Slow start, but 2018 bodes well for used-car prices & sales


On paper, it might not seem like the most auspicious of starts to 2018 for the used-car market.

January was the third straight month that wholesale prices declined sequentially, putting the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index at its lowest reading since July.

What’s more, the Cox Automotive report accompanying that index said retail used-car sales were off 2 percent from January 2017.

But there’s more than meets the eye.

Wholesale prices were actually up from a year ago, and values are transforming to the more normalized level that existed before the hurricanes in September. And retail sales should increase yet again. 

“Depreciation accelerated for most vehicles to catch up with the abnormal pricing performance in September; but now that prices are more in line with the general trend prior to the hurricanes, expect the rate to slow down to normal,” Cox Automotive analysts wrote in the report.

The Manheim index reading of 131.0 was up 4.9 percent year-over-year as five of the six major vehicle segments showed year-over-year price gains.

Vans (up 9.2 percent) and pickups (7.6 percent) showed the most growth, while the lone segment to decrease in price was the midsize car (down 2.0 percent).

Cox Automotive doesn’t anticipate the usual March tax-refund boost in used-car pricing, but said the following month should show a return to strength.

“As we look ahead in 2018, we will likely miss the normal ‘bounce’ in used-vehicle prices in March as tax refunds will again be delayed as part of the IRS effort to combat identity fraud,” analysts said. “Prices should be on firmer footing by April as retail demand kicks into gear.”

Speaking of retail demand, it appeared a bit slower in January. There was a 2-percent year-over-year dip in retail used-car sales for the month, Cox Automotive said, and a 39.2 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate.

Still, Cox Automotive is forecasting a 39.5 million used-car retail sales this year, which would beat year-ago figures by more than 400,000 units.



Numbers generated by Super Bowl LII auto ad efforts

CARY, N.C. - 

The chicken wings and guacamole from Super Bowl parties are long gone, but what about dealerships seeing a meaningful lift in shopper activity stemming from the television advertising bought by automakers during the game?

If past trends are any indication, the store phones should have been busier than drink and food stations at those Big Game shindigs. Based off of its own internal call data from 2015, 2016 and 2017, CallRail found that on average inbound calls to dealerships increase 513 percent the day after the Super Bowl.

No doubt, dealerships hope those calls are to inquire about their current inventory, not about the future of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. A wide array of industry observers crunched data as the Philadelphia Eagles went on to their first Super Bowl championship in order to determine which OEMs tasted a victory with their advertising efforts.

“As is the case with previous Super Bowls, the automotive industry was well-represented before, during, and after the game Sunday evening,” said Libby Murad-Patel, vice president marketing and strategic insights for Jumpstart Automotive Media.

“This year’s ad spots had a mix of brand alignments, emotion, nostalgia, and entertainment, but the brands that saw the most success were those that really showcased the vehicle’s performance,” Murad-Patel continued. “They did a fantastic job driving increased shopper interest among both in-market shoppers and car enthusiasts alike.”

Edmunds analysts tracked traffic to brand and model pages on both its desktop and mobile sites during the game to see which automotive ads were most successful in driving immediate shopper interest. Percentage lifts are compared to average Sunday traffic levels on Edmunds.

The ad for the Lexus LS proved most successful on the model side, with traffic up 1,080 percent to its pages on Edmunds during the game. Traffic to the Kia Stinger rose 1,052 percent during the game, and traffic to the Jeep Wrangler was up 93 percent.

Interest in these models drove these three automakers to victory on the brand side: Kia piqued the most curiosity, with traffic up 94 percent during the course of the game; Lexus was second at 43 percent; and Jeep was third with a 21-percent traffic lift.

“Blockbuster movie and celebrity tie-ins were a recipe for success in standing out from the competition and generating interest among car shoppers during the big game,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds. “When the audience is tuning in for the biggest sporting spectacle of the year, it makes sense that the most action-packed and over-the-top advertisements would generate the most immediate results.”

Edmunds noticed results were a bit more muted for the Ram brand, which aired two spots promoting the new 1500. While cumulative shopper interest during the entire game for both the Ram brand and the 1500 were nominal, both ads did generate significant spikes in interest immediately after the ads ran. In particular, the Ram ad that featured a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. generated a 91-percent lift in shopper interest in Ram and a 148-percent lift in model traffic for the 1500 during the second quarter of the game. 

