Category Archives: Ford of Clermont

U.S. auto industry recovering faster than anticipated; Automakers headed toward best annual performance in three years

The U.S. auto industry is seeing demand recover faster than anticipated, with carmakers headed toward their best annual performance in three years at sales of 12.8 million vehicles.

Consumers entered this year’s final month demanding models ranging from big pickups to luxury sedans to fuel-sipping hybrids after pushing November’s sales to the fastest monthly pace since the government’s “cash for clunkers” trade-in program in August 2009. General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, two years removed from bankruptcy, have been taking share from disaster-stricken Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.

U.S. buyers are replacing their cars after delaying new- vehicle purchases as long as possible, and they are snapping up F-Series pickups and Prius hybrids as consumer confidence in the economy jumps. That means the automakers haven’t had to resort to fire-sale prices to goose demand.

“The industry has managed production levels to where demand was this year and didn’t get ahead of itself,” said Jeff Schuster, a Troy, Michigan-based analyst for LMC Automotive. “With inventory now being replenished, it’s not a situation where we’re seeing too much production or seeing heavy incentive use.”

Spending on marketing promotions averaged less than $2,700 a vehicle throughout the industry, down about $74 from a year ago, according to LMC and J.D. Power & Associates.

Consumer confidence surged in November by the most in more than eight years, and the portion of consumers planning to buy a new vehicle within six months climbed to the highest since April, data from The Conference Board showed Nov. 29.

The average age of cars and light trucks on the road today has risen to 10.6 years old, Jenny Lin, Ford’s senior U.S. economist, said on a Dec. 1 conference call.

“We are going to see more and more of this pent-up demand realized,” Lin told analysts and reporters.

She cited declining gasoline prices for providing “relief” to consumers, who responded with purchases of sport- utility vehicles and pickups. Sales of Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford’s SUVs climbed 29 percent and F-Series trucks increased 24 percent.

GM’s deliveries of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups surged 34 percent and 22 percent, respectively, and Chrysler’s Jeep brand sales soared 50 percent. The average price for unleaded gasoline has dropped 71 cents, or 18 percent, to $3.28 a gallon on Dec. 3 from its peak this year on May 4, according to AAA, the nation’s largest motoring group.

Consumer demand was broad-based, as Toyota (7203) and Honda boosted deliveries of smaller vehicles, making up for production lost after March 11’s tsunami and earthquake inJapan and more recent floods in Thailand disrupted their supply chains.

Toyota, Asia’s largest automaker, reported a 49 percent increase in sales of Prius hybrid models, including its new wagon variant. Deliveries of its redesigned Camry sedan climbed 13 percent to 23,440, securing its position as the top-selling car line ahead of Nissan Motor Co.’s Altima and the Ford Fusion. Toyota slashed discounts on cars by 32 percent last month, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Honda, the only automaker among the 10 largest that didn’t have a companywide U.S. sales increase for November, still managed to boost deliveries of Civic cars by 3.4 percent. That’s the first increase since April for the Tokyo-based automaker’s top-selling model.

Among luxury brands, Daimler AG (DAI)’s November deliveries jumped 47 percent, as the brand’s year-to-date sales closed to within 1,600 of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s BMW line. The two German brands are vying to replace Toyota’s Lexus, the annual luxury champ for the last 11 years, which also lost production to the March disasters.

Industry sales accelerated to a 13.6 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according toWoodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata. The pace exceeded the 13.4 million average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“The recovery is showing a little bit more resiliency than what people feared,” Paul Ballew, chief economist for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., said in a Dec. 1 phone interview. “Vehicle sales are inching their way back up to 14-, and then eventually 15- and 16-million units.”

If December matches November’s 14 percent increase in industrywide deliveries, auto sales will finish the year at 12.8 million cars and light trucks. That would exceed the 12.7 million sales total that was the average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg in August.

Jefferies Inc., IHS Automotive and TrueCar.com are now considering increases to their estimates for 2012 deliveries, according to analysts at the three firms.

Auto sales may total 13.5 million light vehicles next year, the average of 14 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The industry delivered 11.6 million cars and light trucks last year, up from a 27-year low of 10.4 million in 2009.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for auto sales “appears to be building to a 2011 exit run-rate close to 14 million without a full Japanese supply recovery and bad economic news cycle,” Adam Jonas, a New York-based analyst for Morgan Stanley, wrote in a Dec. 1 research note. The momentum “bodes well for 2012,” he said.

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J.D. Power Reports: September New-Vehicle Retail Selling Rate Shows Marked Improvement From August

 

 Sept. 22, 2011  — New-vehicle retail sales for September continue to improve, with the selling rate expected to be much stronger than in August, according to J.D. Power and Associates, which gathers real-time transaction data from more than 8,900 retail franchisees throughout the United States.

