Autobytel Taps California GM as February Dealer of the Month

IRVINE, Calif. - 

Autobytel named a California franchised store co-owner as the Autobytel Dealer of the Month for February.

Earning the honor was Chris Baughman, general manager and co-owner of Sunset Honda in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The company’s dealer awards program honors exceptional operators who employ the highest standards in customer service and Internet retail sales and lead management processes.

The Autobytel 2014 Dealer of the Year Award is slated to be announced next January at the NADA Convention & Expo in San Francisco — when Autobytel officially celebrates its 20th Anniversary — with the crowning dealer chosen from this year’s pool of monthly winners.

 Baughman joins Frank Carrasquillo, general sales manager of Mercedes-Benz of Naples, Fla., who was named the Autobytel Dealer of the Month for January, in that pool of winners.

“Chris and his team strive to give every customer the highest level of service, which is why they have been so successful in their market,” said Jeff Coats, president and chief executive officer of Autobytel.

“Sunset Honda has been an Autobytel dealer for nearly 15 years, and this longstanding history has enabled it to fully optimize its Internet business,” Coats continued. “What’s more, Chris and his team are process-driven and deeply involved with the local community. Bottom line, the dealership is a standout.”

Each month, Autobytel’s sales and dealer operations teams evaluate prospective candidates from a competitive field of thousands of automotive retailers in the Autobytel network with a monthly winner selected based on key online automotive best practices. The company launched its Dealer Awards Program at the beginning of last year, honoring monthly winners throughout the year and in markets throughout the U.S.

Criteria evaluated for the Autobytel Dealer Awards Program include conversion rates, lead management processes, customer service principles, customer and brand retention analytics and Internet department practices, among others.

“The key to our success is really just having a good process,” Baughman said. “We understand that an Internet customer is no different than a customer who walks into the dealership or calls the showroom directly. When a dealer provides a very high level of service to all customers, they really appreciate it.

“We’ve been with Autobytel for 15 years, and have never received this recognition from them, so it's really exciting to be named an Autobytel Dealer of the Month,” Baughman went on to say.

A family owned store opened in 1979, Sunset Honda is a single point Honda dealership in San Luis Obispo, home to California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). It also operates an Acura store in Ventura, Calif.

Its customers consist of many Cal Poly faculty members and alumni, as well as residents from California’s central coast, and customers from as far north as San Francisco and as far south as Los Angeles.

For more information about the Autobytel Dealer Awards program, visit the Dealer Corner at

Honda Tops KBB Brand Image Awards

IRVINE, Calif.  - 

A few surprises top the winners list in the Kelley Blue Book 2014 Brand Image Awards, announced today and based on annual new-car buyer perception data. 

Earning Best Overall Brand with the highest average scores among all 12 Brand Watch factors is Honda, for the second year in a row.

Brand Watch factors include affordability, “cool” factor, driving comfort, driving performance, durability/reliability, exterior styling, fuel efficiency, interior layout, prestige/sophistication, reputation, ruggedness and safety. 

KBB officials noted that strong consumer perception of the Accord, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey helped drive Honda’s success in earning top honors. 

Beating out the 2013 winner in Best Overall Luxury Brand is Mercedes-Benz, highly regarded for its strong lineup and performance AMG variants, topping last year’s favorite, BMW.

Among truck shoppers, Ford reclaims the top spot from Toyota in Best Overall Truck Brand. Ford has won five of the six times Kelley Blue Book has announced this award. 

Kia earns its first-ever Brand Image Award in 2014 for Best Value Brand, taking the crown from last year’s winner, Honda. Kia received high marks on affordability and fuel efficiency, largely thanks to the Optima, Rio, Soul and Forte models. 

“Kia has come a long way in the eyes of the consumer,” said Arthur Henry, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Once known only as an economy car with good gas mileage, the brand has evolved through product growth and maturity into a high-value brand. This is a similar path fellow import brands Honda and Toyota took in the 1970s.”

Buick is a repeat winner for the Best Value Luxury Brand, and the OEM’s entire lineup, including the LaCrosse, Regal, Verano, Enclave and Encore, has positively influenced car shoppers’ perceptions, KBB noted.

'Most Refined' Brands

Benefitting from its upscale Denali trim models, GMC also wins its first Brand Image Award as 2014’s Most Refined Brand, with high ratings for comfort, interior layout and prestige/sophistication. 

Among luxury brands, Mercedes-Benz takes a second consecutive win for this category; the brand has historically scored very high in prestige/sophistication since the inception of the Brand Image Awards in 2008. 

MINI wins Best Performance Brand for the second year in a row, with help from the MINI Cooper’s high ratings for “cool” factor and driving performance. 

