Hybrid Cars; Visiting Japanese Auto Makers North American Head Quarters

Japanese Automakers with North American Head Quarters are moving the ball forward and pressing on into the future with new technologies for safety, fuel economy and net-centric systems. Before retiring from the auto aftermarket franchise industry, I took a tour around the nation to see what I had built and visit all our franchisees. During this trip I visited all the all Major Japanese Auto Manufacturers North American Head Quarters as part of our 2002 Victory Tour.

We are seeing a major push by Japanese Auto Makers to re-gain lost ground from post 9-11 lost market share by domestic manufacturers due to the Zero/Zero Financing Strategies of 2001-2002. Toyota had gained incredible market share in late 2002 against Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler. Toyota started to offer a new SUV option on an old and most popular model. The 4-Runner now with an All-Wheel drive version for add safety and performance. We had the opportunity of going to the Dealership party held by Toyota of North American Corporate to introduce the many Dealership Owners this new vehicle. Also on display were the Hybrid cars and trucks, which were soon be on the lots ready for sale. They are selling many of those models today in 2005 and 2006 models. Toyota’s profits were also way up due to the 2001 value of the Yen against the Dollar. The Yen was at an all time low meaning that they could build the cars much cheaper and re-invest much of these profits in R and D projects, some of hit the streets as early as May of 2003 as they released the 2004 models. This will be a war for all manufacturers as the aggressive Japanese Toyota company goes for the gold.

Mitsubishi Motors made quite a run in March, April and May of 2002 by proposing a Zero/Zero/Zero plan. Zero Interest, Zero Down Payment and Zero Payments until 2003 on all Monteros, Gallants, Montegos and Eclipses. No one knew what the fall-out rate would be on these vehicles selling starting in March of 2003 as 90 day delinquent loans go unpaid from Mitsubishi Acceptance Corporation. In hindsight the short-term strategy worked but the fall-out rates were disastrous indeed. Ford Motor Credit had also run into problems on failed auto loans in its major Ford Motor Acceptance Corporations unit. My company was in the business of washing car dealership lots in our Car Wash Guys Dealership Division which washed for many Mitsubishi Dealerships across the nation and counting them out now would not be a good bet as the 2003 models were stacked and the prices were very good compared to the increased prices of Domestic Cars due to import steel tax and fallout rates of bad loans. Even more of a situation exists as Domestic Automakers realize that the new 2003 fallout rates could reach over 8% and therefore have raised prices 10% to counteract this offset.

Nissan had done well in 2000, 2001 and 2002 although had only gained moderate ground against the other manufacturers and most of that came in the light truck market. Infinity did not do as well in 2001-2002 as expected however the major consolidation in the auto dealership industry by AutoNation, United Auto, Auto1, Sonic Automotive and others shielded them from being hurt too bad as they are diversified with all brands from Hyundai to GM. This was a bad year for some manufacturers such as Daewoo, while other brands made good headway. 2001 delivered nearly 17 million cars to Americans and was said to have saved our economy as those sales figures were thrown into the all retail sales categories showing consumer spending good as most retailers had a lousy Christmas in 2001. Nissan did well due to its ability to catch the consumer with flashy light trucks with pizzazz. Excellent marketing if you ask us at the Car Wash Guys, knowing of course that it was pure brilliance.

