Tip: Don't sell F&I products you don't believe in

Attempting to pitch a dubious finance-and-insurance product will hinder the overall F&I presentation at an auto dealership, a product provider trainer warns.
“When I work with F&I managers, one of the things I say is ‘If you don’t believe in a product, don’t offer it,'” Mike Connelly, director of training and development for Smart AutoCare, told the Ethical F&I Managers Conference on Sept. 20 in Las Vegas. Doing so will destroy the finance manager’s credibility for all of the products, not just the offending item, he said.
“Every other part of your presentation will be weaker because you have in your head, ‘I’ve got to offer this product, and I think it’s stupid,'” Connelly said. “It poisons it.”
The customer will detect an F&I manager’s stress and their disinterest and start “poking holes” in the F&I presentation, Connelly said.
Have a good F&I tip to share? Email John Huetter at [email protected] and Paige Hodder at [email protected].

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What customers want from their automotive dealer

Recent changes in the automotive industry have given way to a seismic shift. Supply chain struggles, the rise of online marketplaces, and increasing consumer expectations have forced a new focus on the customer experience. Today’s automotive dealerships need to evolve to build and maintain loyalty among buyers.With these struggles comes great opportunity: automotive dealers that deliver a strong, holistic customer experience from start to finish will win big. In our e-book, we share new strategies and tools to help build customer loyalty.Learn how your dealership can evolve your focus on customers in our e-book. You’ll find:
How to create a holistic customer journey
Strategies to ease EV growing pains
Tools to build long-term loyalty

Download this e-book to learn how your dealership can thrive in the face of today’s challenges.

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AutoNation joins Pendragon bidding war

AutoNation Inc. has followed two rivals into the bidding war for Pendragon, the large auto retailer in the United Kingdom that just a week ago looked poised to be sold to Lithia Motors Inc.
In a Tuesday regulatory filing, Pendragon said it received an unsolicited proposal from AutoNation to acquire the company for 32 pence, or 39 cents, per share in cash.
Reuters valued the AutoNation offer at $544.2 million.
Pendragon, in the filing, said its board will consider the proposal and “provide an update in due course.”

Lithia on Sept. 18 said it planned to buy Pendragon’s dealership and fleet businesses in a $350 million deal. As part of that deal, Pinewood, Pendragon’s dealership management system, would be transformed into a standalone software company called Pinewood Technologies. Lithia would gain about a one-sixth ownership stake in that entity. Lithia and Pinewood plan to form a joint venture to bring a DMS to North America.
Pendragon last week said it is required to hold a shareholders meeting Oct. 6 to approve or reject Lithia’s proposal.
Pendragon is led by CEO Bill Berman, the former AutoNation COO. Under Lithia’s proposal, Berman would stay on as CEO of Pinewood.
Just two days after Lithia’s deal was announced, Pendragon said it received a joint offer from Penske Automotive Group Inc., through its PAG International subsidiary, together with Sweden’s Hedin Mobility Group. Pendragon rejected that deal.
Then, on Friday, Penske and Hedin submitted a revised offer to buy Pendragon, upping the price from the rejected 35 cents per share to 39 cents per share. Reuters valued the second Penske-Hedin bid at about $548 million. Pendragon said it is considering that proposal.
But unlike the Penske bid, AutoNation appears to making its offer alone.
If its bid proves successful, AutoNation would be the fourth publicly traded auto retailer with U.K. dealerships, joining Lithia, Penske and Group 1 Automotive.
Pendragon has 160 retail locations across the U.K., most of which are new-vehicle dealerships.
AutoNation didn’t immediately respond to Automotive News for a request for comment, and a Lithia spokesperson declined to comment.
Rob Kurnick Jr., president of Penske Automotive Group, declined to discuss details about Penske’s pursuit of Pendragon.
“Obviously, that’s not something I can talk a lot about,” Kurnick told Automotive News at the Reynolds and Reynolds retail summit event on Tuesday in Indianapolis, where he spoke about other industry trends. But, he noted, Penske operates a large amount of its business in the U.K. and he said that Pendragon “has been around as a peer of ours for a long time.”
“We watch all of those companies very closely,” he said.
AutoNation, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks No. 2 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 229,971 new vehicles in 2022. Lithia is No. 1 on that list and Penske is No. 3.
Mark Hollmer and Reuters contributed to this report.

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DAILY DRIVE PODCAST: September 26, 2023

Ford halts work on an EV battery plant in Michigan. Unifor picks General Motors Canada as its next bargaining target. Plus, a conversation with Harvard Visiting Fellow David Zipper on micromobility and this week’s MOVE America conference in Austin, Texas.

