FirstUp: Daily News

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Today’s FirstUp

April 22, 2014 

Jackson: We'll Get Our Own Leads

According to Automotive News, CEO Mike Jackson put the big Internet shopping sites on notice last week: AutoNation is building Web products that will slash the number of leads the group's 229 stores get from AutoTrader, Cars.com, TrueCar, and others. And if the third-party sites keep raising prices, he'll cut them out of the mix even quicker. In making a case to spend $50 million on AutoNation's digital storefront, Jackson laid bare the growing tension between dealers and third-party lead generators. Each year many dealers drop third-party sites, dissatisfied with perceived high prices for leads and the limited sales they produce. But, says a source at a major Internet shopping site, the majority return within six months after their market share declines or they negotiate lower prices for less advertising. AutoNation's size and resolve make this conflict different. Jackson is investing in Web sites that eventually will offer shoppers finance options, trade-ins, and other features that will have the AutoNation brand and be under AutoNation's control. Robust marketing, which will aim to make the Auto- Nation brand a household name in its market areas, will boost the cost to $100 million, the company says. For more on Mike Jackson’s plans for AutoNation’s store network, click here

Dealer Acquisition Action is Strong, Growing
Auto Remarketing reports that dealers and dealer groups are making moves at a rapid pace, as research shows acquisition rates are on the way up. According to an industry report released Monday, auto dealership buy-sell transactions rose by double-digit rates in 2013, and analysts are predicting this year’s rates will continue to rise. The buy-sell market is reviewed in The Blue Sky Report from Haig Partners LCC, and the report shows public retailers committed more than $1 billion to acquisitions for the first time since 2006 last year. The number of private transactions rose 14 percent. “Auto dealers are enjoying record profits, new vehicle sales are strong and rising, and the economy is improving. Those factors are driving valuations to all-time highs. It’s an ideal environment for sellers,” said Alan Haig, founder of Haig Partners. “But the sellers’ advantageous position isn’t deterring buyers. It’s a low-yield world with few attractive alternatives for investment capital. Even with high purchase prices, dealership acquisition returns are very compelling.” The report states private buyers are very active and interested in both single-point stores and larger groups. For more on the dealer acquisition environment, click here

GM Requests Protection in N.Y. Court Against Ignition Switch Lawsuits
General Motors Co. filed a motion in a U.S. bankruptcy court to enforce a bar on lawsuits related to ignition defects in cars sold before its 2009 bankruptcy as it fights a class-action lawsuit that seeks to set aside the restriction. According to Automotive News, the plaintiffs also filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday, seeking an order declaring that GM cannot use the bankruptcy protection to absolve itself from liabilities. The faulty ignition switch has been linked to at least 13 deaths and the recall of 2.6 million GM vehicles. GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2009 as a different legal entity than “Old GM.” Under those terms, "New GM" shed liability for incidents predating its exit from bankruptcy, and any lawsuit related to pre-bankruptcy issues must be brought against what remains of old GM. "New GM's recall covenant does not create a basis for the plaintiffs to sue new GM for economic damages relating to a vehicle or part sold by old GM," the company argued in a filing on Monday in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Click here for more on GM’s motion to protect itself from certain lawsuits

Top Ten Green Cars
When the editors at Kelley Blue Book (KBB) made their list of the top green cars last year, the 2014 winner was not even available. There is a novelty factor in any list of the top 10 anything, of course, but in the world of all-electric (EV), hybrid electric (HEV) cars, and natural gas-powered cars, there are big leaps forward every year, and this year is no exception. According to 24/7 Wall St., at number 10, the Volkswagen Jetta comes in both EV and HEV models. The manufacturer’s suggested list price (MSRP) on the basic Hybrid SE is $28,130, according to KBB. The ninth best green car is the Lexus ES 300h from Toyota Motor Corp. The Lexus ES sold 4,039 vehicles in 2013 and 1,384 in the first three months of 2014. The MSRP on the car is $40,410. The top vehicle on the KBB list is the new all-electric i3 from BMW. The car was introduced last November and sales have not been added to HybridCars.com’s list yet. The company has reportedly boosted production from 70 cars a day to 100 cars a day to meet strong demand. To read about the other cars that made KBB’s list of the best green cars, click here

Line Blurred Between Luxury, Mainstream Interiors
This isn’t the first year luxurious passenger compartments have fared well in the Ward’s 10 Best Interiors competition. Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Range Rover, and Volvo have made the cut in recent years. But the 2014 honorees, even those hailing from non-premium brands, are so lavishly appointed that a question springs to mind: Where exactly does one draw the line between mainstream vehicles and those considered “luxury?” Climb behind the wheel of the least-expensive car on Ward’s current list, the $24,010 ’14 Kia Soul+, and it’s hard to classify this well-appointed interior as down-market or entry-level. It has leather-trimmed seats, navigation, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, a premium audio system and the UVO telematics system. The final three winners no doubt are classified as luxury interiors: the $68,920 Hyundai Equus Ultimate, the $122,895 Mercedes-Benz S550, and the $372,800 Rolls-Royce Wraith. All three of these faced intense competition from just about every premium brand under the sun and yet earned their stripes with breathtaking beauty, nap-worthy comfort, and lots of clever highlights. Read more about Ward’s 10 Best Interiors here

Last Chance to Register for AIADA and Federated Insurance’s Free Webinar on Employment Litigation on April 23
Wage and hour claims continue to be one of the fastest growing areas in employment litigation, which may involve disputes over: overtime pay violations, exempt employee misclassification, and employees working off-the-clock. Join AIADA and its Affinity Partner, Federated Insurance on Wednesday, April 23 at 1 p.m. EDT for a free webinar titled “Wage & Hour: Employment Litigation” to understand the top wage and hour pitfalls to avoid in your organization. The webinar will be hosted by Truth Fisher, an attorney with Advisors Law Group, LLP. Ms. Fisher’s employment law background includes extensive experience defending corporations, organizations, directors, officers and handling claims ranging from wage and hour violations to harassment, retaliation and other alleged workplace misconduct. This webinar is ideal for dealer principals, general managers and human resource managers. Registration is open to the first 150 individuals who register. Participants do not need to be a member of AIADA to register. To register, visit: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/433082042.  

Around the Web
Interview: Cody Lusk Discusses the Auto Summit [CBT News]
Spy Shots: 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible [MotorAuthority]
Obsessive Coverage of the 2014 Beijing Motor Show [Autoblog]
Driving a $900K Porsche 918 Spyder to the Future [Yahoo! Autos]

 

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