Mazda did well in early 2001 pre-9-11 due to the gasoline price spike, with its many fuel economy models. But did not do as well during post 9-11 as the domestics took off like a banshee from hell with Zero/Zero and lots of retained earnings to carry them. GMAC took a big bite in Mazda’s sales out of the gate in 2002 and Mazda is looked for it’s 2004 models to help it catch up in Mid 2003. Mazda also got hurt in the sales to rent-a-car companies and due to its domestic partner and major shareholder putting it in the back seat for now. Mazda Miata’s sold excellent between 1999-2002 but not enough to carry the entire company. With a recent brand re-identification under way they missed the boat in early 2002 meanwhile Chrysler and Ford met GM’s Zero/Zero and the horse raced out in front during a Buy American post 9-11 craze, the rest was history. We are looked for an excellent return to market position by mid to late 2003 from Mazda and of course their domestic partner as GM’s relentless pursuit of the Zero/Zero game slowed down. GM was out in those years to wipe the competition and with the GMAC home division and new housing starts issues if the real estate bubble caused walk always, these other companies may see things rally take off. Good call as we see home sales robust even now in Spring of 2005 and enough to carry the summer. Of course if interest rates hike up and inflation occurs GM made a perfect play and inflation is moving forward and so is the FED with rate hikes, even if money flows out of the country race past inflows. All will be based on Iraq war, so far in 2005 we are 187 Billion into the re-construction of Afghanistan and Iraq and we need those money flows back. North Korean games and Iranian nuclear material standoff and the consumer’s over all short-term debt and unemployment realities came up in mid 2003. It is still all up in the air now in 2005.

Honda has had good success all during the 1999-2002 auto sales boom as large city’s streets and highways fill up to nearly gridlock. People knowing of Honda reliability and some having been burned in the late 80’s with lousy quality would not buy an American car if you paid them. They are extremely loyal to Honda. In my early days in business I had met the Honda Brothers when they came to the US to buy a long range Cessna 150 Aircraft and even then they were very aggressive with the latest and greatest technology. At the time I was selling aircraft, boy has Honda come a long way indeed. Today they maintain new prototypes in all five categories of hybrid cars, from mixed units to pure hydrogen cell, from all electric to thermo-hydrogen-electric, from natural gas to biofuels such as bio-mass methane and ethanol. It is amazing to the secrets they keep in house with composites, finishes and propulsion. Having spent the most of any of the other foreign manufacturers on R and D projects, Honda looks to surpass the efforts of BMW, DaimlerChysler and Ford in all categories of the newest Hydrogen Cell cars of the future. Meanwhile the race continues to sell as many cars possible and amass as much money as possible at all costs from nearly giving cars away on credit with free hamburgers to pay back in the future. All the domestics are hard set on displacing the foreign manufacturers for good or buying them on the cheap in the case of a total collapse of the Japanese economy if the bad loans are realized for what they are under the current political structure which would not only hurt auto manufacturers but also cause heads to roll in banking, securities and government. In 2005 the foreign automakers with their environmentally clean cars are out pacing domestics in those categories presently due to fuel prices. They will out run any bad debts on auto loan fallout rates as the economy is back and people have jobs, the unemployment rate is extremely low in the United States now.

Likewise in the US if domestics are forced to raise prices as consumer fail to repay loans and re-marketers sell 1-2 year old cars on the cheap next to the over inflated prices of new models, we may see a glut three times as big as that of the used car dealerships, as we saw some of this right after 9-11 and some at the time were worried that with no possible option of using financing incentives to bail them out things might get tough, that did not happen and the industry ended up saving our economy in robust sales. If this did take place during a period of slight inflation and fallouts in other financial areas such as credit cards and new homes which were purchased on 2-10% down we could have seen a grouped of upside down consumers with nothing in the way of net worth to make them worthy of a new car and auto prices through the roof to cover bad debts. It would have been a disaster waiting to happen, luckily the Fed Acted properly and the tax cuts kicked in fueling small business investment. One thing is for sure there will be so many cars on the road you will spend 1-2 hours a day in traffic and that means a lot of dirty cars out there for my company to wash? CarWashGuys.com

How did everything get so out of control in 2001-2002 Auto Markets?

