Automotive News Table of Contents

February 20, 2017

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Mercedes dealers get relief on renovations
Author: Amy Wilson

A pledge by Mercedes-Benz to give U.S. dealers a 10-year moratorium on making facility changes is unusual.

The really new GM: Ready to quit Europe
Author: Nick Bunkley

GM's proposed departure from Europe would be a radical pivot for a company that historically tried to dominate every global market it could, as well as a sign of how dramatically the industry is being upended by shifting attitudes about transportation.

Waymo cries foul over self-drive legislation
Author: Katie Burke

Several states are considering legislation that could exclude technology companies from operating self-driving vehicles within their borders.

Can tiny Key Safety digest Takata?
Author: David Sedgwick

Key Safety Systems is starting to look like the Mouse that Roared. The Michigan airbag maker is engaged in an uphill battle to acquire Takata Corp.

How Chevy coaxed Cruze diesel to 52 mpg
Author: Richard Truett

To earn the EPA's rare 50-plus highway fuel economy rating for the 2018 Cruze diesel sedan, Chevrolet engineers didn't just drop in a fuel-efficient engine and transmission and call it done.

Ingredients to 50-plus mpg
Author: Richard Truett

Key pieces of the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze diesel's 52-mpg highway results.

Recognize the 40 Under 40 who are stars in retail

It's time to nominate someone for Automotive News' 40 Under 40 program, the sixth annual search for people under 40 who are making a name for themselves at dealerships in the United States and Canada.

Distracted driving defies global enforcement efforts
Author: John Irwin

Distracted driving, responsible for thousands of deaths annually worldwide, might not disappear unless every vehicle on the road is fully autonomous.

Join our fixed-ops forum with your letter to the editor
Author: David Kushma

We invite readers to contribute to our new letters page.

Nissan Leaf finds its fan base
Author: Lindsay Chappell

Nissan's bold move into electric vehicles with the Leaf earlier this decade looks like a sales flop to many. But there are pockets of the U.S. market where EVs are in demand.

UAW leader: Time is right to 'Buy American'
Author: Katie Burke

America's changing political climate has created an opportunity to revive the “Buy American” movement of the past, said UAW President Dennis Williams.

Audi revamps styling of next-gen A6

The redesigned 2018 Audi A6 will be further differentiated from the smaller A4 and larger A8 sedans, spy photos taken in Germany show.

Cadillac crossover breaks cover

The Cadillac XT3, a compact crossover scheduled to go on sale next year, was spotted for the first time last week during winter testing.

High-end G class first off-roader for Mercedes-Maybach
Author: Amy Wilson

Mercedes is adding an open-top G class to the Maybach family.

Longer, wider Ford Focus may be on the way
Author: Michael Martinez

Spy photos taken in Europe indicate that the next-generation Ford Focus hatchback will be longer and wider than the current version, perhaps with a larger back end.

Marchionne: Alfa to get 2 more crossovers
Author: Larry P. Vellequette

The Giulia Sport Wagon may have disappeared from Alfa Romeo's product plans, but Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says Alfa, which is launching its first crossover, will soon have two more crossovers.

Mitsubishi brings back Eclipse name for crossover
Author: Hans Greimel

Mitsubishi will resurrect the Eclipse name in the new compact crossover to be unveiled next month at the Geneva auto show.

Service Counter

Who sells the most replacement tires in North America, what matters most to customers when they schedule service appointments, and fixed ops profit numbers from public dealership groups.

3-point belts protect middle seat riders, study finds
Author: Jack Walsworth

Three-point seat belts are effective at reducing fatalities for center rear seat passengers in cars and light trucks, a study shows. The benefit is more dramatic in passenger cars than in light trucks or SUVs.

Accent takes on Hyundai styling
Author: John Irwin

The 2018 redesign of the Hyundai Accent brings the subcompact sedan's styling into line with the brand's other offerings.

Legal lane
Author: Eric Freedman

A Montana dealership settles its dispute with the EPA over how it handled used oil, and other intersections of fixed ops and the law.

Toyota gets serious about plug-in hybrids
Author: Hans Greimel

For years, Toyota Motor Corp. has shortchanged plug-in hybrids by offering just one nameplate in the category, and a slow selling one at that: the Prius PHV. But Japan's top carmaker says that's about to change.

