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CATA Bulletin
February 6, 2012

 

Stage set for 2012 Chicago Auto Show

February 3, 2012

The auto industry’s elite gathers in the Windy City beginning Feb. 8, in advance of the 104th edition of the Chicago Auto Show, which opens its 10-day public run Feb. 10.
 
The formal portion of the show’s media preview commences Feb. 8, when Volvo Cars U.S. President John Maloney will speak at a breakfast hosted by the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Chicago Auto Show. Following breakfast, the news moves to the show floor for presentations of new products by GMC, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, and Nissan. 
 
Expect more news at lunch that day, when the Economic Club of Chicago hands the mike to Yoshimi Inaba, holder of several titles including CEO of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Then reporters return to the show floor for revelations of MotorWeek’s annual Drivers Choice Awards.
 
A news segment begun last year repeats Feb. 9, when the auto show devotes part of its media preview to the ever-expanding group of social media. Chrysler Corp. will show new vehicles and make executives available for interviews in the biggest display Chrysler builds anywhere.
 
Throughout the morning, manufacturers will hold events that, while open to traditional media, will accommodate bloggers, influencers, Facebook fans, club members and others upon whom many turn to for their opinions.
 
“Think of your friends, and there’s always someone who is the ‘expert’ on cars,” said show Chairman Steve Foley Jr. “While we have sought them out, the interesting part of our social media group is that it is comprised of people the manufacturers themselves find valuable. Each car maker will be able to invite those whom they think will benefit from being there.”
 
Dave Sloan, the show’s general manager, said, “We view this as a big plus in keeping the auto show’s messages in front of the public for the entire run of the show, not just the media preview.”
 
First Look for Charity
 
Don’t overlook the benevolent portion of North America’s largest auto show. First Look for Charity, held the evening before the public opening, is raising funds for 18 area nonprofits. Ticket sales are tracking 21 percent higher than last year’s edition, which generated $1.9 million for charities. And, mind you, the 2011 First Look for Charity ranked No. 3 on NBC5 Chicago’s Readers Choice Awards for the best area events to attend.
 
What to credit? Outstanding catereing themed to highlight culinary celebrations worldwide? Two prize vehicles to win—a 2012 Cadillac Escalade and and ’12 Cadillac SRX, both compliments of Your Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Cadillac Dealers? A 90-minute performance by Blues Traveler, featuring harmonica virtuoso John Popper? The answer probably is yes, yes, and yes.
 
Tickets are $250 and are sold up to and including at the event. For a great overview, go to www.firstlookforcharity.org. Purchasers can direct the proceeds of their transactions to any or all of the participating charities.
 
Publicpalooza
 
As the date nears and excitement builds, more and more are turning to the Internet to interact with the nation’s largest auto show. At ChicagoAutoShow.com, those website visitors can buy tickets, check out appearances by personalities, get a preview of nearly every vehicle on the show floor, go inside the show with its six webcams, and drive deep into the illustrious history of the nation’s longest-running auto show.
 
Mobile users aren’t neglected either. Smartphone users are automatically redirected to ChicagoAutoShow.com/mobile. It’s a light version of the full-featured site and is designed to interact with attendees. They even can buy tickets on their phone in about a minute. Don’t know what’s going on? Check the daily schedule for appearances. Want help shopping for a new car? Check out the “Vehicles on Display” section.
 
The Chicago Auto Show also leads the way when it comes to social websites. The show’s Facebook page currently enjoys an ever-expanding legion of more than 12,000 fans and is constantly conducting contests and ticket giveaways. The show also utilizes Twitter (@chiautoshow & #CAS2012) to connect with followers and attendees. 
 
The show also will provide ongoing Digital Media Releases—quick-paced video news and activity releases designed to keep show interest at peak level with both media and consumers. Some DMRs will contain hard news content featuring in-depth manufacturer explanations of their newest vehicle, while others will highlight executive interviews and perspectives.
 