It was not all 9-11, it was not great before that as it appeared that 2001 would end with only 14.1-15 million cars sold instead, they did slightly better with 15.1 million cars sold, which was still a disappointment from the 17.1 million of the previous year. However by the end of the Zero-Zero of 2001 the game had changed and the future risks became greater. The real question was this, would there an emerging middle class that was expanding or would it be contracting? If it was expanding and that sector was increasing now from let’s say the Hispanic Population, would it be expanding enough to continue this rate of expansion in the auto industry. Can our roads handle more cars? Can our bodies handle more pollution? Are there going to be any big consolidations in the Auto Industry. What are the plans of the European Auto Companies with names like Volvo, Fiat, Jaguar, BMW, Rolls Royce, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Saab, Porsche, will these mergers continue with American Auto Makers? Will one of these be on the leading edge of new technology and leap-frog other companies with Hydrogen Cells? How many cars can our country hold, who will buy them and most of all who will pay for them? All these questions were still out in the wind and we saw a lot of cars coming off the Rent-A-Car lines and hitting re-sale lots. Would cars with two years old dates be worth 1/3 of new due to inflated prices to counteract fallout loan rates on the Zero/Zeros? Would inflation take care of this? Would it not? Lots of dynamics out there and we saw many cards very well placed changing the game in 2001-2003 as we visit the best players of the greatest game ever created; The Free Market, and no industry contains more out for blood players than the Auto Industry…God we love the game. God Bless the players, our customers and the Game. And folks that is what the Auto Industry was all about in 2001-2003 and now you can see why things are the way they are now as the Auto Dealers and Manufacturers move into hybrid fuel efficiency and net-centric electronics in the 2005-2006 models. The auto industry is a huge important factor in the health of our economy; Think about it.

How to Make Your Auto Dealership’s Landing Pages Effective?

A webpage is considered to be unsuccessful until it has high conversion rates. Landing page is a specific page designed for this purpose. Auto dealers can increase their online sales by creating effective landing pages. Creating effective landing pages for all car models and services offered by the dealership is crucial in converting the traffic into sales.

This article details you on how to design effective landing page for your auto dealership.

Searched automotive term should be in the headline: The landing page headline should always match with the searched automotive term. This enables you to rank well in search rankings too. A customer clicks on a search result or an ad when he finds that the ad text is relevant to his search query. The promised content of the search result/ad on the landing page will reinforce relevancy and thus the customer feels that he is at the right place.

Highlight the special sales offer: Focusing your landing page around a single attractive offer will increase the conversions. Since a good offer from your dealership will motivate your customer to act like signing up, purchasing or giving their details for future contact, etc. you can place offers like free demo of vehicles, discounts, free servicing of autos for limited period, etc.

Limit the information to the specified vehicle: Remember that landing page is not a home page. On seeing a landing page the customer expects specific message regarding the vehicle. Use the keywords, phrases and topics which directly relate to the vehicle. Give precise but important information regarding the vehicle. Also, make sure that your page looks professional by inserting your company’s logo and various certifications instead of stuffing irrelevant information.

Limit graphics and navigation: Don’t distract your customers by providing unnecessary graphics of your models. Limit the navigation too. If the customer goes on clicking the hyperlinks provided on your page, he will possibly forget the purpose and you may lose your conversion. Avoid any kind of menus, links back to home page and other kind of extra links. Just put the form and provide a submit button. This will also help in easy loading of your landing pages.

Publish all the details and images above the fold: Make sure that all the important information is above the virtual fold of the page. If a customer has to scroll down the page continuously, he will preferably move out of the page without being converted. Therefore, insert all your images, details and videos of the auto models above the fold. Minimize the details of the vehicles and present it in the form of bullets, so that, the moment customer reads the first three words of your bullets he gets the gist of every point. This ease of going through the landing page has higher potential in increasing the conversion rates.

Ask only for required information from the customers: Don’t irritate the customers by asking irrelevant or unnecessary information, or else you will lose them. Value their time and patience. Hence, optimize the fields. If your ad supports sale of car, then ask for the customer’s email address, required specifications, etc. Don’t ask more of his personal details like name, postal address and so on which are of no use.