Retail Light-Vehicle Sales
September new-vehicle retail sales are projected to come in at 842,400 units, which represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 10.3 million units. This marks the first time the retail selling rate would be above 10 million units since the 10.8 million-unit rate in April. Retail transactions are the most accurate measurement of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.
“Coming off a solid Labor Day sale, retail sales exhibited unexpected strength in the second week of September, as the recovering inventory levels have helped to bring buyers back into the market,” said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates. “However, incentive levels remain flat compared with August and the economy remains a concern, so the sales pace in the second half of the month is expected to give back some of the gains.”
Total Light-Vehicle Sales
Total light-vehicle sales in September are expected to come in at 1,038,700 units, which is 9 percent higher than in September 2010. Fleet sales are expected to be down 1 percent compared with last September, but will account for 19 percent of total sales.

Sales Outlook
Given the relative strength of September, J.D. Power is maintaining its forecast for light-vehicle sales in 2011 and 2012. Total light-vehicle sales for 2011 are expected to come in at 12.6 million units, a 9 percent increase from 2010. Retail light-vehicle sales are forecasted at 10.2 million units for 2011, an increase of 11 percent from 2010.
For 2012, the outlook for total light-vehicle sales remains at 14.1 million units and retail light-vehicle sales are at 11.5 million units. However, there is a high level of uncertainty that remains.
“The uncertain global environment, specifically the debt troubles in Europe, continue to be the major source of downside risk in the U.S. economy and automotive markets,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. “Until a level of stability is reached globally and consumer confidence is returned, the U.S. automotive selling pace is not expected to return to pre-recession levels.”
North American Production
Through August 2011, light-vehicle production in North America has increased to 8.5 million units, up 8 percent from the same period in 2010. The Detroit 3 OEMs have increased production by 16 percent year-to-date, while the Japanese manufacturers have lost 8 percent—due to the parts shortages from the earthquake in Japan back in March. European OEMs are up 38 percent for the same period, as a result of added production of the BMW X3 and Volkswagen Passat in North America, as well as strong demand for the new Volkswagen Jetta.
Vehicle inventory maintained a 49-day supply at the beginning of September, unchanged from August. Car inventory remained at the same 40-day level as it was in the previous month, while truck supply edged down by one day to 57 days. With stronger production levels and imported shipments returning, inventory is improving—although several manufacturers continue to have limited supply availability: Hyundai/Kia with a 21 days’ supply (was 19 days in August), Honda with a 32 days’ supply (previously 28 days), and BMW at 33 days’ supply (previously 30 days).
The 2011 North American production outlook remains on track for 12.9 million units, an increase of 9 percent from 2010. Fourth-quarter 2011 production output is expected to reach 3.3 million vehicles, which is an increase of 11 percent from the same quarter in 2010.
“Continued inventory stock replenishment and Japanese OEM recovery is responsible for the large year-over-year increase relative to the lower level of recovery in vehicle demand,” said Schuster. “As inventory normalizes into 2012, growth in production levels is expected to slow to a pace more consistent with sales.”

AUGUST AUTO SALES UP, INCENTIVES DOWN

AUGUST AUTO SALES UP, INCENTIVES DOWN
Automobile sales in August were up 7.5% from the
previous year and up 1.2% from July, surprising
analysts who had predicted sluggish results.  The increase
came despite a struggling economy, low consumer
confidence and a hurricane.
“Consumers are getting used to making these big-ticket
item purchase decisions in an everlasting,
c h a o t i c ,   u n c e r t a i n   e c o n o m i c
environment,” said Jesse Toprak, VP at
TrueCar.com, told the New York Times.
“We’re seeing more and more consumers
becoming relatively comfortable in pulling
the trigger when they don’t have all the
answers.”
Hurricane Irene, which pummeled
the  East Coast from the  Carolinas  to
Vermont, reduced overall demand in the U.S. by 3% for
August, estimates  Paul Taylor, chief economist at the
National Automobile Dealers Association.
August sales came despite a decline in incentives
for the month. Those incentives were off by 6% from the
year earlier to an average $2,615 per vehicle.  General
Motors cut its incentives by 11% and it still saw an 18%
rise in sales during August. "There is still a lot of pent-up
demand," said Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S.
sales operations. "Consumers are being cautious, but they
are not out of the market. We think that will continue the
rest of the year."
Ford’s incentives were down by 9.1% year-over-year
but its sales were up 11%.  That company’s sales were
buoyed by demand for its fuel efficient models.
Chrysler had a fantastic month--sales rose by 30.6%.
It was Ford’s best month since 2007.   The
company cut its incentives by 7% for August, though to a
still high average $3,457.
Toyota was one of the few automakers to increase its
i n c e n t i v e s - - b y   1 9 % - - b u t
inventory problems still ate into
its monthly sales; they fell by
12%.  Toyota is counting on the
new Camry, to be launched next
month, to bring it back to previous
sales levels.
Lack of inventory of some of
its most popular models also
deflated sales for Honda, which
was down 24% for the month.
That company’s incentives were
trimmed by 2.1%.

