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 ›

J.D. Power’s Dunne Discusses Global Green Move and Automotive Engineering

Tim Dunne

Tim Dunne

Reducing and even eliminating harmful exhaust emissions from cars and trucks and improving average fuel economy for vehicle fleets remain key challenges for global automakers, according to a recent J.D. Power paper, “The Changing Landscape of the Global Automotive Industry; A Global Shift in the Balance of Power.”

 Tim Dunne, director of global automotive industry analysis at J.D. Power, discusses some of the changes in the powertrains and architecture of future vehicles that are in process and are projected in the future as part of a global automotive industry paper that has been published in several Standard & Poor’s publications. Continue reading ›

Redesigned U.S. APEAL Study: Engaging Vehicles Generate Enhanced Loyalty

David Sargent

David Sargent

When a new-vehicle buyer has a delightful experience owning and driving a new car or light truck, there are considerable positive connections and outcomes, such as faster sales at the dealership, higher transaction prices, and increased owner loyalty, according to our redesigned 2013 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

The completely revamped 2013 APEAL Study, which measures how gratifying a new vehicle is for buyers or lessees to own and drive, has been conducted online this year to capture much more detail and provides better diagnostics to understand current key areas of excitement and disappointment among consumers.

The study’s online results further address key concerns to automakers and consumers around some important factors, including:

• new technologies such as infotainment systems

• safety and fuel economy features

• the design of the interior or cockpit

Details from the redone study also help automakers develop and design products that are more likely to appeal to future consumers. Continue reading ›

Defects can be Fixed; Design Problems Remain Obstacles to Initial Quality

Dave_Sargent

David Sargent

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the problems that buyers and lessees identify in their new vehicles during the first 90 days are related to poor design and technology-related issues rather than manufacturing defects or malfunctions, according to the newly revamped J.D. Power 2013 Initial Quality Study (IQS).

In addition, this year’s IQS determines that defects, which account for a much smaller percentage (34%) of the problems in the redesigned study, are more likely to be fixed at the dealership, whereas design problems may last the lifetime or life cycle of the vehicle, which could be five or more years.

Revamped Initial Quality Study (IQS) Details Owners’ Feedback

Completely recast for 2013, the new IQS captures design-related problems and defects or malfunctions experienced by buyers and lessees in their new vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership. The new IQS survey is conducted online rather than by a mail-in questionnaire, which means there is an opportunity to gain more detailed feedback from new-vehicle owners.

A year ago, in the 2012 IQS, we observed that technology challenges were responsible for a majority of initial quality problems. In 2013, issues with technology continue to be the bane of both new-vehicle owners and manufacturers and adversely affect the auto industry’s overall initial quality index in 2013, which averages 113 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). Although the number of problems cannot be compared with past years’ results due to study redesign, some of the same problem areas identified in the previous year’s study remain in the 2013 study’s results. Continue reading ›

Interest Grows for In-Vehicle Connectivity through Smartphones

VanNieuwkuykM

Mike VanNieuwkuyk

The level of purchase interest among vehicle owners with smartphones for device/application link technology to connect and integrate their smartphones with their vehicles infotainment systems continues to rise for very practical reasons, according to our 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study.

Vehicle owners’ interest in connectivity and, in particular, the smartphone device/application link feature, is all about functionality. Research conducted by J.D. Power’s Consumer Insight and Strategy Group to track social media discussions about new technologies, including device/application link, suggests that consumers believe their in-vehicle infotainment systems lack the technology that their smartphones and tablets have.

Consumers also desire more mobile apps and want the capability to control their own software updates to integrate with their vehicle systems. Another interesting discovery from social media conversations on this topic is that consumers want their vehicle infotainment systems to be powered by their smartphone in order to avoid an additional monthly charge as well as to keep their technology up to date. Continue reading ›

One-Third of Vehicle Mix to Feature Alternative Powertrains in 2025

Tim_Dunne

Tim Dunne

By 2025, it is likely that more than one-third (36%) of new passenger vehicles in the world market will be equipped with alternative powertrains, according to a forecast from J.D. Power’s strategic partner LMC Automotive. That means that some 30 million of about 110 million passenger vehicles forecast to be sold in 2025 will rely on alternative powertrains and alternative fuels.

A majority of this group of fuel-efficient powertrains (17.5%) are expected to be hybrids—those passenger vehicles incorporating hybrid gasoline/electric powertrains (HEVs) such as the Toyota Prius and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), which rely on both electric batteries and a gasoline engine, such as the Chevrolet Volt. Plug-in electric hybrids will account for a 5% share and gasoline/electric hybrids will make up 12.5% of the product mix. Only 2.5% of the world’s passenger-vehicle mix will be electric vehicles (EVs), such as the pure electric Nissan LEAF, in 2025. Continue reading ›

Autonomous Driving Attracts Small Interest; Semi-Autonomous Features Prevail

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Mike VanNieuwkuyk

The concept of a self-driving system in a car, or what is termed autonomous driving mode, is no longer considered “outside the box” for vehicle owners. In fact, Google’s pilot self-driving vehicles are legal in Mountain View, CA, near Google headquarters. In addition to California, self-driving cars are also now legal in two other states: Nevada and Florida.