Daily “webisodes” will offer short videos showcasing many of the exciting events happening at show, such as celebrity signings, test tracks and outdoor test drives. The show’s mission is to keep the show and its activities pinging blogs, Facebook, Twitter feeds and Smartphones throughout the show.
 
 

CAFE: Dealers know what sells

February 3, 2012

By Mark Scarpelli, Chicago Metro NADA Director
 
The following letter to the editor by NADA Chairman Stephen Wade was published in the Jan. 23 issue of Automotive News.
 
“To the Editor: 
 
The Jan. 16 editorial about fuel economy (“NADA must be reasonable about CAFE proposals”) overlooks a couple of key points: 
 
-- The National Automobile Dealers Association supports both continuous improvement in fuel economy and a single national standard to help get us there. 
 
-- When it comes to determining what sells in the showroom, auto dealers are in the best position to offer relevant comment. 
 
We know firsthand, for example, that for the overwhelming majority of Americans fuel economy is not a major factor when deciding what car to buy. Price matters most. So when we learn that the proposed standards could add at least $3,200 to the price of the average car, we are naturally concerned. 
 
The proposed rule requires a leap of faith, a sort of build-it-and-they-will-come approach, which may work in the movies but not in real life. In testimony at the EPA/National Highway Traffic Safety Administration public hearing in Detroit on Jan. 17, for example, manufacturer after manufacturer cautioned that there is no certainty as to how consumers will respond. It’s no wonder that even they called for a strong midterm review in 2018. 
 
The manufacturers may be able to produce the right product mix, but it is the dealer who will have to pay for the product and then hope there are interested consumers. Dealers have already lived the nightmare of empty showrooms. To reap the societal benefits of higher fuel economy, government policy should encourage fleet turnover, not shrink the dealers’ customer base.”
 
In other news . . .
 
• Due to NADA efforts, Congress halts an inconsistent rule on service advisor exempt overtime status. In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor — without any advance warning — issued a notice indicating that it intended to reverse its position on the overtime-exempt status of service advisors. 
 
Doing so would have overturned three decades of regulatory interpretation and a consistent line of federal and appellate court rulings that service advisors are exempt from overtime. It would have forced dealers to make disruptive compensation and staffing changes and would unnecessarily complicate regulatory compliance. 
 
The NADA argued that those changes would expose dealerships to unnecessary litigation and were not properly justified. After pursuing regulatory remedies, NADA sought assistance from Congress. The recently signed fiscal year 2012 Omnibus Appropriations Act preserves the exempt status of service advisors for one year, until Sept. 30, 2012. 
 
With the appropriations bill now on the books, Congress has sent a clear message that the exemption should not be altered in the future. For more information contact Doug Greenhaus of NADA Regulatory Affairs at (703) 821-7040.
 
Used-vehicle prices start the year on a positive note. Dealers’ preparations for the spring selling season pushed AuctionNet wholesale prices over the first half of January in a familiar direction – up.  At a segment and model-year level, January’s results make for an interesting juxtaposition, as vehicles at opposite ends of the efficiency spectrum — large SUVs, mid-size cars, and compact cars — outpaced all other segments in terms of month-over-month price appreciation, according to auction data supplied to the NADA Used-Car Guide through its partnership with the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA). 
 
A 40 percent year-over-year drop in AuctionNet supply, combined with normal seasonal demand, pushed large SUV prices up by an average of 1.3 percent compared to December. Car prices, on the other hand, are benefitting both from the reduction in supply and the elevated level of fuel prices. As a result, mid-size and compact car average prices grew by a collective 1 percent over the first two weeks of the month. 
 
Regarding price declines, only luxury car segments saw prices fall from December levels. But the average drop of 1 percent was close to a one-point improvement over what normally is seen for the period.
 
