The Monday Brief: Top 4 Stories from the Car Business According to AIADA

Stronger Bottom Lines Despite 2020 Sales Dive

Shown clockwise from top: Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Suburban, and Hyundai Kona. via AUTOMOTIVE NEWS ILLUSTRATION

A drop-off in auto sales usually sends incentives soaring and profits plummeting. Not in 2020, amid the biggest one-year decline in U.S. light-vehicle sales since the Great Recession, reports Automotive NewsInstead, tight inventory levels resulted in smaller discounts and a stronger bottom line for many automakers and dealers. In December alone, the industry made an extra $840 million from lower incentive spending, according to J.D. Power, yet the fourth quarter saw the smallest sales decline of the year — down 2.4 percent from the last three months of 2019. Consumer automotive spending rose 10 percent in the fourth quarter, even as incentives declined and average transaction prices climbed, J.D. Power said. Even with sales down 2.5 million from 2019, the industry largely avoided the disaster that seemed to be materializing in the spring, when many dealerships temporarily closed and automakers halted production for eight weeks. Although inventory has increased since summer, dealers had 17 percent fewer days’ worth than in December 2019, according to Cox Automotive. Read more here (Source: Automotive News). 

GM Rolls Out New Logo and Marketing Campaign Pitching Its Corporate Transformation

Influencers who defy expectations and represent all walks of life will be used throughout GM’s “Everybody In” campaign, including author Malcolm Gladwell.
Influencers who defy expectations and represent all walks of life will be used throughout GM’s “Everybody In” campaign, including author Malcolm Gladwell.

With the company “on a path to an all-electric future,” General Motors is taking steps to signal major changes are coming by pairing a major new marketing campaign with a complete makeover of its familiar logo, reportsThe Detroit Bureau. As part of the “Everybody In” campaign, the current, squared-off blue logo will be replaced by a new one with rounded corners and a lower-case type presented in an appropriately electric blue hue. This marks the most significant change in the logo of the 112-year-old company since 1964. And it comes as GM is set to make some of the biggest changes to its business strategy in decades. Read more here (Source: The Detroit Bureau). 

Ford, Other Automakers Cut Output, Idle Workers on Chip Shortage

A Toyota facility in San Antonio. The company now plans on making roughly 40% fewer of its full-size Tundra pickups here than forecast for the month of January. PHOTO: LUKE SHARRETT/BLOOMBERG NEWS

A chip shortage that has disrupted vehicle production in other parts of the globe is reaching U.S. shores, stifling output for major car companies and dimming prospects for a smooth recovery from the pandemic, reports The Wall Street JournalFord Motor Co. is planning to idle a Louisville, Ky., factory for a week starting Monday, because of parts shortages stemming from limited supplies of semiconductors now vital to everything from display screens to transmissions. The move will lead to the temporary layoffs of about 3,900 workers at the plant, which builds two popular SUVs, the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair. Honda Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, and others are also wrestling with the shortage, leading them to reduce output on everything from big pickup trucks to compact sedans. The chip shortage problem was first observed at Chinese factories late last year and is spreading to the rest of the world, as demand for electronics has surged during the health crisis, particularly with many people still spending most of their time at home. Read more here (Source: The Wall Street Journal). 

Pickup Trucks Dominate America’s 10 Best-Selling Vehicles of 2020

2021 Ford F-150 Limited
2021 Ford F-150 Limited

Look no further than the automotive industry’s best-selling vehicles of last year as proof of America’s love for pickup trucks, reports CNBC. Led by trucks from the Detroit automakers, pickups accounted for five of the industry’s 10 best-selling vehicles in 2020 despite their increasingly higher prices and the coronavirus pandemic. Ford Motor’s F-Series truck retained its decades-long sales dominance, followed by pickups from General Motors and Fiat Chrysler. The three top-selling pickups accounted for about 13% of the 14.5 million vehicles estimated to have been sold last year in the U.S. Newcomers to the 10 best-selling vehicles last year included GM’s GMC Sierra as well as the Toyota Tacoma, which outsold the Toyota Corolla compact car. Falling off the sales leaderboard compared to 2019 were the Corolla and Nissan Rogue, which ranked sixth in 2019.  Read more here (Source:CNBC). 

Toyota Bids Adieu to Land Cruiser; Lexus Off-Roader a Possibility

The Toyota Land Cruiser
The Toyota Land Cruiser — clockwise from top left in 1961, 1987, and 2020 — is tied to the brand’s first days in the U.S. via AUTOMOTIVE NEWS ILLUSTRATION

The Toyota Land Cruiser — a global icon for off-roading enthusiasts with a lineage that stretches back to postwar Japan and a small but dedicated customer base — will end its 63-year run in the U.S. after the current model year, reports Automotive News. But that doesn’t mean the automaker is ceding the luxury large-SUV space. It’s just that whatever the Land Cruiser’s spiritual successor ends up being, there’s a decent chance it’s going to crawl and climb with a Lexus badge on its grille. “The Toyota Land Cruiser has been a legendary name for more than 60 years,” Toyota Motor North America said in a statement. “While it will be discontinued in the United States after the 2021 model year, we remain committed to the large-SUV segment and will continue to explore future products that celebrate the Land Cruiser’s rich off-road history. We encourage loyal enthusiasts and intrepid adventurers to stay tuned for future developments.”  Read more here (Source: Automotive News).