S&P Chief Economist, J.D. Power Executive Offer Cautious but Positive Outlooks

Two experts from Standard & Poor’s and J.D. Power offered cautiously positive outlooks for the U.S. economy and for the U.S. auto industry to some 300 auto dealers and industry participants during the recent Western Automotive Conference, sponsored by J.D. Power and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist for Standard & Poor’s, said that the U.S. is in its fourth year of recovery with an average growth rate of 2%. On a global level, she cited challenges to be faced including a slowdown in China, the remaining effects of the debt crisis in the Eurozone, and spikes in global oil prices.

In addressing current conditions in the U.S., Bovino said the Fed is focusing on creating jobs and is offering incentives for businesses to invest and hire, which will lead to higher growth. She said there has been robust demand and hiring in the private sector in spite of shocks. Continue reading ›

U.S. Auto Sales Climb in November as Total Pace Surpasses 16 Million Units

John Humphrey

John Humphrey

Through the first half of November 2013, sales returned to a stronger pace than in September and October—which were hampered by negative external factors, including the U.S. government shutdown in October and the pull forward of Labor Day sales with two less selling days in September—according to an auto sales forecast update from J.D. Power and strategic partner LMC Automotive.

Retail new-vehicle deliveries in November are expected to reach 1.03 million units—up 4% from November 2012 on a selling-day adjusted basis*. This figure translates to a 13.0 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual selling rate (SAAR), which is higher than the year-to-date level of 12.8 million units.

Fleet sales on a selling-day adjusted basis are expected to account for 16% of the sales mix in November, which is 3% lower than a year ago and consistent with the low fleet share that has held throughout 2013. Continue reading ›

Third-Party Auto Website Executives Offer Insight on Business Models

Automotive Marketing Roundtable 2013 DSC_4280-SThird-party automotive website executives offered their observations about vehicle price transparency during a panel discussion at the October J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable (AMR) in Las Vegas, NV. More excerpts from the panel discussion that was moderated by Joel Ewanick, former automotive marketing executive and now managing partner of Global Auto Systems, are highlighted in today’s post.

 Moderator: Joel Ewanick, managing partner, Global Auto Systems, Inc.

Panel Members:

Seth Berkowitz, president and COO, Edmunds.com

Larry Dominique, executive vice president, TrueCar, Inc.

Jared Rowe, President, Kelley Blue Book

Alex Vetter, senior vice president, Cars.com

Joel: You’re very different in how you collect your data—so tell me Seth (Edmunds) why is your data so much better than their data?

 Seth (Edmunds): “I guess we see ourselves across the panel as being least competitive with Cars.com. We respect what they are doing: with the classifieds industry and what they have done in used cars—that’s not really our core space. That might change in the future. I think our biggest differences are with TrueCar and with Kelley Blue Book. . . While we were the company 20 years ago that introduced invoice price, and published it for the first time, we’re actually moving in a completely different direction. . . We are going to have dealers provide actual prices on individual vehicles and then we are going to tell what other people are paying. We have our Price-Promise program, now where you get those actual prices. . . Over the coming months, you’re going to see invoice stripped off behind warning labels where you have to click to get it because we believe that it’s not servicing people anymore and it creates confusion.”

Alex (Cars.com): “Putting a price on a transaction that we know is wildly complex creates distrust in the industry. The expectation that this is the price you are going to pay—is not something that any website [represented] here can actually deliver because so much goes into the pricing at the retail store. We rely on dealer participation to drive that pricing.” Continue reading ›

Marketing Exec Leads Internet Site Panel in Discussing Price Transparency

Price negotiation for most consumers is often described as one of the most arduous parts of the purchase process, according to Joel Ewanick, managing partner of Global Automotive Systems, Inc. The former GM chief marketing officer led a panel discussion about “Vehicle Price Transparency” with four third-party website executives at the October J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable (AMR) in Las Vegas, NV. Excerpts from the panel discussion are highlighted in this post.

Moderator: Joel Ewanick, managing partner, Global Auto Systems, Inc.

 Panel Members:

Seth Berkowitz, president and COO, Edmunds.com

Larry Dominique, executive vice president, TrueCar, Inc.

Jared Rowe, President, Kelley Blue Book

Alex Vetter, senior vice president, Cars.com

Third-Party Website Leaders Define Business Models

Joel: I see that companies like yours are trying to help the consumer through the process. Can you explain what you do, what your business model is, and then we’ll start to compare and contrast?

Seth (Edmunds): “At Edmunds, we’re working through a major transition. For years, we’ve been an information and pricing authority. We probably have the largest repository of automotive information on the Internet with somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.5 million pages of content. We’ve decided that being this comprehensive encyclopedia of automotive information isn’t enough. . . We’ve decided to make car buying easier. We are going to do this by fostering trust—which is at an all-time low— between consumers and dealers.” Continue reading ›

Satisfaction Surges if Dealers Use Mobile Devices to Enhance Sales Process

Chris Sutton

Chris Sutton

Satisfaction is highest among new-vehicle buyers who are presented with pricing/payment options on a computer screen or a tablet (833 on a 1,000-point scale) during the sales process, according to our 2013 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, which is based on responses from 29,040 new-vehicle buyers or lessees, who completed their transaction in April or May 2013.