Express gratitude: After the customer fills in the required fields, thank him. Send an email for confirming the deal. Also make sure that you regularly follow-up the customer through his email. This way the customer will be confident about your dealership which will help in converting the leads to sales. Further, you can also promote your next sale or service offers by providing the links while sending follow-up messages.

Test various elements: Test various elements with a group of customers after creating your landing page. Test for the headline, if it is capable of creating any kind of relevance. Also check other features such as keywords, offers, captions, number of fields, images of vehicles, graphics if they are really capable of promoting your vehicles. Design some other unique landing pages and send them to the customers’ mails and see if they are successful. Also remember, it is good to test but not to over test.

The main purpose of a landing page is to fulfill your goal of converting the visitors to leads. So make sure that your landing page is efficient enough to reach the targeted audience, make the visitors stay on the page, encourage them to provide their details and close the deal.

2009 International Auto Shows – Fantasy of Car Lovers

Why International Car Shows?

International auto shows are of immense importance today with their increasing popularity as well as growing need of cars and vehicles throughout the world. These international car exhibitions provide excellent platform for automobile manufacturing companies to come together to display their crafts and share their technologies and expertise. In one way or the other, the objective is to promote the business of car manufacturing and production.

What’s the Outcome?

Automobile companies go global with audience swarming in from all over the world. International car shows introduce car dealers and buyers with the newest car technologies as well as the latest car models and concept cars that the manufacturers are willing to present. In today’s commercial world, a car show provides manufacturers ample opportunity to advertize their products in front of global buyers.

A number of auto shows are taking places all over the world. City that organizes an international auto exhibition instantly make its place in the world car map. It becomes a center for car sale and purchase. Million dollar agreements are signed between car manufacturers and dealers during the exhibition.

The Evolution of Car Shows

The nature of international car exhibitions has evolved to a great extent since its beginning. In the beginning it was only the existing models and newer models that were to be launched in the market were showcased in these exhibitions. But gradually the style changed. Now the trend is to display the concept cars that were not meant for selling or marketing along with production cars. These concept cars are only to bring new technologies, innovation and creativity in the spotlight. They are not for sale.

When it comes to international car show the name of Detroit comes first. The city has a rich history of organizing successful auto exhibitions. The first auto show was held in 1907 at Detroit, North America. The show was a hit. Since then Detroit did not have to look back. Gradually the venue shifted from Riversdale Park to the city’s business precinct, Metro Detroit area.

Paris is the host of the first car show in the world. Paris Auto Show started way back in 1898. Since then Paris has witnessed the debut of several car models. Since 1988 Paris international motor show took the name Mondial de l’Automobile. Before that it was known as Salon de l’Auto.

Well-known International Auto shows

Although you will find two types of auto shows – national and international, we will talk about international auto shows here. We have watched the 2008 Paris Motor Show ended recently. The exhibition showcased a series of concept cars as well as production cars. 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon has already caught the eye of auto dealers.

Detroit Auto Show has come up as one of the oldest and most prestigious car shows of the world. Presently it is officially known as North American International Auto Show where you will find most of the leading automobile companies of the world present with their newest car models to turn the audience into buyers from visitors. The 2009 Detroit Auto Show that is going to be held this January, 2009 has already pepped up the mood of the city. Some of the most talked about concept cars that are to be displayed at Detroit are Audi A7 Concept and Mercedes-Benz Concept BlueZERO. In addition, Toyota Auto Show [http://www.roadandtrack.com/article.asp?section_id=15&article_id=5964], Frankfirt Motor Show and Los Angeles Auto Shows are some of the names automobile enthusiasts wait for.

So, get ready to catch all the excitement as a number of international car shows are coming up your way throughout the year.

A Famous Car Auction Offers Some Answers For United States Auto Manufacturing Woes

This past New Years holiday weekend, I had planned on the ritual television viewing of endless college and professional football games with my son. He is home for Christmas break from university, and the last weekend of each year we have always devoted to eating, lazing and yelling at the screen as teams with which we have no real interest slug it out in endless gridiron skirmishes. However, this year, our viewing habits were turned upside down by a re-run of a car auction.

