He said Lithia is willing to "sacrifice" some gross profit to earn factory incentive cash because "it allows us to build our future service work, which is huge for us."
AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson blasted automakers -- particularly Nissan -- for their continued use of stair-steps and other targeted sales incentives. The programs contributed to a "significant negative impact" on AutoNation's new-vehicle volume and gross profit per new vehicle retailed in the third quarter, he said. AutoNation's same-store new-vehicle volume fell 6.2 percent, and its gross profit per new vehicle retailed dropped 6.8 percent.
Jackson called the programs unfair to consumers, damaging to the brand and to retailers and ultimately unsustainable.
"They really make customers profoundly unhappy," Jackson said. "The leading practitioner is Nissan. ... There's never been anything like the Nissan program."
He said the number of automakers using the damaging programs is down to a few, mentioning Chrysler in addition to Nissan. But even a few such programs are "very disruptive," Jackson said.
A few retailer executives expressed hope that production cuts will ease the pressure to hit unrealistic sales targets.
Mini is correcting its production "to reduce availability, which will help us on margin," Penske said. Mini and BMW combined accounted for the largest single slice of Penske Automotive's global sales in the first nine months, 25 percent, followed by Audi's 14 percent.
Group 1's Hesterberg said, "I don't think any of us are having to push back as much as we did 90 days ago because many of the OEMs have now reacted and reduced production."