Mercedes lineup, cost issues await next CEO

ATLANTA — Dimitris Psillakis has three months before he takes over the top job at Mercedes-Benz USA. That may give the incoming CEO time to consider new solutions to the rising challenges the luxury automaker is facing.

Psillakis, currently Mercedes-Benz’s Canadian boss, will oversee both the U.S. and Canada markets starting Jan. 1.

The 53-year-old Daimler veteran and Greek native replaces Nicholas Speeks, 61, who abruptly took a leave of absence in August and never returned. Daimler said last week that Speeks left the company to pursue other opportunities.

In his new role, Psillakis (pronounced zill-LACK-iss) must steer Mercedes through a post-pandemic downturn that’s still buffeting the North American industry. J.D. Power forecasts 2020 U.S. retail auto sales of 11.3 million to 12.5 million — a plunge of 1 million to 2 million vehicles from Power’s pre-virus forecast of 13.4 million.

But even before COVID-19 concerns locked down much of the U.S. retail network, Mercedes was contending with a softening market for luxury vehicles and growing competition from BMW.

“The company is being pushed to limits you would have not normally pushed it,” Speeks said of Mercedes in June. “Some difficult decisions have had to be taken, not only with us but also within our dealer body.”

Mercedes delivered 59,461 vehicles, excluding commercial vans, in the second quarter, down 22 percent from a year earlier.

Psillakis must also address product lineup complexity and dealer profitability — two issues likely to get more complicated as Mercedes marches toward electrification.

Mercedes’ bloated U.S. portfolio has nearly doubled to 15 nameplates since 2000.

Including engine variants and body styles, the lineup in the U.S. has ballooned to more than 100 versions.

Speeks had been tackling the problem.

In June, he told dealers that the company plans to jettison seven car models from the U.S. market. The portfolio expansion makes it harder for consumers to differentiate among models and adds complexity and cost for dealers.

Reducing cost and complexity in the retail network would help alleviate another dealer concern.

“The No.1 focus for dealers has been profitability,” said Jeff Aiosa, owner of Mercedes-Benz of New London in Connecticut, who also is the National Automobile Dealers Association brand representative. “Margin structure and cost of doing business is an ongoing conversation.”

The pressure on dealer and factory bottom lines likely will escalate as Mercedes rolls out a fleet of EQ-branded electric vehicles in the U.S.

“The pricing structure on EQ vehicles is going to be a pivotal discussion,” Aiosa said. “The margins for the manufacturer are lower on EVs than with ICE technology. How and if that effects dealer margin is unknown.”

Psillakis has extensive international market experience to draw from as he takes on his new responsibility.

He joined Daimler AG in 1992 as a management trainee with its Greek subsidiary Mercedes-Benz Hellas.

In 2009, Psillakis moved to Mercedes-Benz do Brasil as managing director for passenger cars in South America and Vans Sales Brazil.

Six years later, Psillakis was promoted to lead Mercedes’ South Korea market. As CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea, Psillakis grew the business into Mercedes’ fifth-largest market.

Tesla alleges act of employee sabotage in Calif. plant

Tesla Inc. is warning workers at its auto plant in Fremont, Calif., that an employee allegedly “maliciously sabotaged” part of a factory last month and was fired after an internal investigation, according to a memo seen by Bloomberg News.

The EV manufacturer responded to the incident rapidly, and operations at the facility were disrupted for only a short period, according to an e-mail sent Monday by Al Prescott, Tesla’s vice president of legal and acting general counsel.

“Two weeks ago, our IT and InfoSec teams determined that an employee had maliciously sabotaged a part of the factory,” Prescott wrote. “Their quick actions prevented further damage and production was running smoothly again a few hours later.”

More than 10,000 people work at Tesla’s auto plant in Fremont, where the company makes the S, X, 3 and Y models. It was not immediately clear if Tesla handled the incident internally or reached out to law-enforcement agencies for assistance. A spokeswoman for the Fremont Police Department said Tuesday that they have not responded to any incident that matches these circumstances. The San Francisco office of the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The employee, who was not named, allegedly sought to “cover up his tracks,” blame a co-worker and destroy a company computer, the email said. “Ultimately, after being shown the irrefutable evidence, the employee confessed. As a result, we terminated employment.”

Tesla is no stranger to concerns of sabotage and has a robust internal-security team. Last month, CEO Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla’s factory in Nevada was the target of a thwarted cyberattack by a Russian national.

In 2018, Musk warned in an internal email that someone was trying to sabotage the company. That someone, Musk would later claim, was Martin Tripp, a former employee who has been embroiled in litigation with the company ever since. Not all of Tesla’s claims have proved accurate: The company alleged Tripp was going to shoot up the Nevada factory, but police quickly determined that he was not a threat.

In 2016, Tesla sued a former oil-services executive for impersonating Musk in an email to former CFO Jason Wheeler. In the lawsuit, the carmaker said the email was part of an oil-industry effort to undermine Tesla’s push for energy-efficient transportation.

The company said in the e-mail Monday that it does not tolerate unethical behavior and will take steps against workers who engage in such acts.

“We place tremendous trust in our employees and value everyone’s contribution. However, whatever the personal motivations of the attacker were, these are crimes, violations of our code of conduct, and are unfair to other employees,” Prescott wrote. “We will take aggressive action to defend the company and our people.”

Prescott, Musk and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

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David Wilson group's 700-car bet pays off

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, after used-car values plummeted and many dealerships closed, David Wilson went on a shopping spree. A large one.

David Wilson Automotive Group bought 700 used vehicles the week of May 18. Wholesale prices were still low but starting to rebound after plunging to their lowest point in April, according to J.D. Power.

Some retailers, with their lots full for the spring selling season, quickly moved to slash prices and liquidate their inventories in the early weeks of the crisis as shoppers stayed home and many state and local governments put restrictions on operations.

But Wilson went a different way. He had 2,100 depreciating used vehicles on hand at his 16 dealerships and lower customer traffic — but he knew he would need even more cars as business rebounded. That big purchase in May positioned his stores with 2,800 used vehicles as shutdown restrictions began to ease.

Purchasing in bulk as the market fell didn’t feel like a gamble after his experience during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, Wilson said. When new-vehicle sales — and consequently production of those new vehicles — abruptly plummeted during those years, dealers were left with fewer available vehicles coming to the used market in the early and mid-2010s when demand recovered.