Likewise, Porsche holds steady as a repeat winner as Best Performance Luxury Brand since 2010, due to strong ratings for a number of models in its lineup, including the 911, Cayman, Panamera and Cayenne. 

Jaguar earned its first Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Award as 2014 Best Car Styling Luxury Brand for its attractive F-TYPE, XK, XF and XJ series, while Chevrolet reclaimed the Best Car Styling Brand title from last year’s winner, Ford. 

“Chevrolet had a slew of redesigns during the past year, which have captured the consideration of car shoppers,” said Henry. “Chevrolet decided to take a daring approach with its styling and it paid off. The models primarily driving the success of Chevrolet’s expressive design efforts are the Corvette Stingray and Camaro.”

The Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards recognize automakers’ achievements in creating and maintaining brand attributes that capture the attention of the new-vehicle buying public. 

“The classic saying ‘perception is reality’ falls true with the Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards, as more than 12,000 in-market, new-car shoppers have voiced their opinions about today’s automakers,” said Hwei-Lin Oetken, vice president of market intelligence for Kelley Blue Book. 

“With strong marketing communications coming from auto manufacturers and dealers, and the increased importance of peer reviews and ratings, consumers today are more influenced than ever to take interest in a brand, ultimately affecting their vehicle purchase decisions,” he said.

The full list of 2014 Brand Image Award Winners is as follows:

Non-Luxury Brands

Honda, Best Overall Brand

Honda, Most Trusted Brand

Kia, Best Value Brand

GMC, Most Refined Brand

MINI, Best Performance Brand

Chevrolet, Best Car Styling Brand

Truck Brands

Ford, Best Overall Truck Brand

Luxury Brands

Mercedes-Benz, Best Overall Luxury Brand

Lexus, Most Trusted Luxury Brand

Buick, Best Value Luxury Brand

Mercedes-Benz, Most Refined Luxury Brand

Porsche, Best Performance Luxury Brand

Jaguar, Best Car Styling Luxury Brand

Vincentric Awards Reveal ‘Fragmentation’ of US Market


A trio of automakers — import and domestic — stood out in the 10th annual Vincentric Best Value Awards, which were announced Tuesday.

Toyota, Audi and Chevrolet earned awards for Best Value Passenger Car Brand, Best Value Luxury Brand and Best Value Truck Brand, respectively.

Honda, Ford, and Lexus also put up a strong showing, each winning over three awards for the nameplates.

Vincentric leaders said this year’s award winners showed the diversity of the U.S. vehicle marketplace.

“The 2014 Vincentric Best Value in America awards demonstrate the increasing fragmentation of the U.S. auto market,” commented David Wurster, president of Vincentric. “In our passenger car segments, there were 15 different brands out of the 22 award winning vehicles, with similar distribution in our SUV, crossover, and truck segments.

“We expect this to continue as additional manufacturers use cost-of-ownership as a strategic metric within their organizations to develop vehicles in all segments that best meet their customers' needs."

Vincentric officials explained Toyota’s passenger car strength pushed it ahead of its counterparts, as well as the four Lexus and Scion brand winners.

The Toyota Tacoma took home the Best Value in America award for the 10th year in a row, bringing the overall count for the Japanese manufacturer to 11 awards this year.

The other Japanese nameplate to stand out was Honda, who “showed the strength of its volume vehicles,” said Vincentric, with the Accord, Civic, CRV and Odyssey all honored as being the best value in their class.

Audi scored two more awards with its two award-winning diesel powered TDI vehicles, on top of its Best Value Luxury Brand title. 

Highlighting the domestic nameplates, General Motors took home five awards, and Ford scored three.

Further information regarding all of the winners of the Vincentric Best Value in America awards for the 2014 model year and the Vincentric methodology can be found at


ARI Names 2 ‘Ringman of Distinction’

MT. LAUREL, N.J.  - 

The role of ringman is vital to the auction sales process, and fleet services provider ARI has publicly recognized two such employees with its Ringman of Distinction Award.

The award from ARI, which recognizes the outstanding contributions of ringmen at various vehicle auctions, was recently presented live in the auction lanes to Art Mecias of ADESA Los Angeles  and Zach Massey of ABC Birmingham by ARI remarketers.

“The ringman is integral to the sales process and is invaluable in netting the highest possible returns for our clients,” said Bob Graham, ARI vice president of vehicle remarketing.

“Every week, we see first-hand how special Art and Zach are,” he said. “They are both clearly passionate and persistent and have made a tremendous impact for our clients.”

ARI partners with several auction outlets throughout North America to maximize potential sales opportunities for clients’ vehicles.