How do I subscribe?
Can’t wait to hear the next episode of “Daily Drive”? Subscribe through a podcast app to receive episodes days in advance. If you don’t have a podcast app already, here are some options. 
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The EV revolution has begun. Are you ready?

EVs are changing the automotive landscape, forcing suppliers to make critical strategic and operational decisions. But vehicle electrification isn’t simply an industry transformation; from advanced mobility technology to electric car infrastructure, the EV revolution represents a seismic shift for automotive leaders. The question is no longer “How will you prepare?” but, “How are you incorporating EV technology into your strategic plans and business operations?”To be successful, suppliers must navigate competing aims, while also investing in their future growth path. Our EV propulsion and energy technology analysis, “Disruptive EV technologies drive new supplier realities,” offers key insights into:
The speed and sequence of EV adoption, including EV growth projections and the market transition.
EV propulsion technologies and how they shift revenue sources.
EV cost trends, cost parity, and their impact.
Securing the battery value chain.
Crucial strategic questions suppliers should ask about their internal combustion engine and EV technology programs.

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Biden arrives in Detroit to make history on UAW picket line

President Joe Biden on Tuesday plans to become the first sitting president in modern history to join a picket line, in an extraordinary show of support for the UAW on the 12th day of its strike against the Detroit 3.
Biden, who has billed himself as the most pro-union president ever, has echoed UAW chief Shawn Fain’s call for record contracts from the automakers.
“The women and the men of the UAW deserve a fair share of the value they’ve been able to help create,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said en route to Michigan, where Air Force One landed shortly after noon. “Record profits should lead to a record contract. That’s what he believes.”

Fain invited Biden to the picket line last week, when he expanded the strike against General Motors and Stellantis. Fain so far has withheld his endorsement of Biden as the president seeks reelection, saying the union’s support would be “earned, not freely given.”
Fain also has kept the White House at arm’s length during the negotiations. He was unenthusiastic about Biden’s previous plan to send aides to Detroit to intervene, a plan that was later abandoned.
Jean-Pierre said Biden did not have any meetings scheduled with auto executives while in Michigan.
Biden also visited a UAW picket line in 2019, when he was running for president and the union was on strike for 40 days against GM.
Stellantis, in a statement, said it had already matched Biden’s call for a record contract.
“Here are the facts: 21.4% compounded wage increase, $1 billion in retirement security benefits, inflation protection measures, job security and more,” the company said Monday in a statement. “Unlike the non-unionized transplants and EV startups who comprise the majority of the U.S. market, Stellantis relies on the collaboration between management and labor to ensure that our company remains competitive, and, therefore, sustainable. That is a position we have proudly embraced.
“But it also requires a balanced agreement that fairly rewards our workforce for their contribution to our success, without significantly disadvantaging Stellantis against our non-union competitors. We stand ready to sign a record contract that positions our company to continue providing good jobs here at home and be the winner as the U.S. transitions to an electrified future.”
Ford, in its own statement Monday evening, insinuated that it did not want outside help at the bargaining table.
“Ford and the UAW are going to be the ones to solve this by finding creative solutions to tough issues together at the bargaining table,” the company said. “We have a shared interest in the long-term viability of the domestic auto industry, the industrial Midwest and good-paying manufacturing jobs in the U.S. That’s what’s at stake, so we are going to stay focused on reaching a deal that is fair to our employees and enables us to invest and grow.”

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Samsung plans $41M expansion of EV battery operations in Michigan

Samsung’s automotive battery division is planning to expand a pair of factories in suburban Detroit by 218,000 square feet in a $41 million move that would add 368 jobs.
Samsung SDI America Inc., which has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., would add to its 628 employees in Michigan with the new positions, expected to pay $37.50 per hour plus benefits, according to a briefing memo from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The expansion will support the company’s fast-growing lithium-ion battery business for electric vehicles, leading to a doubling of manufacturing capacity with the addition of a second production line, the memo said.
A $5 million performance-based grant, approved Tuesday by the Michigan Strategic Fund board, was needed to keep the investment from going to Kokomo, Ind., where the company is teaming with automaker Stellantis on a 34-gigawatt hour battery factory expected to launch in 2025.
“Additionally, the Company is considering further expansions in the Midwest United States to broaden their footprint,” the memo said. The grant “will help address the cost disadvantage of locating the project in Michigan when compared to the competing sites.”
Samsung SDI moved into its Auburn Hills location in 2019, investing $62.7 million and creating 461 jobs. That project received a$10 million MEDC grant as well as a property tax abatement from the city of Auburn Hills and a 6-mill State Education Tax abatement.
For the expansion, the company will also benefit from free advertising from the city on electronic billboards along I-75, and Oakland County Michigan Works! pledged to help in the way of workforce training.
Samsung SDI America has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills and an office in San Jose, Calif., with global headquarters in Yongin, South Korea.