“Regardless of where consumers stand on the Ram commercial controversy, the automaker did succeed in grabbing the attention of car shoppers — albeit for a brief period of time,” Caldwell said.

The analyst team at noticed how Kia’s campaign worked nicely to drive activity on that site, too.

Within eight minutes of airing the Red Stinger featured in the Kia spot, visits to the advertised model’s page on saw a 4,053-percent increase in comparison to the same time period prior to the airing of the spot.

The Lexus LS pages saw an overall spike in traffic, too — generating a 921 percent lift of visits. Other top performing brands and car models included: Jeep Wrangler with a 542-percent increase, Jeep Cherokee with a 175-percent increase, Toyota Tundra with a 142-percent increase, and RAM 1500 with a 69-percent increase.

As people tuned in all across the country, some of the top vehicles that caught consumers’ eyes in major cities based on visits included:

— New York: Jeep Wrangler
— Los Angeles: Jeep Wrangler
— Chicago: Jeep Wrangler
— Philadelphia: Jeep Wrangler
— Dallas: Ford F-150
— San Francisco: Jeep Wrangler
— Washington, D.C.: Jeep Wrangler
— Houston: Ford F-150
— Boston: Jeep Wrangler
— Atlanta: Jeep Wrangler

“This year’s game saw the fewest number of car manufacturers advertising since before 2010. Despite this, still saw a significant spike in site engagement during the game,” said David Greene, data strategy manager.

“The themes of diversity and humanity were pervasive in all of the ads that aired, with only two ads overall featuring famous figures. Humor and animals were most notably missing from ads this year,” Greene continued.

CarGurus hires former Dropbox exec as VP of European sales

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  - 

CarGurus continues to strengthen its presence in Europe.

The company said Wednesday it has hired former Dropbox executive Wendy Harris as its vice president of European sales.

Harris, who was most recently director of EMEA core enterprise sales at Dropbox, will be based out of the CarGurus European headquarters in Dublin.

She had been at Dropbox since 2015, with previous stops at AdRoll, Facebook and Goldman Sachs.  

“We are thrilled to welcome Wendy to our team. She is an experienced sales leader with an impressive track record of driving sales growth and developing high-performance sales teams,” CarGurus chief operating officer Sam Zales said in a news release.

“CarGurus is now the most visited online automotive marketplace in the United States, and we are building our presence in Europe,” Zales said. “Not only do we provide a trusted and transparent shopping experience for consumers, we also deliver exceptional value for dealers through our customer acquisition marketing products.

“Wendy will help us build on the success we’ve had to date and guide our European sales operations going forward.”

While at AdRoll, Harris was head of UK mid-market sales for the digital advertising and re-targeting sofware-as-a-service business. Her time with Facebook was in content marketing in Dublin. 

Harris was a European and U.S. shares trader for 11 years at Goldman.

“CarGurus is a pioneering company and I am very excited to be a part of this talented team,” Harris said.

“The technical innovation that CarGurus brings to digital automotive retail drives exceptional value for dealers, and I look forward to forging strong relationships with our customers as we continue to build our business in Europe.”

CarGurus, which was founded in the U.S. in 2006, rolled out in the UK win in 2015 and then Germany last year. It currently operates in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Germany. It became a publicly traded company last year. 

Holiday advertising driving luxury interest in December


New analysis shows which automakers are gaining the most from their holiday-season advertising.

December interest in the luxury segment has grown by 10 percent since December 2014, according to new data from Jumpstart Automotive Media on the impact automotive holiday advertising has had on luxury shopper interest over the past several years.

“Based on analyzing what people are shopping for throughout the year, it appears that the luxury holiday ad campaigns have been relatively effective, especially over the past few years,” Jumpstart strategic insights senior analyst Colin Thomas said in a news release.

December ranked as the second-highest month for luxury shopping in 2015 and 2016.

Last year, November ranked just slightly higher than December (31.3 percent vs. 31.0 percent), according to Jumpstart.

BMW’s “Road Home” television ad has been the most-viewed commercial this holiday season and Land Rover has the second-most viewed, according to WardsAuto.

Other notable luxury brand commercials include “December To Remember” from Lexus and Audi’s “Season of Audi”.

“Nearly 20 years ago, Lexus pioneered the holiday year-end automotive sales event with the ‘December To Remember’ campaign featuring cars with giant red bows. Now we have seasonal television spots from virtually every luxury carmaker, with creative that rivals that of the Super Bowl,” added Thomas.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing how much December advertising impacts traffic this year.”