RFJ to expand one-price selling
Author: Jamie LaReau

RFJ Auto Partners will begin to expand its Hassle Free Buying strategy, a form of one-price selling, to all of its stores starting this year. It currently uses the model at its high-volume Dave Smith dealerships.

Boost ad budget to challenge web sales

The best thing to do to compete with the growth of online sales is to increase your advertising budget, writes one reader.

Go with the flow of changing retail

I am paying for advertising on Facebook, I send email blasts to every contact -- business and personal -- and I promote my websites on all social media and Yelp, writes one reader.

Industry must accept r&d cost for cleaner air, then charge for it

Listening to the recent rhetoric from the Detroit 3, you'd think the auto industry had been bleeding red ink since striking the CAFE agreement with the Obama administration, sitting on acres of unsalable wind-powered golf carts and handing out pink slips by the millions.

Quick (oil) change artists lead service turnaround
Author: Richard Truett

Nurse Chevrolet Cadillac in suburban Toronto decided to model its oil change team after a NASCAR pit crew. That turned a lagging operation into a profit center.

Self-driving vehicles: Why the rush?
Author: Keith Crain

The idea that the public will share the roads with thousands of driverless vehicles being tested should put a shudder through everyone, writes Keith Crain.

Train to adjust to the new customer

And while focusing on recruiting is all well and good, those efforts will do little to retain many of those potential hires once they interact with the existing culture at most retailers, writes one reader.

How Nurse's fast oil change service works
Author: Richard Truett

Reporter Richard Truett puts Nurse Chevrolet Cadillac's speedy oil change service to the test.

Feds don't need new powers over self-driving cars

Government regulations for highly automated vehicles will need to be limited and carefully crafted, lest they stand in the way of progress, writes Bill Kohler.

Dealer's telephone overhaul answers the call
Author: Jamie LaReau

Bill Penney Toyota's outdated phone system hurt revenues and damaged customer satisfaction reviews. A telecommunications overhaul turned things around.

Lithia wants FCA stores
Author: Jamie LaReau

Lithia Motors Inc. is in talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to win a chance to open new stores as the automaker expands its dealership network.

North Carolina dealer sued in sex offense case
Author: Stephanie Hernandez McGavin

A North Carolina Chevrolet dealer accused of molesting a minor has been sued by a former employee who allegedly was fired for assisting with the police investigation.

Smart brand to focus on EVs in U.S., Canada
Author: Amy Wilson

Daimler AG will stop selling gasoline-powered Smart cars in the U.S. and Canada later this year and will convert the microcar brand to an electric vehicle-only endeavor.

Suppliers sort out Mexico options
Author: Jim Henry

Suppliers don't know what impact trade rule changes will bring - but they are thinking about alternatives.

What my subconscious saw at the Detroit show
Author: Vince Bond Jr.

As I walked through the Ford exhibit at the Detroit auto show, experts at a division of the company called Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience had me outfitted with biometric sensors and a pair of glasses that tracked the movement of my eyes as they darted around the environment until locking in on the...

Toyota sees wider window for TRD
Author: Laurence Iliff

Toyota's expansion of Toyota Racing Development trims across its truck line opens the door for a sporty subbrand that could find its way onto higher-volume products such as the RAV4 and Camry as the automaker chases younger and more affluent buyers.

Dealer anniversaries

Dealers featured this week include Robert Geyer, owner of Sunset Chevrolet-Buick-GMC in Sarasota, Fla.; Bill Brown and Brian Peace, owners of Murray Motor Ford in Muncy, Pa.; Dealer Gary Knight of Carmack Car Capitol in Danville, Ill.

Artificial intelligence helps schedule service appointments
Author: Jeff Yip

Emails from virtual service assistants are so lucid that customers don't realize they're conversing with computer code. The result is greater - and more profitable - engagement with the service department.

Texting and driving bans and fines worldwide
Author: John Irwin

Most U.S. states ban texting and driving, and about a third ban the use of any handheld device while driving. Similar bans exist worldwide, but punishments and guidelines can vary.

Amazon could shake up parts business
Author: Stephanie Hernandez McGavin

Amazon used to be too slow to satisfy aftermarket parts customers. That's no longer the case - and parts makers are taking notice.

Better reconditioning through software
Author: Alex Kwanten

New digital systems are helping service departments greatly reduce the time and cost of preparing used vehicles for sale. The key is breaking down the recon process into its separate steps, and analyzing them for bottlenecks.