Keeping Loyal Customers Loyal

Keeping Loyal Customers Loyal

In a lagging economy, keeping your loyal customers loyal can become increasingly more challenging, but there is probably no other time when good customer loyalty is more vital to your business. Your loyal customers are your high-value clients, bringing in as much as 80% of your overall sales, according to Pareto’s principle (the 80-20 Rule). Do you know who your most loyal customers are? What are you doing to keep these high-value clients happy and loyal customers?

These steps will help you gain a better understanding of who your best customers are and what you can do to keep them loyal.

 1.  Ask Them What They Think.  Survey all of your customers, former customers and potential customers with just two simple questions: would you recommend us to others? Why or why not? The answers to these two questions tell you how what general percentage of your customers is loyal as well as their reasons behind why they are or not.

2.  Stay In Touch.  Whether it’s included in a loyalty program or you purchase on separately, find an email marketing tool and use it wisely. Be sure to target messages to the right customers at the right time. Provide your customers specific information they would find helpful and special offers that are customized just for them. Let them know about contests, upcoming events, new products, etc. But don’t send out too much too often. Find a balance between encouraging their patronage without taking advantage of their trust.

3. Go the Extra Mile.  In addition to your advertisements, announcements and non-solicit emails, sign up for a greeting card system or set up recurring email campaigns. Send birthday greetings with a gift or special offer just for them. This personal touch helps your customers understand that you value them as individuals and invites more loyalty and trust.

4. Encourage Participants, Not Spectators.  Keep your loyal customers involved and ask for their opinions on any pending changes or new directions in your business arise. You never want to make a business decision that will alienate your loyal customers. Their word-of-mouth marketing will achieve more success than almost any other marketing efforts you employ.

5.  Say It To Their Face.  Never shy away from an opportunity to thank your customers for their business. Train your employees to extend sincere thanks for even the smallest business transaction. Greet your customers by name (when you can) and encourage all your employees to do the same. Host customer appreciation events. Support local charities. Be involved in their (your) community and you will be surprised how much you get ahead by simply giving back!

Demand for autos and auto parts jumped 11.5 percent in July; Aircraft orders soared 43.4 percent

Companies ordered more autos, aircraft in July

 A surge in demand for autos and aircraft drove orders for long-lasting manufactured goods higher in July, easing fears that the economy might be on the verge of another recession.

The rebound in the auto industry helped offset a decline in orders for most other factory goods.

Stocks rose after the better-than-expected report showed the biggest increase in durable-goods orders since March, when the Japan earthquake disrupted supply chains and slowed auto production.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped about 100 points after the report came out. Overall orders for durable goods rose 4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The report “reinforces other data that the economy wasn’t at serious risk of recession through July,” said David Resler, chief U.S. economist at Nomura Securities. Retail sales and industrial production also held up well last month, he said.

The data did offer a cautionary signal: a key category that tracks business investment plans fell 1.5 percent, the biggest drop in six months. That suggests businesses are pulling back on spending. Orders in all other major categories dropped, including computers, electronic goods, and machinery.

Resler and other economists also warned that the turmoil in the stock markets could cause businesses to pull back further this month.

“It remains to be seen whether firms cancelled or postponed planned orders,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said in note to clients.

A durable good is a product that is expected to last at least three years. Economists view the report cautiously because orders tend to fluctuate from month to month.

Excluding transportation goods, orders rose just 0.7 percent. It was the third straight gain in so-called core orders. Demand for primary metals surged 10.3 percent, the most since last November. Some of that increase was likely due to higher prices for metals such as copper.

Overall, orders rose to a seasonally adjusted $201.5 billion in July. That is 35 percent higher than the recession low hit in April 2009. But it is still 18 percent below the level in December 2007, when the recession began.

Demand for autos and auto parts jumped 11.5 percent, the most in eight years. Aircraft orders, a volatile category, soared 43.4 percent, after falling 24 percent in June.

Auto production is rebounding after a slowdown caused by the Japan earthquake. The Federal Reserve reported last week that factory output rose 0.6 percent in July, mostly because of an increase in auto production.

A big order by American Airlines helped boost the aircraft sector. American Airlines ordered 100 new Boeing 737 planes with fuel-efficient engines in July.

Manufacturing has been a key source of economic growth since the recession officially ended in June 2009. But it began to slump this spring, along with the broader economy.

Orders fell in April and June, partly because of supply disruptions stemming from the March 11 earthquake in Japan. And a spike in gas prices earlier this year cut into consumer spending, reducing demand for big-ticket items, such as computers, appliances and furniture.