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Auto supplier groups, grappling with UAW strike, urge Biden to provide financial assistance

WASHINGTON — U.S. auto supplier groups on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to provide federal assistance to help auto parts companies impacted by the ongoing UAW strike against the Detroit 3 automakers.
MEMA and the Vehicle Suppliers Association said in a letter urging Biden to “effectuate federal assistance to ensure the viability of this critical industry sector. Without federal assistance, the ability of the automotive industry to resume full manufacturing capacity is at risk.”

The group wants the Biden administration to provide low-interest loans and consider loan forgiveness for struggling small suppliers. Biden was in Detroit Tuesday to show support for striking UAW workers.
The White House did not immediately comment and has previously declined to comment on whether it is considering programs to support auto suppliers.
The ongoing strikes have already forced some auto suppliers to cut production and furlough some workers. The letter cited “immediate concern” for smaller suppliers with revenue of less than $200 million. It urged the Biden administration to establish a Small Business Administration program or other agencies “to maintain workforce and operational capacity.”

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2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE coupe: Comfort and quiet trump handling

The shrinking car market — mass market and luxury — means automakers are making tough choices. Mercedes-Benz is the latest to acknowledge that there are just not as many buyers today to embrace its expansive lineup of sedans, coupes and convertibles.Coupes, in general, appear endangered across the industry with automakers reviewing every expense as the costly transition to electric vehicles rolls on.So the 2024 Mercedes-Benz CLE coupe will become a single replacement for what was the venerable C- and E-Class coupes and convertibles.A direct rival to the BMW 4 Series, Audi A5, Jaguar F-Type and Lexus RC, the CLE is 6.5 inches longer than the last C-Class coupe and 0.6 inches longer than the outgoing E-Class coupe. Mercedes says its bigger footprint mostly benefits rear seat passengers, who will enjoy more head, shoulder and elbow room compared with the outgoing C-Class coupe. The trunk also grows with 2.1 cubic feet of additional space, providing enough room for three golf bags, Mercedes says.When it arrives in the U.S. early next year, two trim levels will be available — the CLE 300 4Matic and CLE 450 4Matic. A fabric-top convertible variant follows in the first half of 2024. Two powertrains will be offered at launch in the U.S. — a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 255 hp, paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission, with all-wheel drive; and a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six making 375 hp, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission with awd. A 48-volt electrical system paired with an integrated starter-generator can add up to 23 hp for short periods.The four-passenger coupe is built on Mercedes-Benz’s MRA-2 platform. Production began this summer at the company’s assembly plant in Bremen, Germany. Mercedes recently invited journalists to drive the CLE in Spain, and we’ve collected some early reviews.

“The CLE quickly made it obvious it prioritizes comfort and quietude over handling, though the latter is still more than clear. The suspension tuning largely follows that of the C-Class sedan, and we found that body motions were generally well controlled. There was plenty of grip, too, even on damp pavement. But when the pavement turned rough, the CLE always erred on the side of floaty comfort, and on some of the bigger bumps we felt the suspension coming to the end of its travel, both up and down. And we surely felt that extra width on those narrow Spanish roads, though that shouldn’t be much of an issue back home in the U.S.The steering was responsive, accurate, and nicely weighted, loading up slightly when we switched to Sport mode. When it came to feedback, though, it was as if the rack had taken a vow of silence. Bumper cars have more communicative steering than the CLE. This didn’t make it any more difficult to drive, but it turns down the fun factor. You can certainly hustle in the CLE, but doing so is not as rewarding as it could be. Think executive express more than sports car, and you’ll have the CLE’s number.The next day, we traveled back to Bilbao for our departure in a CLE450, but not before checking out the back seat. It’s exactly what you’d expect, provided you were expecting a back seat where adults wouldn’t mind riding to dinner, but asked to sit back there for a day-long road trip might well opt to drive their own car. That’s the reason coupes have two doors, isn’t it? To make it clear that guests are only welcome for short stints?”— Aaron Gold, Motor Trend