David Wilson Automotive Group is No. 12 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., ranked by new-vehicle sales, and No. 35 on Automotive News‘ list of used-vehicle retailers. The group, which is based in Orange, Calif., retailed 44,390 new vehicles and 19,583 used vehicles in 2019. It has stores in California, Arizona and Nevada and one location in Mexico.

Like the Great Recession, the pandemic also forced automakers to shutter plants, and the two-month shutdowns this spring limited new-vehicle inventory. With fewer new cars available to buy and a high rate of customers with expiring leases opting to hold onto their vehicles, Wilson figured dealerships would have less opportunity to purchase trade-ins from shoppers.

And competition for used vehicles, indeed, spiked as the U.S. economy reopened. Prices at both retail and wholesale soared.

Wilson’s stores sold all 700 of the used vehicles purchased in mid-May in the 60 days that followed, he said. Wilson declined to comment on the profitability of those vehicles, but many retailers reported hefty gains in per-vehicle gross profits during this period.

To obtain the added inventory, the group’s dealerships bought every possible vehicle trade and scoured automakers’ online auctions for cars. They are employing the same tactics to replenish their stock of used vehicles as consumers buy cars off the lots.

“As a well-capitalized organization, we simply took advantage of a downturn in used inventory values, betting that the market would soon return,” Wilson said. “As we sold them, we replaced them. [Those 700 cars were] our shot-in-the-arm start.”

Today, David Wilson Automotive’s used inventory has more than 3,000 vehicles, almost 1,000 more than before the pandemic. Wilson said he plans to keep inventory in that range for the time being and is bulking up on external vehicle warehousing space.

Wilson rented a storage facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., and purchased property in Southern California to house additional used vehicles. He also paved and lighted a five-acre dirt lot contiguous to the group’s Las Vegas dealership to park used vehicles. He had been reserving the property to house a potential future franchise, he said.

“Space is a premium in these metro areas,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have room to stock more used cars because of the new-car inventory we had. As the new-car inventory dwindled, it gave us more room to stock more cars.”

The group is still buying every customer trade it can to maintain its larger inventory. And as new vehicles become more plentiful, Wilson anticipates a rebound in lease returns to help carry his stores through the winter.

“At Toyota Orange, my biggest store, we average about 300 lease returns a month. Those people are postponing their lease,” Wilson said in May. “People in April postponing till October; people in May postponed to November. I’m going to sell 600 cars in November, without opening the … doors, at one store.”

David Muller contributed to this report.

Ex-VW CEO Mueller joins Piech EV startup as chairman

Matthias Mueller, the former CEO of Volkswagen Group, has been named chairman of Piech Automotive, an electric-car startup run by the son of the late former VW Group Chairman Ferdinand PIech.

Mueller is one of a number of high-profile figures involved in Piech Automotive, which was founded by Toni Piech and Rea Stark Rajcic, a Swiss designer and entrepreneur. They include tech investor Peter Thiel — a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook.

Piech Automotive said in a statement that it had completed its first round of investment with Thiel’s involvement, but did not provide further details. It announced that a second round to raise capital to launch a production car would be managed in the coming months under the leadership of UBS.

Mueller was ousted by VW Group’s board, controlled by the Piech-Porsche clan, in April 2018 and replaced by Herbert Diess.

Mueller had taken the top job at VW after the automaker’s diesel cheating scandal. He was seen by insiders as a reluctant CEO who had an uneasy relationship with the government of Lower Saxony, which is VW’s second-largest shareholder.

Piech Automotive showed the Mark Zero coupe in concept form at the 2019 Geneva auto show. The company says its fast-charging system could charge the battery to 80 percent in less than five minutes, using an energy recovery system and air-cooled battery pack developed with a Hong Kong company.

The Mark Zero was planned as the first of a model family that would launch by 2023 and include a two-seater, a four-seater and an SUV. 

The company said this week that construction of prototypes would begin soon and that an engineering campus is being built in Memmingen, Germany.

In addition to Mueller, Piech Automotive announced Klaus Schmidt, the company’s chief technology officer and a BMW veteran, would become co-CEO with Andreas Henke, chief marketing officer. Henke most recently worked for audio manufacturer Burmester, and also worked at Porsche.

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Lithia ramps up store acquisition efforts

Lithia Motors Inc. has agreements to purchase dealerships expected to generate $2 billion in annual revenue, and the acquisitions are slated to close before the end of the year, the retailer said in a regulatory filing last week. If the deals are finalized, they would bring Lithia just shy of a goal key to its ambitious five-year plan to nearly quadruple revenue by 2025.

As part of that plan — to reach $50 billion in annual revenue — Lithia has said it intends to acquire dealerships generating about $4 billion in annual revenue this year and in each of the next four years.

The Medford, Ore., retailer also said last week that it’s using debt and equity offerings to generate $1.2 billion — presumably to purchase more stores, said Stephens Inc. analyst Rick Nelson.

“Clearly, they’re ramping the acquisition pace. They blew the third-quarter estimates out of the water,” he told Automotive News. “With this capital raise, we’re expecting substantial acquisition announcements coming in the near term.”

In a separate filing last week, Lithia said it anticipates higher-than-expected earnings for the third quarter.

Lithia this year purchased dealerships expected to generate $1.7 billion in annual revenue, including 10 Texas stores from John Eagle Dealerships estimated to contributed $1.1 billion in revenue. The deals disclosed last week would bring Lithia to an expected $3.7 billion in additional revenue through store acquisition for 2020.

Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer in July set the ambitious goal for the retailer to reach $50 billion in annual revenue by 2025 — nearly quadruple 2019’s revenue of $12.67 billion. In addition to acquisitions, the strategy depends on boosting revenue at existing dealerships by 62 percent to $21 billion and counts on $9 billion in revenue from Lithia’s newly launched digital retailing platform Driveway.

Lithia officials said in September that the group had 200 stores. The company has since acquired Jim Cogdill Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Knoxville, Tenn.

The recent and pending acquisitions would move Lithia, No. 3 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., closer to No. 1 AutoNation Inc. and No. 2 Penske Automotive Group.

Beyond the acquisition deals expected to contribute $2 billion in revenue and close this year, Lithia said last week in a government filing that it has potential dealership purchases in its pipeline that would contribute an additional $10 billion in annual revenue.

Those deals “may be available at prices within our hurdle range,” Lithia said.

Lithia is known for purchasing underperforming dealerships that then show improved results under its leadership. But the batch of dealerships in the pipeline may not need much assistance before yielding returns, Lithia said in the filing.

