DealZone

The View From The Dealer Floor

Major automakers don’t sell cars to American consumers; they sell to dealers. And the biggest U.S. dealership chain by a wide margin is Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based AutoNation, which sold over 440,000 new and used vehicles last year.

So when AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson talks, auto executives listen — or so you would think.

In an interview with Reuters2ndautonationmikejacksonsep20082, Jackson said Detroit automakers had largely ignored his warnings over the past decade that the U.S. industry was headed for a crisis.

“I think I was usually able to reach an intellectual agreement on where the industry was headed. Where we disagreed was how much time we had to get there. On that, even I was wrong. Time was up,” Jackson said.
 
Jackson thinks GM and Chrysler can be fixed. But he also thinks Washington should let either or both fail if their current turnaround effort backed by $60 billion in taxpayer funds falters.
 
Here are excerpts from the interview and Jackson’s view of where GM, Chrysler, Ford and their rivals stand now in the marketplace:

Q: Are GM and Chrysler capable of change?

A:I think they had a near-death experience. When you really get down to the point where we either get this done or we won’t exist anymore, then it happens. …My sense is that absolutely Sergio (Marchionne) is providing leadership at Chrysler and (Fritz) Henderson at GM. It’s under way, and it’s going to happen.
Q: You’re looking to buy Ford and GM dealerships. Why is that?

My other car is in limbo

miniimage1 Be careful what you wish for. 

Just a week after launching the cash-for-clunkers rebate program, policymakers and auto executives are left sorting through the chaos caused by the program’s runaway success.

As of Friday, there was no knowing how much longer funding for the program will last. The Obama administration has reassured car shoppers and dealers that any trade-ins over the weekend will be honored at rebates for up to $4,500. Meanwhile, the U.S. House rushed to triple funding  for the program, adding another $2 billion in a bill that heads to the Senate where it could face tougher scrutiny.U.S. car sales for July, set to be released on Monday, are expected to show a turbocharged boost from the government program, a sleeper success in a string of policy steps aimed at stabilizing the U.S. auto industry that has included government-sponsored bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler.Before the rush of clunker trade-ins, analysts had been looking for industry-wide July auto sales to top 10 million units, the highest rate of 2009 and an encouraging sign the market has turned the corner. Investors have discounted some of that recovery. Shares in AutoNation, the No. 1 dealership group, have gained 48 percent since the start of the second quarter. Shares in the No. 2 dealership group, Penske Automotive Group, have more than doubled.With inventories tight, automakers also stand to gain as production — and revenues — increase in the second half. July sales data will help sort the winners from the losers, but the early anecdotal evidence suggests that the some of the biggest gains have gone to the automakers that were already outperforming. Hyundai says about 18 percent of its sales in the month of July included a cash-for-clunker backed trade-in. Ford,  which is seeking to distance itself from the rest of Detroit, reports that cash-for-clunker trade-ins were boosting sales of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars as opposed to crossovers and trucks. That is also the area where Ford’s product line-up is seen as giving it an edge against GM and Chrysler.