“Fans of the pillarless E-class coupe will be saddened to learn that the CLE has a door pillar like the C-class coupe. But this doesn’t harsh the vibe, as its flanks are smooth and flowing, with subtle fender creases that further elongate the shape. In fact, the ‘cab backward’ description of the fifth-gen C-class sedan is even more apparent here, as the CLE’s extra body length makes the hood look considerably longer. All told, there’s a hint of AMG GT coupe in the proportions, even though the CLE shares nothing with that high-performance two-seater.Instead, the underpinnings consist of the same sort of multilink front and rear suspension layouts as the C-class. This gave the CLE poise and balance on a sinuous drive route along the coastal roads of northern Spain. Unfortunately, the C-class similarities don’t end there, as it also displayed the same driving-simulator steering and brake feel that we bemoaned during our C300 road test. There’s accuracy and predictability in abundance, but the driver feedback loop isn’t adequately developed.We’d like to say the suspension filtered out the rough stuff and took the edge off when the 20-inch Continental tires encountered unpleasant pavement, but we can’t. It absolutely accomplished that, but the cars we tested had a Europe-spec calibration with adaptive dampers and rear-wheel steering that we won’t see. CLE300 base models in the United States will get passive dampers, while the CLE450 will come with position-sensitive passive dampers as part of a sport suspension setup. Theoretically, these should ride smoother than that sounds when you’re driving straight because they will develop less damping when the shocks are near mid-stroke. Time will tell.”— Dan Edmunds, Car and Driver

“Mercedes claims the CLE450 can hit 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers an hour) in 4.4 seconds, a spry number that feels totally realistic. On the way to that speed, you’ll notice a pleasant, turbine-like whir emanating from the exhaust, typical of an inline-six and appropriate for the Benz coupe’s sporty-ish mission.Cruising down Spain’s impeccably maintained freeways, there’s little to complain about with the CLE. Wind and road noise are well controlled, and the two-door dispatches expansion joints and minor imperfections with a solid, Autobahn-ready thump. Apocalyptically rough pavement sends some gritty noises through the rear suspension, so folks who live in the Snow Belt may want to consider the base CLE for its smaller wheels, thicker tire sidewalls, and softer suspension tune.Speaking of tuning, the model I drove was a European-spec car that featured adaptive dampers, which we won’t get in the U.S. Mercedes engineers told me that the car’s Comfort drive mode would roughly match up with the compliance of the standard shocks and springs, while Sport would be close to the AMG suspenders that will be standard on the U.S.-spec CLE450 and optional on the 300. Toggling between the two settings made it clear that I would likely rather have the optional setup, as it offered decent ride smoothness even over Spanish cobblestones, while maintaining some handling verve on a twisty road.For proof of those talents, I motored the CLE450 away from the highway and toward some tight, narrow seaside roads. Plunging up and down alongside sheer cliffs and rocky faces, the CLE would have to thread a narrow needle to avoid disaster. Luckily, we both made it through no worse for the wear, the sport mode livening up the throttle and providing crackling downshifts when braking for corners. The suspension is also well-tuned for such jaunts, providing neutral handling behavior that gradually transitions toward safe understeer — not even mid-corner downshifts could upset the CLE’s demeanor.” — Brett T. Evans, motor1.com

“Despite a few poor material choices, the CLE’s cabin is nice and comfortable, and super quiet, even at highway speeds. The Dolby Atmos stereo absolutely rips, and at night, you’ll be able to impress your pals with vibrant ambient light displays. Seriously, it’s like a WeHo nightclub in here.Mercedes-Benz will sell the CLE with two powertrains in the U.S., both of which have 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, as well as all-wheel drive. On the base end, the CLE300 uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 — the same one you’ll find in the new C300 sedan — making 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The aforementioned 48-volt integrated starter-generator can produce up to 23 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque for quick bursts of acceleration, but the best thing about this tech is that it makes the stop-start system significantly smoother.The 2.0-liter engine isn’t anything to write home about, but its power is perfectly adequate for this 4,000-plus-pound coupe. The inline-four doesn’t sound particularly hearty — what four-banger does? — but it’ll get the CLE300 up to speed just fine, and the low-end torque makes it easy to whip around slowpokes on the freeway.Step up to the CLE450 and you’ll get a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-6 engine, with 375 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, plus the same amount of electric boost from the mild-hybrid system. This is a really sweet powertrain, silky smooth with plenty of oomph. Matched with a nine-speed automatic transmission — something you’ll also find in the CLE300 — the CLE450 is a serene machine. We’ve long been a fan of cars with Mercedes’ 3.0-liter mild-hybrid engine, and the CLE450 is no different.”— Steven Ewing, Torque Report