There’s less risk in acquiring well-run dealership groups, Nelson said. And Lithia’s stock-price gains and improved profits could enable the purchase of high-performing dealerships. “The pipeline likely includes sizable dealer groups and smaller chains,” he said. “I would expect we’ll see both well-run stores and fixer-uppers.”

Honda confirms 17th U.S. death in Takata airbag rupture

WASHINGTON — Honda Motor Co. said on Saturday it has confirmed a 17th U.S. death tied to a faulty airbag inflator made by now-defunct Japanese safety products supplier Takata Corp.

Honda said that after a joint inspection with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it confirmed a faulty airbag inflator was to blame for the Aug. 20 crash of a 2002 Honda Civic that led to the death of a driver in Mesa, Ariz.

The defect, which can lead to airbag inflators rupturing and sending metal fragments flying, prompted the largest automotive recall in U.S. history and is tied to 15 U.S. deaths in Honda vehicles and two in Ford Motor Co. vehicles since 2009. More than 290 injuries are also tied to faulty Takata inflators and at least 26 deaths worldwide.

Honda said the 2002 Civic had been under recall since December 2011 for replacement of the driver’s frontal airbag inflator, while the passenger’s frontal airbag inflator was recalled in 2014.

Honda sent more than 15 mailed recall notices over eight years to registered owners of the vehicle before the crash and made other attempts to contact owners. The driver killed was not the registered owner and Honda said it was not certain if the driver was aware of the unrepaired recalls.

The most recent previous fatal confirmed U.S. incident was the June 2018 death of a driver after the crash of a 2002 Honda Civic in Buckeye, Arizona.

The Takata recalls cover about 100 million inflators among 19 major automakers worldwide, including about 63 million inflators in the U.S.

NHTSA says the cause of inflator explosions that can emit deadly fragments is propellant breaking down after long-term exposure to high temperature fluctuations and humidity.

In August, Honda agreed to pay $85 million to settle an investigation by most U.S. states into its use of defective Takata inflators.

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Here are (nearly) 100 EVs headed to the U.S. through 2024

The list of electric vehicles planned for the next five years is slightly shorter than it was in 2019, in part because some plans have been pushed back to conserve cash during the pandemic. A few vehicles have been canceled outright as automakers evaluate the market and narrow their focus.

But the number of plug-ins on sale is rising steadily, and automakers expect consumers to warm up to electrification as the vehicles become less a curious novelty and more a practical, mainstream option.

Here are the battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs that Automotive News has reported as being in development and expected to debut through 2024.

BMW 5 Series: The 5 Series plug-in hybrid receives a more powerful six-cylinder drivetrain and a beefier battery in the fall. A full redesign of the 5 Series is expected in late 2023.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A freshened version of the plug-in hybrid minivan is due to arrive in the fourth quarter. A redesign isn’t expected until 2026.

Ford Mustang Mach-E: The Mach-E is the first real result of Ford Motor Co.’s $11.5 billion investment into electrification announced in 2018. Executives hope a legendary name will be enough to convert traditional gearheads into battery-electric buyers. The crossover, built in Mexico, will have a range of 300 miles. It will be offered in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations and go on sale this year.

Jeep Wrangler: A plug-in hybrid option will arrive in U.S. showrooms by the end of this year with the brand’s new 4xe tag for electrified models.

Lincoln Corsair GT: A plug-in hybrid model of Lincoln’s bestselling nameplate, called the Grand Touring, will go on sale this year. From a performance perspective, the plug-in nestles between the standard 2.0-liter engine and available 2.3-liter. The GT has an all-electric range of more than 25 miles and a Lincoln-first electric awd system. The Corsair is expected to be freshened in 2022, with a redesign in 2024.

Polestar 2: The battery-electric fastback, inspired by the Volvo 40.2 concept, is powered by a 78-kilowatt-hour battery. The car is based on Polestar’s compact modular platform, the same platform that underpins the Volvo XC40 crossover. The 2021 Polestar 2 debuts Google’s Android Automotive for its infotainment system. It is expected to go on sale in October.

Volkswagen ID4: The first Volkswagen ID4 battery-electric compact crossover will arrive in the U.S. at the end of 2020 and should be in most VW dealerships in the first half of 2021. The ID4, built on the modular MEB electric platform and assembled initially in Germany, will have a range of up to 311 miles on a single charge, based on the larger 82-kWh batteries in the first versions. U.S. production of the ID4 is slated to begin in 2022 in Tennessee and is likely to bring a price cut and a smaller battery.

Volvo XC40: An all-electric variant of the XC40, called the XC40 Recharge P8, will arrive in the U.S. this fall. It will debut an Android-powered infotainment system.

Alfa Romeo compact crossover: A new small crossover is expected to go into production in 2021 and have a plug-in hybrid option.

Audi E-tron GT: The E-tron GT, a battery-electric sportback sedan developed alongside the Porsche Taycan, will join the Audi lineup in the U.S. during the second half of 2021. It is expected to have electric motors on each axle producing a combined 590 hp across its awd system, and it should be capable of a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds or less.

Audi Q4 E-tron: The full-electric compact crossover is a new vehicle joining the lineup in late 2021 as Audi’s third EV, following the E-tron and E-tron GT. The sportback crossover, built on Volkswagen Group’s modular MEB platform, is expected to offer greater range than its E-tron predecessor. The concept on which the Q4 E-tron is based featured a large rear spoiler to improve airflow that is expected to carry over to the production model.

Bentley Bentayga: The freshened Bentayga V-8 is arriving at dealerships now. Bentley says the freshened plug-in hybrid variant will be shown by year’s end and arrive in the second half of 2021.

Bollinger B1/B2: Bollinger Motors says its electric B1 SUV and B2 pickup will start at $125,000. The boxy vehicles have a 200-mile range and removable doors and roof panels. The company plans to build about 1,000 total units during the first year of production.

BMW iNext: The new X5-sized battery-electric crossover will arrive in late 2021. It will feature BMW’s fifth-generation battery design and be built on the Cluster Architecture platform. The base version iNext will be powered by a 63-kWh battery pack and deliver 335 hp and 285 miles of range. The iNext will launch with Level 3 autonomy.

BMW X3 xDrive30e: BMW has electrified its bestselling model in the U.S. The X3 xDrive30e plug-in hybrid crossover combines a 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and a 12-kWh battery pack to deliver an electric-only range of about 20 miles. The X3 is due for a freshening in late 2021, followed by a redesign in 2024.

