problems at Toyota Motor (TM) earlier in the year.

Ford’s April sales marked the fifth straight month the automaker’s sales gained 20% or more, good enough to move it back ahead of Toyota to be the No. 2 automaker in terms of U.S. sales.

It reported double-digit increases across most of its models and brands except Volvo, which it’s in the process of selling to Chinese automaker Geely. Car sales posted a 10% gain, while sales rose more than 30% for both of its truck and utility lines.

GM sales in April rose 6% from last April, but slipped 2% compared to March. That was slightly better than expert forecasts of a 3% to 4% gain compared to a year ago.

Sales at the four brands GM is in the process of closing or selling — Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab — tumbled 96% from a year ago. GM shed those brands as part of the bankruptcy process it filed in June of last year. There are less than 2,000 of the discontinued brands’ vehicles left in dealer inventories, according to Steve Carlisle, GM’s vice president, U.S. sales operations.

But the automaker posted much better comparisons for the sales of its four remaining brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. Sales for those brands rose 20% compared to a year ago, and down only 1% from March levels.

Carlisle said he was pleased by the sales at the core brands and at the fact that GM was able to cut cash incentives offered to buyers in April.

“We continue to earn those sales, not buy them,” he said.

Chrysler sales gains were uneven. Sales of car models nearly doubled, while sales of light truck models other than minivan models fell 12%. Sales were flat at its Jeep brand, while sales at its Ram line of light trucks tumbled 22%. But sales for its Chrysler and Dodge brands both shot up 61%.

Other automakers are due to report results later Monday. To top of page

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.



Hyundai, one of only three brands to increase saleslast year, will try to sustain its momentum by making more advertising money available to its dealers.Automotive News reports that regional ad associationand individual dealer co-op advertising willget big increases this year, said DaveZuchowski, head of sales at Hyundai MotorAmerica.“We’re doubling co-op money this yearfrom last year and significantly increasingregional, yet not backing down from national,”Zuchowski said.Zuchowski says co-op money willincrease from $25 million in 2009 to $50million this year. He says funds going to theregional ad associations this year will rise by about 35%.“We’re now spending about $2 for every $1 the dealersspend” on regional ads, Zuchowski said.Dealers will play an important role next month asHyundai debuts a redesigned version of the Sonata, itslargest-volume car. Hyundai will spend about $160 millionto bring out the Sonata — the most it has spent on a vehiclelaunch — and it wants the dealers to chip in at the regionaland local levels.

Ford Gains, Rivals Falter; Market Share Rises

The Wall Street Journal

Ford Motor Co. has weathered the car industry’s downturn better than many competitors. Now some analysts think the company has turned the corner so far it could report break-even results for its core North American operations or even an overall profit when it releases third-quarter earnings Nov. 2.

At the heart of Ford’s relative success has been its ability to minimize its year-over-year sales declines while taking advantage of its competitors’ weakness and grabbing market share.


Ford continues to benefit from stronger prices for both its new and used cars that should boost results at its wholly owned financing arm, Ford Motor Credit. The trend could help the company reverse large losses accounted for in 2008 at the unit based on anticipated declines in the value of its leased vehicles.

Another positive sign could come in a report expected to be released soon by auto guide Kelly Blue Book. Two Ford vehicles will appear on the list of 2010 model-year vehicles projected to retain the greatest amount of their original retail price after five years of ownership, said a person familiar with the matter. Last year, no Ford car or truck held a spot on the 2009 model-year list. Ford also is expected to perform well in the annual auto-reliability survey by Consumer Reports, due out Tuesday.

In the second quarter, the car maker reported a profit of $2.3 billion, though that came mainly from gains it recorded as part of efforts to restructure its debt. Excluding the gains, Ford would have reported a loss of $424 million, still narrower than a comparable loss of $1.03 billion a year earlier and much better than analysts had expected. The company has lost more than $30 billion since 2006.

The improved results have helped build Chief Executive Alan Mulally‘s image as a turnaround leader. But Ford still carries a massive debt after borrowed $23.5 billion in 2006 to fund its restructuring. Many on Wall Street are waiting to see how Ford will cut its debt load.

The optimistic earnings outlook comes at a delicate time for Ford. It recently won additional concessions from the leadership of the United Auto Workers, including a reduction in work rules and a no-strike pledge. But the new agreement, the second amendment to its labor accord this year, is in the midst of a ratification vote from the union rank-and-file, and some have already voiced opposition to the concessions.

Despite an improved outlook, Ford hasn’t revised its profitability forecast, stating the company won’t break even or make money until 2011. A person familiar with the matter at Ford said that even if encouraging signs continue to emerge, Ford may stay conservative about how quickly it can return to sustained moneymaking.

Ford on Track to Be #1 U.S. Carmaker


September 2, 2009

Ford on Track to Be #1 U.S. Carmaker

 Things are looking up for the one American automaker that didn’t go for a government bailout, and it’s not just because of “cash-for-clunkers.” 

 Ford’s recent navigation of financial shoals is paying off big-time. The Detroit automaker took a different tack than its rivals, which sought aid from the federal government and shelter in bankruptcy court. It’s on course to grab the brass ring in 2010, becoming No. 1 in U.S. auto sales. An $18-billion low interest loan in 2006 — when the company mortgaged itself, including its iconic blue oval insignia — is allowing Ford to remake operations. It’s slashing costs and developing common bodies, braking and wiring systems for its vehicles worldwide and putting in place new flexible assembly lines that let plants shift rapidly from making one model to another. Plus, Ford is committed to new model development — pledging to revamp its entire fleet by early 2011, and then repeating the feat in a few years. As a result, by year-end 2010, Ford’s U.S. sales will likely edge out both General Motors’ and Toyota’s, but it’ll be a photo finish. The best bet: Toyota will come in second and GM will slip to third. Already, Ford’s share of U.S. auto sales is climbing. It’s likely to top 16% this year and be a hair over 17% next, mainly at the expense of GM and Chrysler. A market share gain of one percentage point reverses a slide that had plagued the firm for more than a decade. GM’s share of new-vehicle sales will be about 19.5% this year, nearly one percentage point lower than in 2008, and come in at barely 17% in 2010. Chrysler’s share will continue to plunge. Its slice of vehicles sold by new-car dealers will slip and slide to as low as 8.5% this year and around 8% in 2010, down from 11% in 2008. Foreign brands will largely hold their own through 2010, with Honda and Toyota posting small gains next year. Ford is getting a boost from a new cycle of models whose popularity seems to be hitting its stride. “There is a perception that Ford has its fingers on the pulse of what consumers want to buy, whether this be a raft of hybrids, such as the Fusion, Escape and Mariner, or the new Taurus,” says Howard Kuperman, president of Phil’s Ford Lincoln Mercury in Port Jervis, N.Y., and chairman of the New York State Automobile Dealers Association. It’s not just curbside appeal that’s giving Ford’s sales a lift. “Consumers are making a decision to buy a Ford product because it did not accept federal bailout money, as did GM and Chrysler, and it didn’t go through bankruptcy as did the other two,” says Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight, a business consultancy. Such consumer anger may fade over time, but Ford’s sales should keep gaining as it builds on strong sales through next year with the introduction of all-new Focus and Fiesta small cars and an ultraefficient commercial van, the Transit Connect, says Bragman.

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.”