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.”


Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Why Lincoln Why Now

If you’ve been considering trading up to the luxury and technology available in a new Lincoln, now would be a great time to act. If you have already purchased from us, we appreciate your business. Please pass this offer to family and friends.

Why Lincoln.
Lincoln has the luxury you deserve and the technology you expect.

Why Now.
The government’s CARS program, better known as “Cash for Clunkers,” is offering a $3,500 or $4,500 incentive when you trade in a qualifying vehicle at our dealership.1 We are your Cash for Clunkers Specialist, and no one makes it easier to recycle your ride.

Please contact us immediately; you may also be eligible for THOUSANDS of dollars in private offers this month that are compatible with all rebates and incentives.

1This is a government program, and rules are subject to change. Vouchers are available at participating dealers and are limited. Rebate varies based on vehicle age, ownership length and old/new vehicle fuel economy. Not all vehicles qualify. Offer good while voucher supplies last or until 11/1/09. See or for complete details.

// posted by Ford BDC @ 7:01 PM 0 comments links to this post

Why Mercury Why Now

If you’ve been considering a new-vehicle purchase or lease, now would be a great time to consider Mercury. If you have already purchased from us, we appreciate your business. Please pass this offer to family and friends.

Why Mercury.
Because we have the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in America1 — Mercury Milan and the most fuel-efficient SUV2 on the planet — Mercury Mariner Hybrid.

Why Now.
The government’s CARS program, better known as “Cash for Clunkers,” is offering a $3,500 or $4,500 incentive when you trade in a qualifying vehicle at our dealership.3 We are your Cash for Clunkers Specialist, and no one makes it easier to recycle your ride.

Please contact us immediately; you may also be eligible for THOUSANDS of dollars in private offers this month that are compatible with all rebates and incentives.

1EPA-estimated 23 city/34 hwy/27 combined mpg, Milan I-4 automatic with Rapid Spec 101A. Midsize class per R. L. Polk & Co. Non-hybrid. 22009 EPA-estimated 34 city/31 hwy mpg, Mariner Hybrid FWD. Actual mileage will vary. Excludes vehicles built for Mazda. 3This is a government program, and rules are subject to change. Vouchers are available at participating dealers and are limited. Rebate varies based on vehicle age, ownership length and old/new vehicle fuel economy. Not all vehicles qualify. Offer good while voucher supplies last or until 11/1/09. See or for complete details

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.


Ford Flex is Different Things, in the Eye of the Beholder

Ford Flex is Different Things, in the Eye of the Beholder
By Jim Henry | July 16th, 2009 @ 4:32 am

BOULDER, Colo. — Crossover models are like the old joke where two hunters confront a bear, and one of them starts putting on a pair of running shoes.

Hunter No. 1 says, “You can’t outrun that bear.” Hunter No. 2 says, “That’s OK, I only have to outrun you.”

Crossovers may not be the best in any one attribute, but they do a lot of different things well enough. Crossovers function like a truck but are based on a platform shared with cars. The big, V-6-powered Ford Flex, for instance, shares a platform with the Volvo S80 luxury sedan, although you’d never guess by looking at them.

Ford says it is getting customers for the Ford Flex out of big SUVs, out of minivans, and out of smaller vehicles. The Ford Flex occupies a niche somewhere in the middle of all those categories. J. Mays, Ford design chief told me in an interview when the Ford Flex was first introduced last year that in a way, the Ford Flex reinvents the family station wagon Baby Boomers grew up with.

Crossovers really aren’t very fuel efficient – except in comparison with V-8-powered, full-size SUVs like the Toyota Sequoia or the Chevrolet Suburban.

The 2010 Ford Flex EcoBoost gets 22 percent better highway mileage than the V-8 Toyota Sequoia, said Brett Hinds, Ford manager of advanced engine design and development, at a press introduction here on July 14. That sounds pretty great, but it’s still only 22 mpg for the Flex.

For some former SUV owners, that’s fuel-efficient enough.

Ford is getting a lot of Ford Flex buyers who are bailing out of the thirstiest full-size SUVs. Through May 2009, 42 percent of V-8 SUV customers who purchased another vehicle chose a V-6 crossover, according to Ford. Ford gets 26 percent of its crossover buyers from people coming out of large and medium SUVs, the company said.

EcoBoost refers to a new Ford engine family that combines turbocharging and direct injection to get more power and torque out of a given amount of fuel. That allows Ford to substitute a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine with no loss of power.

The Ford Flex was originally introduced a year ago. Ford is now adding EcoBoost engines to the Flex and other models.

In a similar vein, the Ford Flex can’t tow the biggest, heaviest boats, or tackle the steepest, muddiest dirt roads as well as a four-wheel-drive, full-size SUV. But it can tow a boat or negotiate a dirt road a lot better than a sedan.

For some former sedan owners, that’s rugged enough.

The Ford Flex is big and boxy, but a lot of people find its exterior styling attractive. It’s a lot more attractive than a minivan, and doesn’t carry the “Soccer Mom” stigma.

For some former minivan owners, that’s stylish enough.

“The ‘Soccer Mom’ thing is so limiting,” said Kate Pearce, Ford Flex marketing manager. “A minivan says you’re one and only one thing, and of course you can be a proud Mom, but you’re a lot of other things, too, and the Flex allows you to show that.”