Byton M-Byte: Chinese EV startup Byton says its M-Byte crossover will have a 224-mile range, start at about $45,000 and feature a 48-inch display screen in the dashboard. The automaker last year received licenses to sell the vehicle in California, paving the way for a North American arrival in 2021. But the cash-strapped company suspended production in July for a reorganization after being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chevrolet Bolt: The Bolt will be updated in 2021 but stay on the BEV2 platform for now. The freshening includes a new front fascia and rear lights, along with more cameras and other technology. The updates were postponed to the 2022 model year because of the pandemic.

Chevrolet Bolt crossover: Chevy will launch a utility version of the Bolt in 2021. The electric crossover will be built on the Bolt’s BEV2 architecture but offer more interior space.

Ferrari SF90 Stradale: The coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of production of Ferrari’s first plug-in hybrid, the 986-hp SF90 Stradale. It was due to be delivered to customers in the first half of 2020, but now European deliveries are expected to begin in October, with U.S. deliveries to follow in 2021.

Genesis EV: Since Hyundai has confirmed that its first EV on a new dedicated platform will be a midsize crossover, chances are that Genesis will build something similar. Spy shots suggest the Genesis version could be a tall hatchback, echoing the body of EV crossovers such as the Tesla Model Y that are relatively low to the ground to reduce wind resistance and increase efficiency. The five-door Genesis could take some cues from the well-received Mint concept from last year’s New York auto show. The Genesis EV should launch before the end of 2021.

Hyundai Ioniq 5: Hyundai has said the Ioniq name will be used for a global EV brand with three new battery-electric models. The Ioniq 5 midsize crossover will launch globally next year but not arrive in the U.S. until the fall.

Hyundai Kona: A freshening of the subcompact, which is available in gasoline and electric versions, is scheduled for next year.

Karma GS: Karma Automotive plans to expand its lineup with a new, lower-priced family of sedans called the GS series, which includes at least one battery-electric sedan. Sales will start “towards the end of 2021,” a spokesman said last month. The GS will ride on a skateboard-style chassis and be based on the current Revero GT’s architecture.

Kia electric crossover: Kia’s plan for 11 EVs by 2025 includes a new product next year riding on the company’s first dedicated global battery-electric platform. The vehicle is expected to be a compact-to-midsize crossover similar to Hyundai’s planned Ioniq 5, announced in August. Spy photos show what appears to be the Kia version of the EV still covered to hide its styling elements. Motor1.com reported that spy photos of the new Kia indicate a model that is similar to the Genesis version.

Lordstown Endurance: Deliveries of Lordstown Motors Corp.’s electric pickup, designed for the commercial fleet market, are scheduled for summer 2021. The pickup is slated to be built at the former General Motors plant in northeastern Ohio. The pickup will feature four hub motors producing a combined 600 hp, have more than 250 miles of range on a full charge and will start at $52,500 before tax credits. The company says it has received more than 40,000 preorders since unveiling the Endurance in June.

Lucid Air: The 1,080-hp electric sedan with a 517-mile range, from startup Lucid Motors, is expected to be one of the first production vehicles equipped with standard lidar for detecting vehicles, pedestrians and other obstacles. Lucid plans to have 20 retail and service locations in North America by the end of 2021 for the Air.

McLaren plug-in hybrid: McLaren’s upcoming plug-in hybrid will have a higher power output than the entry-level Sports Series vehicles, but it will slot below the 720S from the brand’s midrange Super Series. It will have an electric range of roughly 19 miles, with a charge time of three to four hours. The launch has been delayed more than six months by the pandemic, with North American deliveries now set to begin around May. The electric motor will sit between the engine and the gearbox, and McLaren has not identified which internal combustion engine will be included in the layout.

Mercedes-Benz EQA: The electric version of the GLA should arrive in the U.S. next year. The crossover is inspired by the Concept EQA shown at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, which proposed a 60-kWh battery and about 250 miles of driving range, based on European emissions tests.

Mercedes-Benz EQB: The electric version of the GLB crossover will arrive in the second half of 2021. The EV is expected to have a range of more than 200 miles, based on Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure estimates.

Mercedes-Benz EQC: Mercedes’ first electric compact crossover is scheduled to arrive early next year. It is part of a family of electric vehicles with standalone designs launched under the EQ subbrand. The EQC is powered by an 80-kWh battery and has about a 280-mile range on a full charge, based on New European Driving Cycle estimates. Two electric motors generate a combined 402 hp. A freshening of the EQC is expected in 2024.

Mercedes-Benz EQS: The electric version of Mercedes’ S-Class sedan, based on the Modular Electric Architecture, is expected in the U.S. in the second half of 2021. The EQS will offer about 435 miles of range, based on the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross: An exterior freshen will reach U.S. showrooms in the first quarter as a 2022 model, and a plug-in hybrid version will be sold in “select markets,” the company said last month.

Nissan Ariya: The new electric crossover, Nissan’s second EV, will arrive in late 2021 as one of eight new battery-powered models that are planned globally. The Rogue-sized EV will offer up to 300 miles of driving range and be built on a new architecture. The exterior design is highlighted by prominent front fenders, rear fender flares, superslim LED headlights and a steeply raked C-pillar. The crossover ditches the conventional grille for what Nissan describes as a “shield”; in driving mode, it is illuminated to reveal Nissan’s V-motion design signature. The crossover will debut new technologies, including a twin electric motor, an awd system and the next generation of Nissan’s hands-off automated driving system.

Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid: Porsche will freshen the Panamera with engine upgrades and a new plug-in hybrid variant next year. The Panamera 4S E-Hybrid pairs an electric motor with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine to deliver 552 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid can zip from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 3.5 seconds, and it has a top track speed of 185 mph. A Panamera redesign could arrive in the first quarter of 2024.

Porsche Taycan: Porsche’s first all-electric sports car debuted late last year. Three Taycan variants are now available — the 4S, Turbo and Turbo S. Early next year, a smaller-battery version of the 4S will go on sale in the U.S. for about $104,000. A Taycan Cross Turismo wagon variant was scheduled to arrive in U.S. dealerships early next year, but that has been delayed until the second half of 2021 because of a coronavirus-related disruption. The Taycan could receive a freshening in 2023.

Rivian R1S/R1T: Due to shelter-at-home orders and other government restrictions because of the COVID-19 outbreak, electric truckmaker Rivian is pushing back plans to launch sales of a pickup and SUV assembled at a resurrected Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill. The company, backed by investments from Amazon, Ford and Cox Automotive, planned to begin deliveries in late 2020 but now says customer shipments will begin in 2021.