Denso U.S. chief seeks partners
Author: Lindsay Chappell

Since becoming CEO of Denso's North American business last year, Kenichiro Ito has been busy reaching out to U.S. technology companies as partners. The stakes? Denso's future.

Mahle zooms in on wiring headaches
Author: Lindsay Chappell

Mahle Service Solutions has launched a technology venture using wire harness data to let assembly technicians zoom to the heart of vehicle test failures.

Steering supplier JTEKT begins reinventing the wheel
Author: Hans Greimel

JTEKT, the world's No. 1 steering system supplier, is preparing for the day that self-steering autonomous cars make its main bread-and-butter products obsolete.

Suppliers' mood turning up, survey finds
Author: Jack Walsworth

Now that the election turmoil is over, suppliers say they are more confident about business. But they are still anxious about the Trump administration's trade issues.

Software helps dealership keep recon progress on track
Author: Alex Kwanten

JM Lexus in Margate, Fla., was an early adopter of ReconTRAC in late 2015, before the reconditioning software system went into wide release in 2016.

Advice from the top on keeping service employees happy

Participants in an Automotive News retail forum talk fixed ops: what service advisers and technicians really want from their employers, and what customers expect if they're to return to the dealership for service.

Keiser University's auto retailing plan
Author: James B. Treece

Keiser University launches its automotive dealership management program this spring on the former Northwood University campus in West Palm Beach, Fla. It plans to distinguish itself from Northwood in part by taking full advantage of its location in the booming south Florida retail market.

When driverless cars call for backup
Author: David Sedgwick

Technology suppliers see redundant systems as the most logical answer to the driverless car dilemma - what happens if an autonomous drive function fails?

Service advisers' pay dispute goes into overtime
Author: Eric Freedman

A federal appeals court again has ruled that service advisers may be eligible for overtime pay, and the case appears headed back to the Supreme Court. Lawyers advise dealers what to do in the meantime.

Why leave Europe's car market? So many reasons.
Author: Christiaan Hetzner

Why is General Motors looking for a way out of Europe? That's easy.

Will FCA become more attractive to GM?
Author: Larry P. Vellequette

Now that General Motors is potentially selling off its European brand Opel to PSA, there is one way the automaker could stay in Europe and remain profitable: by finally taking up FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne's offer to merge.

What's in it for PSA? Analysts aren't sure.
Author: Luca Ciferri

Carlos Tavares, PSA Group's energetic CEO, made a promise when he took over the struggling French automaker in 2014: Let us fix the business, then we can look to forge partnerships that foster our growth. He's done the first part.

Ford aims to disrupt its aftermarket competitors
Author: Jim Henry

Its plan to enhance its dealers' service business includes introducing a line of replacement parts for non-Ford and non-Lincoln vehicles, and persuading more dealers to build Quick Lane fast-service centers.

Omnicraft parts designed to broaden Quick Lane business
Author: Jim Henry

Ford Motor Co. expects its new brand of aftermarket parts for non-Ford and non-Lincoln vehicles to boost the number of the company's Quick Lane service centers.

Dealerships' service departments are leaving money on the table
Author: Richard Truett

Why are dealerships leaving money from potential service business on the table?

GM's European slog

Since General Motors' decision to keep the Opel division following its 2009 bankruptcy, the company has had a revolving door of executives and a tough time finding traction in the crowded European market.

How Ford made it work in Europe
Author: Michael Martinez

General Motors hasn't made money in Europe since Bill Clinton was president. If the world's third-largest auto-maker fails to unload its Opel European division on PSA Group, it could look to its crosstown rival in Dearborn, Mich., for an example of how to right the ship.

Latest updates: 'Surprisingly smooth'
Author: Amy Wilson

Mercedes-Benz dealers have just more than 16 months to make facility updates to comply with the automaker's Autohaus2 image program. After a contentious introduction of the original Autohaus standard launched in 2008, this update is going more smoothly.

Tech shortage curbs service department growth, survey says

Carlisle & Co. and Fixed Ops Journal asked dealers, general managers, and fixed ops directors about service matters. Among the findings: Technician issues are the biggest barrier to fixed ops growth, yet dealership executives spend little time recruiting techs.