Study: Brochures remain valuable to car shoppers, more than social media


While roughly 90 percent of car shoppers find printed brochures helpful when in search of their next vehicle, far fewer dealers feel the same, according to a recent study.

The Latcha+Associates' study that focuses on the car-shopping journey and the impact of marketing content such as printed brochures, found that just 32 percent of high-volume dealers and only 14 percent of low-volume dealers find printed brochures to be either extremely impactful or very impactful on driver's purchase decision.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of shoppers found them to be “somewhat helpful,” and 29 percent said they are “very helpful.”

After websites at 86 percent and automotive magazines at 30 percent, brochures are a top shopper touchpoint; 28 percent of shoppers report using a printed brochure, and 23 percent downloaded a brochure, according to the study.

Interestingly, the study also shows that at 26 percent, social media currently trails printed brochure popularity among shoppers.

Across gender and generation breaks, printed brochure utility is highly consistent as well. In addition to 88 percent of men and 91 percent of women, 88 percent of millennials, 89 percent of Gen X’ers and 94 percent of Baby Boomers said they find printed brochures either “somewhat helpful” or “very helpful.”

While printed brochures were found to be as important to dealers, many find printed brochures customized with dealer information beneficial, about six-in-ten salespeople (59 percent) that have seen customized brochures find them to be “very valuable.”

Additionally, among shoppers who have not used a printed brochure in your shopping experience, most said they were not offered one, (44 percent), followed by doesn’t help me compare vehicles (35 percent), and not enough detail available (27 percent).

When asked about what they think are the most important elements of printed brochures to shoppers, the study found that dealers feel brochures with information accompanying vehicle feature options, colors and drivers POV photos to carry the greatest value.

The most important printed brochure elements according to dealers include:

  1. Features and options, 55 percent
  2. Color and trim, 15 percent
  3. Specifications and dimensions, 14 percent
  4. Model line-up, 6 percent
  5. Photos, 6 percent
  6. Fuel economy, 4 percent

Latcha+Associates conducted its study comprised of focus groups, mobile surveys, phone interviews and in-person interviews with market research firm GfK.

“GfK used its vast experience and knowledge of location-based, mobile shopper marketing research to gather timely, relevant information on the impact of marketing content within the automotive purchase journey,” GfK executive vice president of consulting, automotive Dale Drerup explained in a news release introducing the study. “Combining that with Latcha's unrivaled automotive knowledge, we produced an objective, top-quality study detailing the different roles and value of marketing content throughout the in-market auto shopper’s path to purchase.”

FCA adds AutoLoop to key vendor roster


AutoLoop announced Tuesday it has been named a key software vendor for Fiat Chrysler America (FCA) dealers through Shift Digital. 

In addition to AutoLoop’s service and customer retention tools, FCA dealers can now take advantage of special FCA promotional rates.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to partner with FCA and offer its dealers proven solutions to help increase their sales and service opportunities,” AutoLoop chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a news release.

“We know that dealers nationwide face numerous challenges in today’s market, and we look forward to working with them to address those challenges and help drive their business in the months ahead.”

As a key FCA vendor, AutoLoop’s products such as AutoLoop Book, Messaging, BillPay, Essentials, Loyalty and Quote are now eligible for retailer co-op reimbursement.

Additionally, FCA dealers can also benefit from comprehensive support via a variety of channels, according to Anderson.

“While we design each solution to be as intuitive and user-friendly as possible, we also provide an expert team of support contacts— as well as extensive on-site training, if requested— to ensure total product familiarity and usability,” added Anderson.

“We always want to make sure the dealer is getting all the benefits our resources offer.”

Manheim to launch omni-channel experience via Marketplace


Manheim announced Friday it will deliver an omni-channel experience through its new Marketplace that brings together all channels into one integrated destination for buyers and sellers.

The omni-channel experience will provide wholesale vehicle buyers and sellers increased opportunities to connect and transact business, according to Manheim.

“We’re well on our way to creating a first-of-its-kind, omni-channel experience that will offer many touchpoints and more effectively meet the needs and preferences of buyers and sellers,” Manheim Digital Marketplaces and RMS Automotive president Nick Peluso said in a news release.

“Next year, Manheim will do even more to bring integrated solutions and value-added experiences to Manheim’s audience of buyers and sellers – the largest in the industry.” 

The development of Manheim’s new Marketplace began in 2014 with the company’s $400 million multi-year initiative to transform its auction operations.