Rivian delivery van: Amazon has ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian. Drivers will be able to use voice commands in the cargo area to sort packages without having to manually enter instructions or use handheld devices. The vans are expected to come in three sizes and support multiple battery sizes to accommodate different types of routes, Rivian said. They will be manufactured at Rivian’s Illinois plant and are expected to begin package delivery beginning in 2021, with at least 10,000 in use by 2022 and the entire fleet by 2030.

Tesla Cybertruck: It looks like nothing else on the market, and that’s just what Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants. The Cybertruck, scheduled to go on sale in late 2021, is expected to have a towing capacity of up to 7,500 pounds and a range of more than 250 miles. It will be assembled at the plant Tesla is building outside Austin, Texas, and it’s likely to be classified as a medium-duty truck. The automaker has received about 500,000 preorders, Musk says, although he’s left open the possibility of scrapping the vehicle’s bold design for a “normal truck” if sales flop.

Volvo C40: The new sporty electric crossover is expected to launch in the second half of 2021. It will have a sloping roofline and feature an EV-inspired grille design. The new design swaps the slotted grille for a partially closed-off, more aerodynamic one since there is no internal combustion engine to cool. A combustion engine variant is also expected.

Volvo XC60: The midsize crossover was redesigned for the 2018 model, and the T8 plug-in hybrid variant was introduced. A freshening is due in the second half of 2021, possibly with Volvo’s new Android-powered infotainment system.

Alfa Romeo subcompact crossover: A new subcompact crossover starts production in 2022 and will have a battery-electric variant, but the brand hasn’t given many details yet.

BMW 7 Series: The large luxury sedan received a freshening and powertrain improvements last year and will be redesigned in the second half of 2022. The car will be available as a gasoline-powered model with 48-volt technology, as a plug-in hybrid and, for the first time, as a battery-electric model.

BMW i4: The EV will launch in the first quarter of 2022, promising more than 300 miles of battery range. The sporty four-door coupe will be built on BMW’s lightweight modular Cluster Architecture platform, capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds.

BMW X5: A redesigned plug-in hybrid version of the midsize crossover arrived in July. That model is powered by a turbo inline-six coupled with an electric motor, delivering a combined 389 hp. The plug-in version can go from 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds. The X5 is due for a freshening in late 2022.

Cadillac Lyriq: The Lyriq, with at least a 300-mile range at launch, is one of two EVs confirmed by Cadillac so far. The sporty midsize crossover likely will be built in Orion Township, Mich., and will be one of the first vehicles to adopt Cadillac’s new EV naming strategy — ending names with “iq.” It also will be one of the first EVs to be powered by GM’s proprietary Ultium batteries. The Lyriq, which Cadillac says will start at less than $60,000, will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Chevrolet Corvette: Expect Chevy to add variants of the midengine Corvette over the next couple of years, including a hybrid or plug-in hybrid version in 2022. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has made several mentions of being told that an electric Corvette that can go 200 mph is on the way.

Fisker Ocean: Henrik Fisker showed off the Ocean, a 300-mile electric SUV with a solar roof, in January. It’s planned to arrive in early 2022 as the first of three EVs to revive the Fisker name.

Ford Escape: Ford added a plug-in hybrid this year and plans to freshen the Escape in 2022. A redesign is expected no sooner than late 2024.

Ford F-150 EV: Ford will add a battery-electric variant of its most important vehicle by mid-2022. The automaker hopes to sell business owners on the benefits of the F-150 EV, which it says will produce more horsepower and torque than any previous F-150 and cost more than 40 percent less to operate than the current gasoline model. Ford also says it will have a “distinct” look relative to the gas-powered F-150.

Ford Transit EV: Ford has no plans to redesign the gas-powered Transit for the foreseeable future, but a battery-electric model is coming in mid-2022. The Transit EV will be offered with three roof heights and three body lengths, in cargo van, cutaway and chassis cab varieties.

GM electric van: Expect at least one commercial electric van in 2022. GM could sell two variants under the GMC and Chevy brands, or the automaker could even create a new brand.

GMC Hummer electric pickup: The Hummer name will be revived on a high-powered pickup that will be unveiled this month, go into production in late 2021 and arrive at dealerships in early 2022. The pickup, powered by GM’s proprietary Ultium batteries, will generate 1,000 hp and go from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds. GMC officials have said a little more than half of the brand’s dealerships have opted in to sell the truck.

Hyundai Ioniq 6: The battery-electric sedan arriving in 2022 will be the second entry in the Ioniq EV lineup.

Jaguar XJ: Jaguar ended production of the flagship XJ sedan last summer after a 51-year run. Plans called for an electric XJ to be launched next year as a 2021 model. The Financial Times reported that the XJ, to be built on Jaguar Land Rover’s new Modular Longitudinal Architecture, has been delayed about a year as JLR works to shore up its balance sheet. JLR is said to be recasting its product cycle plan to give priority to profitable vehicles.

Jaguar I-Pace: The first battery-electric vehicle from a major competitor to take on Tesla arrived in 2018, and though it has been a strong seller for Jaguar in Europe, it has struggled in North America. Look for a freshening for the 2022 model year or possibly 2023.

Jeep Grand Cherokee: The next generation of the midsize SUV begins production in the third quarter of 2021, with a plug-in hybrid version expected to follow soon after.

Land Rover Range Rover: The current Range Rover large SUV, introduced in 2013, is coasting toward retirement. The next-gen replacement, which could be shown to the press late next year and would go on sale in 2022, is expected to move far upmarket and offer full-electric and hybrid models.

Land Rover Road Rover: An awd, carlike electric vehicle that uses Jaguar Land Rover’s MLA architecture could be introduced sometime next year, with sales starting in 2022. The vehicle, possibly a tall wagon or a beefy, five-door hatchback in the vein of the classic Rover SD1, would not be aimed at off-road enthusiasts.

Maserati GranTurismo: The coupe and its convertible counterpart will be the first all-electric models from the luxury brand when they debut in 2022.

Maserati Grecale: An electric version of the midsize crossover that’s debuting in 2021 could hit dealerships in 2022.

Maserati MC20: The sports car, which maxes out at 630 hp, is being tasked with generating excitement as Maserati diversifies its lineup with electrified options and new technologies. It could go on sale in the first quarter of 2021 and will cost around $230,000. Convertible and battery-electric versions are scheduled to arrive in 2022.