We see that awareness of this new technology is higher than a year ago. In spite of a $3,000 suggested market price, we see that “probable” and “definite” interest in equipping an owner’s next vehicle with this new technology is slightly higher, according to the results from our 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study, than it was last year—21% vs. 20% in 2012.

Both “probable” and “definite” interest in having this emerging technology in an owner’s next vehicle rises to 39% before a market price is introduced.

Interest in some of the other “advanced” emerging technologies takes a back seat to autonomous driving mode when market pricing is introduced. For instance, the percentage of vehicle owners interested in having biometrics (including finger print car locks and stress level monitors for heart rate or blood pressure) in their next vehicle falls from 52% before a price is presented to just 20% after a market price of $350 is shown. Additionally, interest in customizable home screen technology that provides consumers options on information to be displayed on the vehicle’s center stack screen plummets from 72% to just 17% when a $1,250 market price is provided. Continue reading ›

Fuel Efficiency Features are Most Popular New Technologies

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Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Although U.S. drivers may see a drop in the average price of gas at the pump in the next few months vs. the same time frame a year ago*, new-vehicle owners have fuel economy on their minds when it comes to their interest in advanced features and emerging technologies to consider when they purchase their next vehicle, according to our 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study.

Two of 22 features evaluated in the study with the highest percentages of vehicle owners who “definitely would” and “probably would” want a certain feature enhance fuel economy. Higher interest among owners this year may be because these technologies are already available in many non-premium vehicles; they are lower-priced than some technologies and owners are already familiar with them.

Energy Feature: Highest Interest among 22 Emerging Technologies

The fuel economy indicator feature has the highest overall interest before a suggested price is provided (79%) and also after an estimated market price of $50 is introduced (72%). In addition, the percentage of vehicle owners who “definitely would” want the feature in their next vehicle actually edges up from 28% to 30% after a price is revealed. Also, as expected, non-premium brand vehicle owners are even more interested in this feature than are premium vehicle owners. Continue reading ›

Dealers Outline Financial Hurdles and Challenges of New Technology

NY Auto Forum Dealer Paneli-CQFWkSW-SThree auto retailer owner/operators discussed opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for dealerships, during a one-day New York Automotive Forum jointly sponsored by J.D. Power and Associates and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) that was held before the New York International Auto Show (March 29 – April 7). The following post features dealer views on the financial side of the business for dealers in the current economic environment and discusses some challenges retailers face such as selling and explaining technology and sophisticated electronics in new vehicles.

Moderator: Glenn Mercer, Independent Consultant

Panelists:

Earl Hesterberg, President and Chief Executive Officer, Group 1 Automotive, Houston, TX; the fourth-largest public dealership group in the U.S., U.K. and Brazil (142 dealerships)

Jon Lancaster, Retired Toyota/Lexus Dealer, Madison, WI

Wesley (Wes) L. Lutz, Owner, Extreme Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, Inc., Jackson, MI

Will the Financial Side of the Auto Business Become More of a Challenge?

Glenn: Right now, interest rates are low. At some point they will go up. Do you have a feel for the impact on the dealer body as to how many people might have over-leveraged in terms of facility upgrades or do you think it will be a stressful period when it goes to whatever normal interest rates are?

Earl: The business model of auto retailing is a high leveraged or debt-laden business because you’re financing the inventory. And you are financing a facility through a mortgage or a lease. Sure, there are some dealers who own their land outright. But we’re getting lulled to sleep by these interest rates, which are barely positive. Historically, we paid 6% and 7% for inventory. It will come again. Dealer profitability is somewhat overstated. Right now our flooring rates are low, our facility rates are low, and anybody who is borrowing working capital is also borrowing it at an attractive rate. Everyone knows that can’t go on forever. That will put huge profit pressure on the system some day if rates jump. Continue reading ›

Battery Capacity is Only One Hurdle in Promoting EVs in China

In 2009, four of China’s ministries launched collaborative energy-saving and New Energy Vehicle (NEV) promotion programs, identifying 25 pilot cities to participate in the programs. The cities included Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou, and Shezhen.

China-02A year later, in May of 2010, the four Ministries* issued a subsidy policy for private alternative energy vehicles. This subsidy is based on battery capacity at a rate of RMB 3,000 RMB (US $484) per kWh. Buyers of plug‐in hybrid cars will receive up to RMB 50,000 (US $8,070.50) in subsidies, and as much as RMB 60,000 (US$9,6840.60 will be given to buyers of pure electric vehicles.

The pilot cities also launched their own “new energy” development plans to provide further local incentives based on the subsidies of the four ministries in order to reach a target of 53,000 NEV sales before the end of 2012. Continue reading ›