Each January, the Barrett-Jackson Classic Automobile Auction takes place in Scottsdale, Arizona. The auction takes the better part of a week and features the most stunning car stock in the world, selling for mind numbing prices to ultra-rich celebrities and collectors. If you like cars, and as a child of the 1960’s I do, this is addictive stuff. My son and I saw very little football this weekend, as the auction ran hour after hour, a repeat of the January, 2006 auction as shown on the Speed Channel, and we were consumed.

Watching the auction was revealing on several levels: not only was the auction exciting, the cars beautiful and unique, the bidding spirited, but collectors demand for American classics overwhelmed the markets desire for all other types of collectible vehicles. Ferrari’s, Porsches and Maserati’s were offered and sold, however, all of the record sale prices were achieved by American muscle cars from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Were ANY American automobile executives in attendance, watching on television or even aware of the insatiable demand for their historic nameplates? At a time when Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, virtually all that is left of the once mighty American auto business, are losing market share, bleeding cash and shuttering factories, the demand for once-pedestrian priced rolling stock is immense. Plymouth Barracuda, Dodge Hemi, Chevelle, Camaro, Firebird, Mustang, and dozens of other American auto models, all once widely sold and, at prices virtually every man could afford, commanded prices as high as $2 million. That is right: $2,000,000!

The re-run of the Barrett-Jackson 2006 auction underlined clearly what ails the American automobile business and what the prescription for a return to the glory days must include. The engineers and designers of the mid-20th century American cars loved the industry: They were car guys first, last, always! Their designs and performance enhancements reflected passion. Cars were more than mere mass transportation; they were statements of creativity, art and American leadership and inventiveness. Can any of these traits be applied to today’s bland, look alike, pedestrian offerings coming to us from Detroit?

Harley Earl at GM, Raymond Loewy at Studebaker, Lee Iacoca at Ford, John DeLorean at Pontiac, and Virgil Exner at Chrysler were craftsman whose designs and styling cues influence the worldwide auto design industry to this day. Can you name the lead designer of any contemporary American auto model working today? They are as faceless, and colorless as their vehicles.
The classic “baby bird”, the Ford Thunderbirds of the 1950’s, were allowed to atrophy, became gluttonous and boxy before being put to a long deserved death in the 1990’s. A few years ago, Ford announced to great fanfare that the Thunderbird would be re-offered in the original two-seat sport roadster presentation. Expectations were high for the “new baby bird”, pre-production bookings encouraging and publicity generous in anticipation of the return of this American classic.
Sadly, the car proved a bust on every level. Performance was dull, lines and body silhouette a pale memory of the distinctive 1950’s design and the public walked quickly away from the car. After only three years of disappointing sales, the new Thunderbird was discontinued.

Ford at least tried. My question, re-issued while watching the 2006 Barrett-Jackson auction was this: Why didn’t the new “Bird” body look exactly like the old bird, gorgeous pastel colors, cutting edge styling cues, continental kits, but with modern mechanics under the hood? The “old Bird” is a recognized classic. Every collector wants a classic Thunderbird in the garage. No one cared for the lame attempt at a pseudo-Bird as offered by today’s Ford designers.

The contemporary American car business suffers for many reasons, including legacy costs, past management mistakes and bloated staffing. However, the biggest mistake by far, and I believe any casual viewer of the Barrett-Jackson auction would agree, is the stodgy, sameness of their contemporary offerings. When a Cadillac, a Buick, a Hyundai and a Toyota look the same, the car with the lowest price, best warranty and best service history will claim the lions share of the sales. Unfortunately these are not currently benefits associated with American cars.

The historic design pedigree that naturally could, and should be attached to American models has largely been forfeited. When a 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda (original sticker price, $4000) sells for over $2 million and Shelby Mustangs regularly sell for $1 million the market is making a clear statement. Is any body in Detroit paying attention?