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Monday, October 4, 2010

Automotive Marketing and Sales News

Market Watch: September Sales Rise Against 2009's Clunkers Deficit
The American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) today released its Market Watch report containing September 2010 sales figures for the international nameplate automobile industry. Overall sales, including domestic brands and unadjusted for the number of business days, were up 28.5 percent from September 2009, due in part to the lack of both demand and inventory in the wake of the government's 2009 Cash for Clunkers program. Sales were up 10.3 percent for the year, but down 4 percent from August 2010. September is typically a slow month in auto sales as dealers make room for anticipated new year models. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for light vehicle sales is now estimated by AutoData Corp. at 11.76 million, up from 9.38 million in September 2009 and 11.47 million in August 2010. "International brands are continuing to see gradual, but steady growth in the U.S.," said AIADA President Cody Lusk. "Our dealers are running their businesses one day at a time. The incremental gains they are seeing should ultimately result in a sustainable recovery and a healthy, productive industry." International brands were up 25.4 percent from September 2009 and 7.9 percent for the year. Some of the biggest gains were seen by Hyundai and Acura (both up 47.7 percent from September 2009), Kia (39.1), and Subaru (46.1).Click here to read AIADA's entire Market Watch sales report for the month of September.

Mercedes-Benz Overtakes Lexus to Lead U.S. Luxury Sales
According to Automotive News, the race for the top-selling luxury marque in the United States took a turn in September as Mercedes-Benz used a 22 percent monthly gain to overtake Lexus after nine months. "Lexus has been by far the luxury leader in this market and now Mercedes and BMW have closed that gap pretty rapidly," Joe Barker, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive, said before results were released Friday. "The sales race will come down to the wire – it will come down right to the month of December." Sales of Mercedes-brand vehicles, including Sprinter vans, rose to 20,675, as deliveries of the E-Class sedan continued to propel the brand. Deliveries for BMW's namesake brand rose 21 percent to 18,228 from last September. Lexus sales fell six percent last month to 16,948, in an overall market that gained 29 percent from a weak September a year earlier. "It's been a challenging year for the whole industry," Brian Smith, U.S. vice president of Lexus sales, said in a conference call Friday. "We feel real good about where we are this year. I don't think we're going to lose leadership this year, but time will tell." Mercedes sales are up 22 percent 165,427 so far this year, while Lexus has risen nine percent to 162,438. BMW deliveries are up nine percent to 157,464 in an industry that has risen 10 percent. Click here for coverage of September luxury auto sales.

A BMW on the Trans-Atlantic Plan
Stephen Williams at the New York Times writes that the easy way to take delivery of his 2011 BMW 128i would have been to make a 45-minute train ride to the dealership in Huntington, on Long Island. He says he chose the not-so-easy way: Queens to Huntington, via Munich. In the end, picking up the BMW twice – first at the company's cavernous delivery center in Munich and again five weeks later at the showroom where he had made the actual purchase — let him experience the emotional kicks of BMW's European delivery program. Similar opportunities are offered by a handful of European automakers. Click here for a summary of European pick up programs offered by automakers. There are other, more rational advantages, of course: saving money is near the top of that list (though Porsche actually adds a fee for delivery in Europe). There are inconveniences as well, he writes. Although picking up the car on the other side of the pond lowered the sticker price, the savings shrank when a round-trip airline ticket to Germany (about $850) was added; hotels, the occasional schnitzel, and cafe mit schlag also make a dent. Click here to read more about his experience with BMW's European delivery program.

Up, Up and Away: 62 mpg Fuel Rule for '25
The Obama administration may require 62 mpg for cars and light trucks by 2025. The Detroit News reports that the possible requirements are more than double the current fuel economy standard and is sure to spark a two-year battle among automakers, environmentalists, and regulators before it is finalized in July 2012. The administration disclosed Friday it is mulling annual gas mileage improvements in the three percent to six percent range over the 2017-25 timeframe – three percent leading to 47 mpg by 2025, and three percent hitting 62 mpg by the final year. The toughest requirements could add $3,500 to the cost of a vehicle, or as much as $50 billion annually to what Americans spend on new vehicles. The lower end of the three percent to six percent range would add $770. Click here for a chart showing cost estimates and overall fuel savings associated with each of the government's stated options. The average fuel economy standards would apply to the vehicles made by each auto company as a group, not to individual models. To meet the highest target, cars would have to average 75.9 mpg and light trucks would have to average 45 mpg by 2025. Even at the lower end of the range, the regulations would force significant changes in what Americans drive. Click here for the latest on what possible fuel economy standards could mean to the cost of American vehicles.

Review: Makeover of Scion tC Coupe Gets it Right
The Scion tC makeover for 2011 results in a crisp, purposeful, comfortable, good-driving coupe, according to James R. Healey at USA Today. Scion is Toyota's youth brand, and the tC coupe attracts the industry's youngest buyers – average age 26. The tC also accounts for 41 percent of all Scion buyers, 71 percent of them new to Toyota products. What's more, 60 percent of its owners buy another Scion or other Toyota products. According to Healey, the 2011 tC is quite a bit better than the 2010. Examples include the 2011 model's power train, which has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder rated 180 horsepower and 173 pounds-feet of torque, mated to either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The 2010 had a 2.4-liter with 161 hp and 162 lbs.-ft. married to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The 2011 is roughly 10 percent better in government mileage tests – 26 miles per gallon (3.85 gallons per 100 miles) in combined city/highway use, the feds say. As far as the interior, front-seat head restraints are "active" vs. last year's "passive." Active is better. It can sit farther back because it pivots forward in a crash to restrain your noggin. Click here for a photo gallery of the redesigned Scion tC. For Healey's full review on the model's improvements for 2011, click here.

Around the Web
The Other 10 Scariest Cars of All Time [Jalopnik]
Affordable Cars Could Soon Offer Collision-Avoidance Systems [TheCarConnection]
Driving with Heavy Rain and Flooded Roads [Consumer Reports Cars Blog]
Lotus Esprit Concept: 2010 Paris Auto Show [Edmunds Inside Line]