Mercedes-Benz EQE: The compact battery-electric sedan could arrive in 2022. Although the EQE will have the proportions of a C-Class, its interior should offer the roominess of an E-Class. This will be due to packaging advantages of the EQE’s dedicated EV platform, referred to internally as MEA2.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: The plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander will remain on the old platform for now but receive a more powerful gasoline engine and a bigger battery in the fourth quarter of this year as a 2021 model. Overall power and all-electric range will increase modestly. Mitsubishi’s product plans have the redesigned plug-in showing up in 2022. A freshen to the plug-in should come with the gasoline model in 2024.

Nikola Badger: Production of Nikola Corp.’s first vehicle, the Badger pickup, is scheduled to begin in late 2022. GM, under a partnership that gives it an 11 percent stake in Nikola, will engineer and assemble the truck. It will be powered by GM’s proprietary Ultium batteries and Hydrotec fuel cell systems, while Nikola facilitates sales and marketing.

Nissan Maxima: The flagship sedan, which was freshened last year, should be replaced with an electric vehicle inspired by the IMs “elevated sports sedan” concept. That EV is slated for the second half of 2022.

Polestar 3: The Porsche Cayenne-size crossover coupe will debut the next generation of Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture platform. Production will begin in late 2021, with U.S. deliveries starting by mid-2022.

Porsche 718 Boxster: An electric version of the Boxster is expected in late 2022 on the automaker’s Premium Platform Electric architecture, known as PPE. All versions of the next-generation Boxster, due in mid-2023, are expected to be electrified.

Porsche 718 Cayman: An electric version of the Cayman is expected in late 2022, based on the PPE platform. The 718 Cayman is due for a redesign in the second quarter of 2023.

Porsche Macan: Porsche’s bestselling U.S. model will get an electric version. Production of the battery-powered compact crossover will start in Leipzig, Germany, in the second quarter of 2022, with U.S. arrival later that year. The electric Macan will be based on the PPE architecture, developed in collaboration with Audi. Like the Taycan, the Macan EV will use 800-volt charging technology.

Tesla Roadster: Tesla announced in 2017 plans for a new Roadster that would start at $200,000. After initially promising it late this year, Musk recently said it has taken a back seat to other projects, including construction of the Berlin Gigafactory and planned production of the Cybertruck. He still hasn’t set a firm time frame for a vehicle that he says will lay a “hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” but it’s not likely before 2022.

Audi E-tron: Audi’s first BEV went on sale in the U.S. in early 2019, and its limited range disappointed. Audi took steps this year to improve range through software and packaging changes. A sportback version went on sale this year, as well. The crossover will be due for a freshening in 2023, when its range is likely to be expanded further, among other changes.

BMW X8: An all-new two-row crossover, described as a sporty version of the X7, is expected in late 2022. A plug-in hybrid delivering more than 750 hp could arrive the next year.

Buick electric large SUV: Buick is likely to build a large electric SUV in late 2023. It could be built at GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, which is expected to be retooled to build EVs in the next few years.

Buick electric midsize crossover: In 2023, forecasters say, Buick plans to launch a midsize electric crossover that will be about the size of the redesigned Envision. It will likely be built in Orion Township, Mich., alongside the Chevrolet Bolt EV and upcoming Bolt utility vehicle.

Cadillac Celestiq: The high-performance, ultraluxury sedan, expected to go on sale in 2023, will be hand built in low volumes at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Mich., at a rate of 1.2 vehicles per day. Cadillac is dubbing the Celestiq its flagship EV.

Cadillac large electric SUV: In 2023, Cadillac is expected to launch an electric SUV similar in size to the Escalade. The SUV will be built at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and could be an electric version of the Escalade or a new nameplate.

Chevrolet electric pickup: GM has teased an electric full-size pickup that will be built at Detroit-Hamtramck, likely in 2023. The pickup could be an electric Silverado or a new nameplate. GM said it will have more than 400 miles of range on a single charge.

Ford/Lincoln electric midsize crossovers: Ford plans to replace the Edge with an electric midsize crossover in 2023. The vehicle, code-named CDX746, now is expected to be built in Cuautitlan, Mexico, the same plant that will build the Mustang Mach-E. Ford previously said the vehicle would be made in Flat Rock, Mich., before reverting to its original plans for Mexico. There will be a Lincoln version, as well.

GMC Hummer electric SUV: GMC is planning an off-road-capable SUV version of the Hummer electric pickup, also to be built at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, likely in 2023.

Honda EVs: Honda is co-developing two electric vehicles with GM based on a GM platform and using GM’s new Ultium batteries. Honda will design the EVs, which are likely to be crossovers. Sales are expected for the 2024 model year, so the models are likely to appear in 2023, if the original timeline holds.

Jaguar EV-Type: Jaguar reportedly is considering two possible successors to the F-Type: a midengine gasoline model or a battery-electric sports car. Reports out of England say Jaguar has trademarked the name EV-Type in case the electric version is chosen. It could arrive in 2023.

Land Rover Discovery Sport: During a reengineering of the awd midsize crossover in 2023, the mild-hybrid powertrain could be upgraded to a plug-in version.

Maserati Levante: Maserati’s first crossover could get a mild hybrid version in 2021 and a battery-electric offering around 2023.

Maserati Quattroporte: The Quattroporte will be redesigned in 2023. A battery-electric version could come around then, as well.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class: After a redesign in the first half of 2022, a plug-in hybrid variant could arrive in 2023, offering up to 62 miles of electric-only range, based on European emissions tests.

Nissan Leaf: Nissan launched a longer-range version of the Leaf early last year, powered by a 62-kWh battery pack that delivers 226 miles on a full charge. The Leaf should get a redesign in the first half of 2023. The next-gen model could be built on a new EV platform shared by Nissan’s alliance partners, Renault and Mitsubishi.

Porsche 911: Porsche is expected to freshen the 911 in the second quarter of 2023 and could introduce a plug-in hybrid variant that year. The hybrid is said to be inspired by the technology used in the 918 Spyder and 911 GT3 R hybrid race car. It will have a shorter ZF eight-speed dual-clutch transmission to make space for an electric motor without the need to expand the powertrain footprint. The batteries will be mounted in the front of the vehicle to help with weight distribution.

Tesla compact vehicle: Musk has discussed adding a compact vehicle that could handle tight roads in European cities, even suggesting it be engineered in Germany. He has said the vehicle could be priced around $25,000 and last month said it could launch in about three years.