Using technology continues to make a major difference in enhancing the buyer’s or lessee’s sales experience at the dealership. Specifically, when a dealership salesperson uses a tablet device during the sales process with new-vehicle buyers, satisfaction is 52 points higher on average (844) than when a salesperson does not use a tablet during the sales experience (792). Satisfaction with a salesperson using a computer printout (820) receives the next highest score, followed by verbal price quotes (792); and lastly, written figures (780).

Our 2013 U.S. SSI Study finds that tablets are proving to be particularly versatile and effective tools and may help maintain consistency during the sales process, while providing accessible and dynamic product information. Yet, we also see that tablet usage among dealership salespeople remains relatively limited—only 10% of dealership salespeople use these devices. On a positive note, that’s still up from 7% in 2012. Continue reading ›

J.D. Power Expert Outlines Key Forces behind U.S. Sales Growth

Deirdre Borrego presents auto industry outlook at J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable “The U.S. auto industry has enjoyed remarkable revenue growth this year,” Deirdre Borrego, J.D. Power vice president of client services, said during a presentation at the October J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable (AMR) in Las Vegas, NV. “From a consumer standpoint,” she said, “there are specific market forces that have kept sales strong and transaction prices high.” Borrego pointed to four key drivers:

• Long-term loans are a key enabler. Nearly one in three 2013 sales to date was facilitated by a loan of 72 months or longer. Extended terms, combined with. . .

• . . . Low interest rates have allowed consumers to buy a richer mix of vehicles while keeping their monthly payment within their household budget.

• Strong residuals enable manufacturers to offer attractive leases to consumers, again with desirable monthly payments.

• Tight used-vehicle supply is another key factor. The average price of a used vehicle increased by roughly $3,000 since 2008 to reach $18,800 so far this year. This drives stronger in-equity positions for existing owners, improving purchasing power or removing barriers to entry. Continue reading ›

J.D. Power Expert Profiles U.S. Auto Market Sales Trends

 J.D. Power’s Deirdre Borrego, vice president, U.S. Client Services, spoke to industry participants at the October J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable in Las Vegas, NV. about the U.S. auto market’s recovery and the fundamentals in the market that are driving strong demand.

Highlights from her talk include analysis from the Power Information Network® (PIN) and J.D. Power’s strategic partner LMC Automotive:

• Retail sales to individual consumers in 2013 are expected to reach 12.8 million units which is back to pre-recession levels.

• The real story isn’t just about sales growth. It’s also about transaction price growth. We’ve seen exceptional performance with prices (consumer facing prices net incentives) increasing by about $3,000. Continue reading ›

J.D. Power Roundtable Speaker Defines “Connected Auto Consumers”

Arianne Walker

Arianne Walker

Today’s digital lifestyle has a growing impact on the auto industry. Understanding how consumers who are in the market for a vehicle are “using digital information and how they are connected,” was a key focus in speeches and discussions at the recent J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, NV.

Arianne Walker, senior director of media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power, introduced the October conference with highlights of trends in automotive Internet usage based on J.D. Power research. She also spoke about the rise in digital media consumption and identified how different devices—smartphones and tablets—are being used to gather information mostly at home, but also on the go—smartphones are also used for auto shopping on the dealer lot. Walker also discussed trends in content with social media and video and how traditional companies are reformulating automotive content in new ways. Continue reading ›

October U.S. Auto Sales Revive after U.S. Government Shutdown

Cars on LotDespite the disruption of the 16-day U.S. government shutdown (Oct. 1 – 16), new-vehicle sales climbed in the second half of the month for nearly all automakers. More than 1.205 million new vehicles were delivered in October, according to J.D. Power and its strategic partner LMC Automotive.

October total sales were up 6.4% from October 2012 on a selling-day adjusted basis (there was one more selling day in October 2013 than in October 2012*). However, deliveries were down 9.7% from September 2013. The seasonally adjusted annual selling rate (SAAR) translated to 15.2 million units—a million units stronger than last October’s 14.2 million pace, but slightly below the 15.3 million unit rate in September of this year.

Positive factors that benefited new-vehicle sales in October included declining average gas prices at the pump; continued availability of credit for financing and leasing vehicles—including low interest rates; and a slow but continuing recovery in commercial industries where trucks are needed—such as the energy and housing sectors. Continue reading ›

Sales Satisfaction Up in Vietnam Market; Test Drive Can Make a Difference

Traffic on Vietnamese StreetOverall satisfaction with the new-vehicle purchase experience at the dealership has improved by 4 points in 2013 to an average 850 points (on a 1,000-point scale) from 846 points in 2012, according to our 2013 Vietnam Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study. Yet, even with this year’s higher satisfaction score, the study finds areas where dealers can improve sales satisfaction, including offering customers a test drive and spending more time with the buyer during the delivery process.

Offering a test drive—which averages 17 minutes in 2013, compared with 19 minutes in 2012 and 21 minutes in 2011—to new-vehicle buyers who visit a dealership in Vietnam can increase customer satisfaction with the sales process, the study finds. Slightly more than one-third (36%) of buyers actually test drive a vehicle. Continue reading ›