“The CLE 450’s adaptive dampers have standard Comfort and Sport settings, as well as a Sport+ setting that’s accessed via the programmable Individual drive mode. Every CLE comes with a standard four-link front and five-link rear suspensions, and in the U.S. we get passive dampers. In both models, the ride height is lowered 0.6 inch versus the E-Class sedan, and the 450 model wears a sport tune for its springs, dampers, anti-roll bars, and bushings.With the European tune, the Comfort setting makes the suspension a little too soft. The body takes a beat to settle down in lane changes and out of corners, but that’s rectified by the Sport setting, which makes the car feel tied down and quicker to react to inputs. Switching to Sport+ gives it even quicker reactions but firms up the ride so much that bumps and ruts become intrusive. Otherwise, the ride is supple, even with this car’s optional 20-inch summer tires.Those tires are 245/35 front and 275/30 rear Continental EcoContact 6 Qs — summer tires for sure, but not exactly known for their grip. The 450 will come standard with 19-inch all-season or summer tires, and offer these 20s. The CLE 300 will get standard all-season 18s, and offer 19s as all-season or summer tires.So, grip is just decent, and the CLE coupe also lacks some of the performance equipment Mercedes offers. In addition to the rear-wheel steering, it lacks a limited-slip rear differential and active anti-roll bars. That doesn’t mean it’s not sporty. It just means it’s more a grand tourer aimed for this type of coastal drive rather than a track car like an AMG CLE 63 would be.The steering is typical Mercedes-with a light feel and quick reactions. The brakes have a predictable pedal and a confident feel. Mercedes hasn’t detailed their size or the number of calipers front and rear, but they’ll certainly fit with the grand tourer theme: fine for the street or a jaunt on a twisty road but not trackworthy.”— Kirk Hill, Motor Authority

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Possible Honda NSX successor to debut as EV at Japan Mobility Show

TOKYO — Honda aims to wow with three world premieres at next month’s Japan Mobility Show, including a concept model of an electric sports car that could be a spiritual successor to the NSX.
Also on tap will be a pint-size EV concept called the Sustainia-C made of recycled acrylic resin in a nod to environmentally sustainable technologies planned for tomorrow’s cars.
Among the new four-wheeled offerings on display, Honda Motor Co. also plans a two-seat micro EV pod car called the CI-MEV. It uses “cooperative intelligence” and automated driving technology to deliver easy last-mile mobility for people in areas with no public transportation.

Honda outlined the debuts in a Tuesday statement detailing its plans for the Japan Mobility Show. The reincarnated Tokyo Motor Show runs Oct. 25-Nov. 5, with media days on Oct. 25-26.
The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, which organizes the event, wants to cast a wider net beyond traditional automakers by rebranding the exhibition as a mobility show.
As such, Honda’s stand will host an assortment of far-flung mobility products.
Motorcycles of all kinds will be out in force, including all-electric two-wheelers. But so too will be airborne mobility such as the Honda Jet, represented by a full-size interior mock-up.
Looking further into the future, the company will show its Honda eVTOL, which models a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle to be powered by a gas turbine hybrid system.
An avatar robot with a multifingered hand will be unveiled, envisaging a product that allows people to perform tasks remotely. And Honda will proffer its Uni-One hands-free seated mobility device, a kind of runabout stool that a person steers simply by shifting weight.
As for the EV sports car, Honda was short on details.
Honda offered only this insight about its so-called Specialty Sports Concept: “The concept model of an electric sports car which will enable the driver to experience the pure joy of driving (driving pleasure) and transcend the constraints of time, even in the era of electrification for carbon neutrality and the popularization of automated driving technology.”
Last year, CEO Toshihiro Mibe said Honda wants to launch two all-electric sports cars in the mid-2020s. One will be a “specialty” vehicle, the other a “flagship model.”
Teaser shots released at the time depicted cars under wraps with low-slung silhouettes reminiscent of the NSX. Acura retired its NSX hybrid supercar last year, capping its run with just 350 of the high-performance NSX Type S variant. The Integra Type S will fill the role of Acura’s halo performance vehicle for now, but it’s possible an all-electric NSX could pop up in 2026.
Japan’s No. 2 automaker is in the midst of a radical corporate makeover to fully ditch internal combustion by 2040. As part of the carbon neutral push, it has unveiled plans to roll out 30 full electric vehicles globally and build production capacity for 2 million EVs annually by 2030.

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