Toyota Prius/Prius Prime: Executives at Toyota Motor North America are taking long looks at the Prius’ declining sales, seeing some customers getting poached by Tesla and others moving into one of Toyota’s other now-prevalent hybrid offerings. If the Prius and plug-in Prius Prime version stay — and Toyota is normally loath to give up any segment, let alone one it created — they could undergo one more freshening in 2023, given Toyota product cycles.

Toyota-Subaru battery-electric crossover: Not much is known about the EV fruits of a partnership between Subaru and Toyota, but the two brands will share one platform. It’ll be a new nameplate rather than a battery-powered variant of an existing model and will be about the size of a Forester. It might be offered in a front-wheel-drive variant with one motor and an awd layout with two motors. The timing of its arrival has been unclear from the automakers except that it’ll be in the first half of the 2020s. For this list, we’ll estimate it’s about three years away.

Volkswagen ID Buzz: The retro-styled homage to the venerated Microbus of yore is finally due to arrive in the U.S. in 2023, some five years after the concept was shown. The Buzz concept remains popular, and Volkswagen has announced plans to overhaul its plant in Hamburg, Germany, to begin producing it.

Audi Artemis project EV: Audi plans to expand its battery-electric lineup further in 2024 with a new vehicle and platform being co-developed with sibling brand Porsche. However, the details of the high-powered and currently unnamed performance vehicle — including whether it will be a sedan, coupe, crossover or something else — haven’t yet left Ingolstadt, Germany.

Audi TT: The two-seat sport coupe is living on borrowed time, given the costs of electrification in Ingolstadt. The TT was freshened last year, and the name is likely, though not certain, to live on in a redesign in 2024 that could see the diminutive coupe become a high-performance BEV.

Buick electric small SUV: Buick may build a small electric SUV in 2024 in China, but whether it will ship the SUV to the U.S. remains unclear.

Cadillac electric crossover: At least one electric crossover may in be the works for Cadillac in 2024.

Cadillac extra-large electric SUV: An even bigger electric SUV than the one coming from Cadillac in 2023 is likely to launch the following year. It’s expected to be the size of an Escalade ESV and be built at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly.

Chevrolet EVs: Expect an electric compact crossover built alongside the Bolt, along with a Suburban-sized electric SUV built in Mexico or at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and an electric midsize SUV built in Mexico, all in 2024.

Hyundai Ioniq 7: A large SUV is planned for 2024 as the third Ioniq EV.

Volkswagen U.S. EV: Volkswagen has promised its dealers a third MEB-based battery-electric to go with the ID4 and the ID Buzz in 2024, but what top hat that vehicle will ultimately wear remains undetermined. It could end up as a midsize pickup, or it could be the Golf-size ID3 hatchback from Europe, which would be due for a freshening at that point and could be homologated for sale in the U.S.

Polestar 2 electric sedans recalled to fix software glitch

Polestar is recalling the Polestar 2, its first mass market full-electric car, to repair a software glitch.

The call back of 2,189 vehicles delivered to customers in Europe and China is being made after three of the cars lost power to the wheels while driving, causing them to come to a stop.

“We take this problem very seriously, which is why we took action so quickly,” a spokesman for the Volvo Cars subsidiary told Automotive News Europe on Saturday.

The problem does not affect any cars in Switzerland, the United States and Canada because there have been no customer deliveries to those markets so far, the spokesman added.

He said that there have been no accidents or injuries caused by the problem, which is a fault in the company’s software in the battery-energy control module.

Polestar started informing customers on Friday that they need to go their nearest service points to get the problem fixed.

If a customer experiences the problem the short-term solution is to exit the car, lock it and wait 10 minutes, then re-enter and re-start the car, the spokesman said. That, however, doesn’t repair the problem, he added.

In theory, such a problem could be fixed with an over-the-air update, however, Polestar will not offer this service until early 2021, the spokesman said.

The Sweden-based automaker started producing the China-made Tesla Model 3 rival this year with the aim of selling more than 50,000 annually within two to three years.

Swedish business daily newspaper Dagens Industri was first to report the problem.

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Subaru Crosstrek adds power to fend off new rivals

Subaru of America finds its Crosstrek in a suddenly crowded segment, and it’s adding a little muscle to protect its turf.

Following the 2018 introduction of the largest Subaru, the three-row Ascent, and redesigns of its most critical models, the Outback in 2019 and the Forester in 2018, Subaru’s biggest product update in 2020 is a midcycle freshen of its smallest crossover.

It’s a timely update for the subcompact model that has become a crucial contributor of U.S. sales during the brand’s rapid growth over the last decade.

The Crosstrek, launched in 2012 as the XV Crosstrek, was just one of two models in the new subcompact crossover segment at the time, the other being the Nissan Juke.

Today, there are 19 nameplates, each fighting for sales and, oftentimes, a chance to bring a new customer into the brand.

“For a lot of people, their first or second new car would be in a segment like this,” Jeff Walters, Subaru of America’s senior vice president of sales, said in August. “For a lot of them, whoever is buying in this segment is probably a little bit more likely to be new to that brand. It’s obviously been an important segment that we do well [in].”

In its first full year of sales, 2013, Subaru of the XV crossovers Last year, it sold 131,152 Crosstreks, a decline of 9.2 percent, which Subaru pinned on production capacity constraints in Japan.

Subaru sold 76,924 Crosstreks through September, a decline of 22 percent, and is behind only the Chevrolet Trax in the segment, according to the Automotive News Data Center. It was the bestselling subcompact crossover in the third quarter.

“When Crosstrek first came out, even in 2013, 2014, we were hitting sales numbers that were better than expected,” said Garrick Goh, car line planning manager. “It was filling that niche that really wasn’t there in the market. And now everybody’s trying to scramble to fill that niche. But because we were there early, and because of the power of the Subaru brand, it’s been really good to us.”

For the 2021 Crosstrek, the focus of the freshen is not an updated front bumper or grille, though it does have both — it’s power. There’s finally more available.

By utilizing the same 2.5-liter engine found in the Legacy, Forester and Outback, Subaru has addressed the biggest knock on the Crosstrek: It needed more oomph.

The 2.5-liter engine provides 182 hp and 176 pound-feet of torque, a jump from the 2.0-liter engine’s 152 hp and 145 pound-feet of torque.

Subaru has placed the bigger engines in two trims: Sport, which is new with the freshen, and top-of-the-line Limited.