Dealer alert: The NADA reminds dealers to protect their data. As part of the NADA’s ongoing efforts to promote compliance with the full range of legal and regulatory obligations affecting franchised dealers, the NADA sent a brief memo to all NADA members that underscores the importance of dealers protecting their electronic data. Additional educational resources on this and other regulatory compliance topics are available at www.nadauniversity.com and www.nada.org/regulatoryaffairs
 
• Four NADA-Google Learning Hub webinars will be offered free to NADA members. The first webinar, “The Smartphone Revolution,” is activated on-demand for members in Learning Hub, in the Internet category. Next up is “The Google+ Project for Dealers,” to be presented live Feb. 29. Subsequent topics and dates will be announced later.
 
 

Sedgwick deflects 2011 Q4 unemployment claims

February 3, 2012

One hundred forty-eight CATA dealer members reported a combined 732 unemployment claims during the fourth quarter of 2011 to Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc., which has been serving CATA dealers under various names since 1979. The company’s efforts saved those dealers a total of nearly $1.5 million in benefits by contesting the claims. 
 
Sedgwick CMS monitors any unemployment claims against its clients and contests all unwarranted claims and charges. The company counts about 250 CATA dealers among its clients.
 
Claims that can be protested and subsequently denied help minimize an employer’s unemployment tax rate. The rate can vary between 0.55 percent and 9.45 percent of each employee’s first $13,560 in earnings. The 2012 average unemployment tax rate among Illinois employers is 4.35 percent, or about $590 annually per employee ($480 in 2011).
 
“With the downturn in the economy, unemployment remains at record highs (9.9 percent in Illinois through August) and a drain on the Illinois Department of Employment Security trust fund, markedly higher tax rates for 2011 and probably for a couple of years after that,” said Paul Schardt, a Sedgwick senior vice president.
 
“The unemployment tax is really the only controllable tax, in that it’s experience-driven,” Schardt said. An ex-employee’s claim affects the employer’s tax rate for three years.
 
For new enrollees, client fees amount to $2.60 per employee, per fiscal quarter. For the fee, Sedgwick monitors all unemployment claims; files any appeals; prepares employer witnesses for hearings, as necessary; represents the client at any hearings; verifies the benefit charge statements; and confirms the client’s unemployment tax rate.
 
To discuss retaining the company, call Schardt at (773) 824-4325 or Bruce Kijewski at (773) 824-4322.
 
 

Marketplace, Feb. 6, 2012

February 3, 2012

Sales/Marketing Self-motivated professional with background as a dealer principal and a complete working knowledge of sales and management. Major strengths include a loyal following and client base, ability to organize and develop a cohesive management and sales team, train and develop inexperienced salespeople into informed and responsive sales professionals. Résumé on file at the CATA. Donald Cranley, (708) 228-9064.
 
 

In Memoriam, Feb. 6, 2012

February 3, 2012

Dale R. Christenson Sr., co-owner of a namesake Chevrolet dealership in Highland, Ind., died Jan. 16 at age 90.
 
Mr. Christenson was an Army veteran of World War II; a longtime businessman in Highland and Griffith, Ind.;  and a volunteer at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Crown Point, Ind. He worked for several family businesses before devoting all his efforts to Christenson Chevrolet.
 
In his free time, Mr. Christenson  loved to be with his extended family at “The Cabin,” teaching adults and children how to fish and enjoy the outdoors. He was an avid supporter of Purdue University.
 
Survivors include his daughter, Lynn; sons Dale and Robert; stepchildren Frank Lazzaro Jr. and Sheryl Lazzaro; 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
 
William C. “Bill” Shaver, 85, whose family once operated Indiana’s largest Chevrolet dealership, died Jan. 13.
 
After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Shaver joined his father, John B. Shaver in the automobile business. His younger brother, Richard Shaver and, later, John B. Shaver III, also joined.
 
In 1969, Mr. Shaver moved his family near Homewood, where he and his son built a new Chevrolet dealership. That franchise became one of Chicagoland’s largest, and it expanded to include Peugeot (largest in Midwest). He continued to expand by becoming the 3rd assigned Mitsubishi dealership in the Midwest region.  
 
Mr. Shaver is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Jane; sons John and William; daughters Connie and Cindy; four grandchildren; and five great-granchildren.