In addition to being able to easily add on services to increase velocity, according to Manheim several of its Marketplace solutions that have already been integrated have allowed dealers to search inventory across OVE, and OEM-specific marketplaces.

“Manheim’s vision is to transform our operations into a seamless, 24/7 marketplace that enables our clients to buy and sell vehicles and solutions effortlessly,” added Grace Huang, president of Manheim Inventory Solutions. “The strength of Manheim and its connection to other Cox Automotive brands offer the kind of value to dealers and commercial clients that no other company can match.”

The Manheim Marketplace currently supports 58 million unique visits and 10 million unique vehicle listings annually, according to Manheim.

Facebook announces new mobile ad features for auto companies

MENLO PARK, Calif.  - 

Facebook announced this morning that the social media giant is launching new mobile ad features designed to help auto companies grow their customer base and reach new shoppers.

No doubt about it. Mobile devices have changed and continue to change how people shop for vehicles. In response, Facebook announced a new set of mobile features for its dynamic and lead ads for auto.

The dynamic ads allow manufacturers and dealers to upload their new and used vehicle inventory with details such as make, model and year.

“It then automatically generates ads that show the most compelling vehicles to the right audiences—driving them toward vehicle detail pages, lead submission forms or other valuable places,” Facebook explained.

Facebook has also enhanced its lead ads for auto, which work to simplify the process of discovering and capturing intent from Facebook users interested in dealership inventory. Lead ad viewers are sent to a form that is pre-populated with their relevant contact info, such as their email address. Interested shoppers can then submit directly through Facebook to obtain information from that dealership, including offers and quotes.

A blog post from Facebook’s auto division focusing on the new mobile features explored how in order to be successful in the auto industry today, you simply can’t afford to wait for customers to find you—you need to reach them. Facebook’s two new mobile ad features are supposed to help auto dealers do just this.

“The people coming into a dealership are just a small subset of your potential customer base—and that's why it's helpful to generate intent before they arrive to your location,” the blog post stated.

And more and more car shoppers are doing much of their research online — and making purchase decisions, as well, before even getting to your lot. 

Serving up what online shoppers want

That means ads need to serve up what these online shoppers want. Facebook’s dynamic ads are showing people vehicles tailored to them and their interests. The dynamic ads not only allow manufacturers and dealers to upload their vehicle catalog with relevant details such as make, model and year, but they also automatically generate ads that show the most compelling inventory to the right audiences. The ads then lead shoppers toward vehicle detail pages, lead submission forms and more.

“With a single integration, you can make sure that your most relevant vehicles are always being shown to potential auto buyers—allowing you to focus on closing the sale,” the Facebook blog post stated.

One of Facebook’s early testers for these ads is Edmunds. Madhura Sengupta, director of advertising product technology at Edmunds, had this to say:

“We’re excited to partner with Facebook on a new dynamic ad solution for the automotive industry that builds on Edmunds’ extensive shopper insights to create the most relevant, personalized and informative ad experience and helps drive shoppers to their perfect car,” Sengupta said. “We are seeing promising upstream results from our early testing, and are thrilled to continue to develop this offering for both our dealer and OEM partners.”

Cox Automotive is also testing the new dynamic ads, and the company’s director of product Adam Pavkov stated, “early results have proven the product to be an effective solution for driving key onsite shopping activity.

Reaching more potential customers

When shopping for vehicles online, if a customer is interested in a vehicle, they want to connect with the business as quickly and conveniently as possible. That's where lead ads come in. 

“Facebook lead ads have been enhanced to simplify the process of capturing intent from people who are interested in your vehicle offering,” the company shard.

How? By creating an in-app experience that makes it easy for potential customers to sign up for information from your dealership, including offers and quotes.

"Lead ads for auto make it easy for people to sign up for information from your dealership, such as offers and quotes,” Facebook shared. “People are sent to a form that is pre-populated with their relevant contact info, such as their email address. They simply confirm what information they want to share with you, and voila—you have a lead.”




Liquid Motors announces milestones during Used Car Week


Internet marketing solution company Liquid Motors announced during Used Car Week it has met a few significant milestones, one of which includes signing its 100th independent auto auction customer during the first week of the month.

That same week, the company — along with its independent auto auction customers — signed their 1,000th “outside the gate” dealer listing aged inventory vehicles on some of the major online wholesale marketplaces:, and SmartAuction.