While auctioneers control the sale of a vehicle, ringmen support them by spotting and identifying bids, signaling them to the auctioneer and helping to put sales together.

Hyundai Names Auction of Year

COSTA MESA, Calif.  - 

Hyundai Motor America recently announced its 2013 Auction of the Year and recognized Manheim Riverside with the annual award.  

Each year, the award goes to the top-performing auction in terms of sales values, customer service, dealer satisfaction, quality and overall performance. 

This marks the first time a West Coast auction has won the award from Hyundai, which first began remarketing cars at Manheim Riverside in 2012.

“We appreciate our partnership with Manheim Riverside and its outstanding management team,” said Gary Knapp, senior group manager, fleet & remarketing, Hyundai Motor America. “With sales volume in our Western Region continuing to increase, we felt it was time to open another auction location in order to better serve dealers on the West Coast. 

“The staff at Manheim Riverside has stepped up and consistently puts forth great effort while making sure our dealers always feel welcome. Riverside provides outstanding service and keeps our dealers engaged and interested in returning month after month. Congratulations to GM Chris Brown and his team for a great year,” he continued.

Brown of Manheim Riverside added: “It is truly an honor to receive this prestigious award. We are proud of our long-term partnership with Hyundai Motor America, which is very important to everyone at Manheim Riverside. We value the personal connections with the Hyundai dealer body and HMA corporate team, and are proud of the results we have achieved together. ”

Hyundai added that Manheim Riverside’s closed Hyundai sales include high-quality, low-mileage cars for dealers that often end up in Hyundai’s certified pre-owned program, which has earned Best Popular Program Award honors in the IntelliChoice Certified Pre-Owned Car Awards three years in a row.

More auction winners announced this winter can be found here and here.


Auction Customers Give Manheim Top Honors


Manheim operating locations across the U.S. were honored by customers for delivering top results in the vehicle remarketing industry in 2013, from service, volume and quality to auction of the year, the company said Wednesday.

Presented during the NAAA/CAR/IARA event held last week in Las Vegas, the awards earned include recognitions for Auction of the Year, highest retention, best new auction and more.

“It’s truly an honor for Manheim to be recognized by our customers and industry partners for delivering excellent customer service,” said Nick Peluso, senior vice president of customer management.

“I want to congratulate our locations that were selected for their dedication and commitment to demonstrating remarketing excellence,” he said.

The following awards were presented to Manheim locations:

ARI Regional Auctions of the Year

Region 1: Manheim Harrisonburg

Region 3: Manheim Lakeland


Volume Leader: Manheim Nashville

Best New Auction: Manheim New Mexico

Most Improved Auction: Manheim Mississippi

Credit Acceptance

Low Volume Auction of the Year: Manheim Seattle

High Volume Leader, West Coast: Manheim California


Manheim Northstar Minnesota, 2013 National Auction of the Year

Manheim Northstar Minnesota, 2013 Midwest Region Auction of the Year

Kia Motors

2013 Auction of the Year: Manheim Riverside

LeasePlan USA (Regional Awards)

Overall Auction of the Year: Manheim Milwaukee

Regional Retention/Days to Sell/Days to Condition Report:

Northeast: Manheim Philadelphia

Southeast: Manheim Lakeland

Southwest: Manheim Denver

Customer Service East: Manheim Statesville


Auction of the Year: Manheim Detroit

Highest Retention, Midwest: Manheim Detroit

Highest Retention, Southeast: Manheim Georgia


Auction of the Year: Manheim New Jersey

Westlake Names 2013 Auction of the Year


Westlake Financial Services announced its 2013 Auction of the Year, an award given for sales effectiveness and service quality. 

Earning the title this year is Kansas City Independent Auto Auction.

“Kansas City Independent has been a reliable performer throughout the year, topping our rankings for the second, third and fourth quarters,” said Bill Walters, vice president of Westlake Remarketing, “and Assistant General Manager Jennifer Leocardi has been an integral part of assuring top notch customer service and efficient operations.”

Named as the second and third ranked auctions are ADESA Phoenix and ADESA San Antonio. The top service auction is ADESA Colorado Springs.

Westlake chooses its winning auctions by narrowing the top 24 volume sales across the U.S., then evaluates those based on scorecards measuring their sales effectiveness and service quality. 

“We recognize the loyalty of these top auctions and appreciate their dedication to Westlake and our dealerships,” said Ian Anderson, president of Westlake Financial. “Kansas City Independent Auto Auction has surpassed our expectations and is a consistent partner for Westlake.”

Westlake Financial Services attends approximately 45 sales each month in more than 20 states.