October 14th, 2014 at 11:55am
- Tesla Considers Franchise Dealers
- Camry Gets Major Mid-Cycle Refresh
- Toyota Hits 7-Million Hybrid Mark
- Hyundai on U.S. Diesel Bandwagon
- Vettel Hits Paydirt
- You Said It!
Tesla may sign up franchised dealers, Toyota tweaks the Camry, and Sebastian Vettel will make whopping big bucks.
TESLA CONSIDERS FRANCHISE DEALERS
As I noted in yesterday’s show, I interviewed Elon Musk at an industry conference on Saturday, and here’s one of the other nuggets that came out of that “fireside chat.” When I asked him if he could really scale up his retail model of company stores in all 50 states in the U.S., and how they would handle maintenance and repairs, Musk admitted that relying exclusively on company stores probably wasn’t enough. “We may need a hybrid system,” Musk said, “with a combination of our own stores and some dealer franchises.” I’m sure that franchise dealers are going to feel vindicated that their system is superior. By the way in an upcoming episode of Autoline This Week we’ll have Forrest McConnell, the chairman of the National Auto Dealer Association and he has a lot to say about Tesla’s approach.
CAMRY GETS A FACELIFT
It was three years ago when Toyota gave us the latest generation Camry, so that means it’s time for the usual mid-cycle refresh, right? Well, is it a refresh when you pretty much change everything on the outside of the car except for the roof? Is it a refresh when you give the car an all new center stack along with soft touch materials throughout? And finally, would you call adding 2,000 brand new parts to a car that’s already selling over 400,000 units in America a refresh? Well Toyota does, and says most of those changes to the 2015 model are thanks to the research it did with Camry customers. The majority said they were happy with the safety and reliability of the car, but thought it could be improved elsewhere, and Toyota was listening.
Rick Lofaso, Vehicle Marketing & Communications for Toyota sedans, trucks and SUVs: “One area they told us we had the opportunity to improve was on exterior styling and the elevation of the interior appointments. So that was the focus area for this mid-cycle change. Now one of the things I’ll add to that, us along with the manufacturers periodically change the product mid-cycle. But that’s usually very very limited to color palates, wheels, fabrics, not the kind of design changes you see with this car. To our knowledge, this is the most that any manufacturer has ever devoted to a mid-cycle change in the business. And that really goes to show how committed we are to making sure that Camry continues satisfy our customers and how important it is to our brand.”
Well, if you want to see that customer-driven Camry up close, it’s in dealerships now. We’ll have a more in-depth look at the car on a future episode of Autoline DAILY.
7 MILLION HYBRIDS
Talk about Toyota, the company just announced it’s sold 7 million hybrids globally, including Lexus. That’s an impressive number but it took 17 years to hit that mark. Not surprisingly, the Prius accounts for nearly half of those sales. Toyota currently sells 27 different hybrid models globally and will introduce 15 more. But as we’ve reported all year, hybrid sales are falling in the U.S. which leads us to our next story.
HYUNDAI ON U.S. DIESEL BANDWAGON
With hybrid sales softening, Hyundai is considering offering diesels in the U.S.—again. It had considered them a few years ago but backed away mainly due to cost considerations. But now Hyundai tells Ward’s that it sees value in the engine, but the key will be finding the right vehicle to drop it in.
VETTEL HITS PAYDIRT
Wipe those tears away Lebron. Pull out your hanky Kobe. Move aside Tiger. As much as those guys earn in a year, they’re not even close to what Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel is reportedly going to get for moving to Ferrari. Forbes is reporting that Seb signed a contract worth $80 million smackaroos a year. And that does not include sponsorship deals that could push the number much higher. Forbes says Vettel is now the highest salary athlete in the world.
Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!
C-Tech saw our report that one of the richest men in the world wants to buy up a dealership group, but wonders: “If dealers make such slim profits why would W. Buffet want to buy the Van Tuyl Group? High return on investment. My prediction is Berkshire Hathaway Automotive will be buying more dealers in the future. Look out Autonation and Sonic.” Interesting viewpoint, C-Tech. Maybe all this dealership consolidation we’ve seen so far is only a drop in the bucket, and there’s going to be a lot more to come. I hadn’t thought about that possibility, so thanks for sharing that.
HtG wants to know: “Why isn’t Tesla fighting the dealers at the Federal level? It’s hard to believe Musk hasn’t had lawyers look at this route. Going state by state takes so long and must be expensive.” It’s the only way you can do it. There is no federal protection for dealer franchisees. Each and every one of the 50 states have written their own franchise laws. The NADA did this deliberately over 60 years ago, so that dealers would have local political support in every state.
donfromnaples heard about the ALG survey which says car buyers perception of Kia is not very good. He wants to know: “If Kia were doing so badly based on consumer perceptions as indicated in this article, then how is it that Kia sales have skyrocketed during the past 3 model years?” Well, obviously they’re being bought by people who don’t have a bad perception of Kia!
HelicopterJay saw our report on the hydraulic hybrid that Peugeot showed at the Paris auto show but wants to know: “John, I love the idea of the Hydraulic Hybrid system, but where is it? To date I have seen only 1 UPS truck with “Hydraulic Hybrid” printed on it.” Yep, they’re pretty slow in coming. But my friends at GM say check out a company called Lightning Hybrids. The GM truck guys seem to like what they see there.
As always we really like reading your comments and questions so keep them coming.
And don’t forget to join us for Autoline After Hours on Thursday. We’ll have Mat Haggart, the chief engineer on the Acura TLX. He’ll have the car in the studio with him, so you won’t want to miss it. I think the TLX represents a turning point for the Acura brand.
Anyway, that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.