“I am very proud of our team, our partners and our independent auction customers for all the hard work they performed to reach these milestones,” Michael Daseke, president and chief executive officer of Liquid Motors, said. “Our rapid growth is a testimony to the value our services provide to our customers.”

And 2017 is turning out to be another good year for the company. Year-to-date, Liquid Motors has listed more than 500,000 vehicles, which is almost twice the highest listing volume in a single year.

“The rapid expansion of the outside the gate program for dealer’s aged inventory has fueled much of the listing growth,” the company shared.

And this growth is paying off for its customers, as well. For the past six months, nine of SmartAuction’s top 10 independent auction sellers have been Liquid Motors customers, as well.

“We have utilized Liquid Motors’ services for two years, and we wouldn’t be able to have the success we have had online without Liquid Motors,” Keith Fetz, digital sales director at Clark County Auto Auction, said.  “The system’s automation to list vehicles allows me to focus on signing new accounts and selling vehicles rather than listing them.”

COMMENTARY: Baby You Can Drive My Car

DANBURY, Conn. - 

Maybe the Beatles were on to something back in 1965 when they released this single. If you look around the market these days; marketers have their heads down trying to figure out how to transform their business models to include some sort of subscription type offer and bring it to market.

It’s really very interesting to experience such a dramatic shift in the focus of the marketing community regarding the best way to bring new products to market. Just a year ago much of the marketing speak in our industry was focused on leveraging ecommerce and the remnants of brick and mortar retailing.

With the monopoly-like dominance that Amazon has developed in recent months thru organic growth and strategic acquisitions; it appears that many merchants have literally thrown in the towel believing that there is no way to compete with this juggernaut. At best, most believe that they are really competing for a much smaller piece of the overall consumer market that is reserved for the No. 2 position in their respective market segments.

Product marketers are feeling the impact of this brick and mortar retail channel consolidation and centralization as they vie for the love of Amazon, Walmart and other big players who are grabbing huge swaths of consumer purchasing. The Big guys are using their distribution “prowess” to crush margins and profits resulting in a product marketing arena that is desperate to find new ways to work “around the channel” and make their appeal directly to the consumer. With the dubious future of Toys R Us, toy manufacturers are looking at a holiday season that is fraught with peril from a unit sale and “are we going to get paid” perspective.

What has become most interesting about the new found awareness and recognition of the direct to consumer and subscription model is how universal the appeal is with all demographic segments and product categories in the consumer marketplace.  The incredible rise overnight of more than a dozen automakers and auto aggregators marketing subscription services around the consumer’s ability to drive the car of their dreams and/or their necessity is incredible. Before you jump to conclusions and believe these opportunities are the 2018 version of rent a wreck, consider the big brands that are already playing in this space: Ford, Volvo, Hyundai, Cadillac, Porsche & Chevrolet are all players. There are a host of other aggregators that are offering cross car brand subscription opportunities.

The model is fairly simple. Each company asks the subscriber to pay an upfront fee (as a qualifier) and then provides a number of different subscription options to select from. The options are pivoting on the subscriber’s monthly budget, style of car, number of miles to be driven etc. The subscriber pays their fee and the car is either ready for pick up or can be delivered to the subscriber’s home or business. There is no insurance or registration fee to be paid. You get to drive the car you want at the level you want for a monthly subscription fee.

The strategy is ingenious in its simplicity and the potential to deliver several different revenue streams. Clearly, the subscription fee is nice upfront cash along with a commitment to pay a monthly subscription over time brings a recurring revenue stream. Automakers and dealers have plenty of inventory on their lots these days and this is a neat way to generate revenue to the dealer prior to a sale of a car. Dealers are always looking for new buyers to “test drive” their cars; knowing that if they can get a “butt in a seat” - 90 percent of the time the driver will buy the car. In the subscription model offering, they lure customers in and have them pay for the right to “test drive” the car over time. No doubt…during that period…dealers and automakers will have a range of incentives to turn a subscriber into a buyer of the vehicle. In a sense, they are “seeding” their prospect pool and potentially getting paid twice!

The overarching lesson for all marketers in the evolution of this new business model for automakers and dealers is that holding on to the past and/or lamenting the current state of the distribution model dynamics is wasted energy. If marketers aren’t thinking both in and out of the box for new direct to consumer strategies….what are they waiting for?

Time to get moving and drive down a new road to profitability … in 2018 and beyond.

Jim Fosina is Fosina Marketing Group’s chief executive officer.