Buick relying less on Opel, more on China
Author: Michael Wayland

Buick's sales success and product expansion in recent years have been driven by General Motors' decision to incorporate platforms and vehicles from GM's Adam Opel subsidiary into the brand's lineup.

Get to know your adviser, tech
Author: James B. Treece

More than one-third of car buyers say they didn't know the name of their adviser or tech before they came to the dealership, missing an opportunity to build loyalty.

Aston unveils F1-derived hypercar due in 2019
Author: Greg Layson

Aston Martin revealed its AM-RB 001 hypercar to the world last Thursday, on the doorstep of its Canadian partner Multimatic, which is supplying the low-slung supercar's carbon-fibre tub.

AutoNation puts service and parts at the center of its new branding campaign
Author: David Kushma

The nation's largest dealer group is rolling out a new line of company-labeled parts, emphasizing accessories sales, and expanding its base of service centers and body shops. Executives expect $100 million in gross profit from the parts initiative next year.

Canada likes where it stands in NAFTA talks
Author: Greg Layson

Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid said Canada is “fortunate” to begin a NAFTA dialogue with the Trump administration “from a position of absolute strength.”

CEO: Aston doesn't need merger to survive
Author: Stephanie Wallcraft

Cooperation with a larger automaker, however - gaining access to large automaker technologies - is Aston Martin's path to future success, CEO Andy Palmer told the first Automotive News Canada Congress here last week.

Baker 'put Land Rover on the map'
Author: Richard Truett

Bill Baker, the legendary PR man who played a key role in Land Rover's successful return to the U.S. in 1986, died Thursday, Feb. 16, at his home near Laguna Niguel, Calif. He was 72.

Former Uber exec fined $90,000 for illegal lobbying
Author: Katie Burke

Former Uber executive David Plouffe, once a top aide to former President Barack Obama, has been fined $90,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics for illegally lobbying Mayor Rahm Emanuel, another former Obama aide.

Incentive squeeze zaps Netherlands' electrified sales

What happens if a government yanks generous incentives to buy electrified cars? Sales crash. At least they do in the Netherlands.

New fronts in dealer-factory war over warranty reimbursement
Author: Jim Henry

Ohio is the latest state to adopt detailed rules requiring automakers to reimburse dealers for warranty work at the retail rates charged by the dealerships. Some service directors say they fear factory retaliation.

No Defender? No prob: Brits jump into pickups

The vacuum left by the death last year of Land Rover's utilitarian Defender has been quickly filled in the U.K. by one of the country's fastest-growing segments: the pickup.

Opel was once the little engine that could
Author: Richard Johnson

Europe has been a drain on General Motors for a long time, but Opel did have its glory days and at least once helped keep GM afloat. Automotive News Print Editor RIck Johnson was there when it happened.

PSA already got its hands on a classic

While PSA Group is talking to General Motors about acquiring Opel, it already has bought one stately brand this year - in India.

The new Expedition: Big and boxy yet soft and smooth

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Ford has undertaken a full redesign of the Expedition, its largest SUV. Here's some early feedback.

New Jersey dealer was a pioneer in warranty-pay lawsuit
Author: Jim Henry

As a Lincoln-Mercury dealer in New Jersey in the 1990s, Robert Robertazzi successfully sued Ford Motor Co. over payment for warranty work.

Repayment rules can be difficult
Author: Jim Henry

Just over half the states have franchise laws that include a specific formula for dealerships to follow in documenting the rates they charge customers for retail service work, so they can charge automakers the same rates for warranty work.

Monetizing the service drive is key to dealerships' survival
Author: Frank Ferrara

Frank Ferrara, Hyundai Motor America's retired vice president of customer satisfaction, says the lack of a long-term focus and doing "crazy stuff" can get in the way of building stronger parts and service operations.

5 MINUTES WITH Brett Wheatley, executive director of North America customer service division, Ford Motor Co.
Author: Richard Truett

On the changing business model for Motorcraft-branded parts, reducing parts complexity and filling dealers' orders quickly

5 MINUTES WITH Scott Doering, vice president of customer service, Volvo Cars of North America
Author: Richard Truett

On how technicians' jobs have changed, Volvo's plans to expand other lines of business and how it is changing its technician training strategy.

Fixed in time

In the 1940s, the service department of a Ford dealership in California offered an Old West motif along with state-of-the-art lube equipment.

Shop talk

Fixed ops directors identify their top priorities for 2017.