Base and Premium trims carry on with the 2.0-liter engine.

Subaru anticipates that the 2.5-liter engine will account for 50 percent of Crosstrek sales.

The Crosstrek starts at $23,295 while the Crosstrek Sport trim starts at $27,545. Prices include shipping.

The freshened Crosstrek, on sale now, arrived in what has been a busy period for its segment.

In 2020, the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Buick Encore GX and Kia Seltos launched. Late last year, the Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Venue went on sale.

“We have done really well in terms of market share, and there’s a lot more competition in it,” Walters said of the segment. “But we’re very confident we can defend our share with this bigger engine and maybe increase it a little bit more.”

Subaru knows that the segment it helped create is only getting bigger, but with the freshen, the brand still has the benefit of being well established in a segment with new competing faces, some of which debuted in other markets first.

“That segment is interesting because a lot of other companies have brought in models from other markets that were not designed with the U.S. specifically in mind,” Goh said.

The U.S. had “cars that are a little bit too small, cars that are too narrow, cars that are too underpowered.

“But with the more recent redesigns of some of the competitors, I think they’ve noticed that Crosstrek is kind of the sweet spot for the segment. Their footprint, power and equipment levels are getting more similar. If you go on some of their websites, you’ll see them calling out Crosstrek. That’s a new thing we’ve noticed in the last year: The competition is intensifying.”

Dealers get creative in inventory hunt

In one of the most unusual used-vehicle selling years ever, dealers often have had to switch up the way they get inventory and — in some cases — throw out their valuation playbook altogether.

Used-vehicle sales were set for another strong year, but just a few months into 2020, the market was unexpectedly sent spiraling downward.

“Since the [coronavirus pandemic] hit back in March, April, it has really changed everything we know about the used-car market and the new-car market, for that matter, as well,” said Majd Saboura, Manheim’s senior director of offsite solutions.

When the pandemic shut down automaker plants in the spring, new-vehicle inventory became tight — and has remained so. New-vehicle inventories nationwide were down to 2.3 million vehicles as of August, according to figures from Cox Automotive, marking the lowest level since November 2011.

While automakers stopped making cars and trucks in March and April, consumers also were mostly staying home, and physical auctions reduced operations temporarily and went mostly digital. Wholesale vehicle values plummeted.

Then, as restrictions around the pandemic eased in May, customers returned to the market with pent-up demand.

With fewer trade-ins and vehicles in general, wholesale prices subsequently soared to record highs and, though they’ve cooled somewhat, they remained elevated into September.

Dealers have had to adapt.

Tony Duhon, owner of the New Orleans-based Premier Automotive group, said he turned all of his salespeople into car buyers, looking for deals on the street.

“So I’m getting them on Craigslist, I’m getting them on Facebook, I’m getting them on Instagram,” Duhon said of customer purchases, adding that he’s paying his salespeople incentives of $200 to $400 on good finds.

One salesperson in San Jose, Calif., bought 30 vehicles off the street in August, he said.

“A lot of what these salespeople are finding is when they go on Facebook and they promote themselves to buy cars, friends and friends of friends come in, and there’s a whole different trust factor,” Duhon said.

Duhon said he also switched from advertising deals on vehicles for sale and instead is letting consumers know that Premier Automotive will buy their cars and has a dedicated website — premierbuyscars.com.

The group has also become more aggressive with trading up in the service lane, tapping its database to let customers know that if they want to get out of their current vehicle, they’ll find low interest rates on their next purchase.

Duhon still has dedicated used-vehicle buyers focused on auctions, too. “But the problem is, they call me from the auction saying, ‘Boss, I wouldn’t buy that car with your money, much less mine,’ ” he said. “The price is too high.”

Bill Luke Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram, in Phoenix, has had to lower its margin target on used vehicles, President Don Luke said.

Until about six months ago it was selling new vehicles at a negative margin and making money on financing and accessories. Now it’s also selling many of its used vehicles at a negative margin, tacking on extended warranties where it can. The smaller margins on used vehicles has meant the stores have had to essentially retrain their inventory buyers.

“We had to literally reprogram these guys to buy the cars even though it was way over our metric, otherwise we wouldn’t have anything to sell,” he said.

At its main store, Luke has a wall where pricing is posted for hundreds of vehicle listings — it’s a guide for the buyers, telling them to aim below those values.

“And we kind of had to throw that out the window,” he said.

Used values appear to be slowly easing, however, so Luke is preparing to bring the guidance back.

At the same time, used-vehicle inventory is stabilizing. Cox Automotive said that, as of Sept. 14, total supply edged up to 2.23 million unsold used vehicles, from 2.20 million a month before and 2.12 million in the same week a year earlier.

But with a high selling rate, the average days’ supply of used vehicles stood at 37 in the middle of last month, compared with 48 days’ supply at the same time a year earlier. Days’ supply was in the 35 to 37 range for four weeks through mid-September after hovering in the 32 to 35 range since mid-June.

“The inventory situation for the used market is tight, but it is also stable,” Charlie Chesbrough, Cox Automotive senior economist, said in a report last month. “Days’ supply hasn’t changed much over the last two months, suggesting that selling rates and available inventory are changing at similar speeds.”

Casting wider nets for vehicles has helped some dealers.

Saboura, of Manheim, said even before the big shift to more online auctions, he has been “on a digital crusade,” telling dealers there “is a bigger world out there than just your local auction or trade-in.”

He’s known of dealers in Minnesota, for example, who have bought trucks in Arizona and Texas during the winter months. Such dealers could find the product at better rates than they would in their home market, and transportation costs ended up being a non-factor. “Especially if you’re saving a couple of grand on the vehicle itself,” Saboura said.

Still, such shopping should only be done after taking a hard look locally, he noted, for efficiency reasons. And of course, dealers should be familiar with their own inventory.

Saboura, who used to work in managing stock portfolios, draws on that experience and tells dealers to think of their inventory as assets under management: Every vehicle is a stock in the portfolio.

They need to be aware of which vehicles offer the highest ROI and which are depreciating quickly.

“So I think before you do any sourcing, you really have to look at your backyard and see what you have, and what are you selling versus not.”

Duhon, whose group has stores in Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, California and Texas, said wherever dealers shop, they likely have to go beyond whichever channels they’re used to.

“When everyone’s fishing out of the same pond, you have to find a new pond,” he said. “And I think there’s a huge opportunity that we can learn from CarMax, because 50 percent of what CarMax sells, they buy off the street. So why can I not compete on the same level?”

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