Several recent reports suggest the sector could be slowing further. A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed that manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region contracted in August by the most in more than two years. A Richmond Fed survey released Tuesday and a New York Fed survey last week also pointed to slowdowns in those areas, although not as severe as the Philadelphia region.

Economists predict further weakness, even as temporary factors fade. Falling stock prices and fear of another recession may persuade consumers and businesses to hold back on big purchases. That could slow orders for industrial machinery, electronic goods and appliances.

Analysts have been scaling back their forecasts for economic growth for this year and next.

Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, projects the economy will expand at only a 1 percent annual rate in the second half of the year. That’s not much better than the 0.8 percent growth that the government reported for the first half of the year.

The Federal Reserve this month said that it expects weak growth for the next two years. As a result, it said that it plans to keep its short-term interest rate near zero until at least mid-2013.

The Fed has limited options for stimulating growth. And a renewed focus on deficit reduction in Washington, which could result in steep spending cuts or tax increases, could weaken the economy further.

Investors hope that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announces another round of bond purchases on Friday in a highly anticipated speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The bond purchases, known as quantitative easing, are designed to keep interest rates low and boost stock prices. But economists don’t expect Bernanke to launch any major efforts.

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.

2011 FORD EXPLORER : Consumer consideration across several segments and a wide variety of competitors

Ford Explorer sales sunk during the past several years. Ford touched 450,000 Explorer sales in 2000 and was one of the market’s best-sellers, but the numbers plummeted from there, to barely more than 50,000 sales last year.

Now, early data from Edmunds.com indicates Ford has a shot at once again establishing the Explorer as a major player. Consumer consideration on Edmunds’ car-shopping Web site for the reconstituted SUV is hitting across several segments and going against a wide variety of competitors.

 

Ford marketers have a tough assignment in successfully altering the Explorer – which almost single-handedly established the “family SUV” template in the mid-1990s – from its well-established and trend-setting image of a rough-and-tumble SUV to that of a more contemporary and environmentally-friendly crossover.

But it seems potential buyers may be along for the ride, forgetting the original Explorer’s off-road slant, accepting their lifestyles and likely usage probably are more realistically aligned with the new, 2011 Explorer, with its passenger-car platform, better economy and reduced emphasis on brawny stuff.

In November, for instance, the vehicle most cross-shopped — that is vehicle that Ford Explorer shoppers also considered — against the 7-passenger 2011 Explorer was Toyota Motor Corp.’s Highlander crossover, according to data from Edmunds.com. The Highlander always has been more of a minivan-alternative than an SUV wannabe.

Ford’s own Edge and Escape crossovers (which seat only five) were the vehicles second and ninth most cross-shopped against the new-generation Explorer (reviewed this week by Edmunds’Inside Line), but in another promising development for the company, the two were the only Fords in the top 10 vehicles most cross-shopped against the Explorer in November.

Meanwhile, a high proportion of those considering competitor Chrysler Group LLC’s new Jeep Grand Cherokee at Edmunds.com cross-shopped the Grand Cherokee against the 2011 Explorer, a vehicle that only now is reaching showrooms. A significant and consistent 12 percent of those considering the Grand Cherokee have cross-shopped the new-generation Explorer in the past three months, making the revitalized Grand Cherokee the third most cross-shopped vehicle against the Explorer.

The Explorer also is being cross-shopped against some fairly-upscale iron, perhaps to some degree because of its standard 7-passenger seating capability: Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s Acura MDX and General Motors Co.’s Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia also are among the top 10 vehicles most cross-shopped against the Explorer.

Top Vehicles Cross-Shopped Against Ford Explorer 12-10.JPGTough Enough

Potential buyers seem to be saying the new-age 2011 Explorer – with no V8 power and a reduced towing capacity – still is enough of an “SUV” for their lifestyles. Edmunds.com data on reverse cross-shopping — shoppers who were looking at other vehicles and also considered the Explorer — indicate fewer of Ford’s traditional truck-based models are being considered by Explorer intenders as they instead cross-shop more competitor models that might be considered more SUV than crossover.

That set includes the Grand Cherokee (cross-shopped by 10 percent of Explorer intenders) and the Dodge Durango and Ford Expedition, both reverse cross-shopped by 14 percent of Explorer shoppers. The reverse cross-shopping numbers are up significantly from a year ago, when just 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively, of those considering the Explorer were cross-shopping Durango and Expedition.

Body-on-frame SUVs such as Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner also now are significantly higher on the Explorer cross-shopping list than they were a year ago.

Ford also surely is hoping to improve on its ability to get current Explorer owners to trade for a new Explorer. Edmunds.com data indicate that the number of those trading in an Explorer for another Explorer has plunged from 19.1 percent in 2005 to just 7.4 percent last year and 8.5 percent so far in 2010.

Midsize SUV sales - dec. 2010.JPG

Edmunds