Saturday, August 29, 2009

It’s a beautiful Hyundai

The Azera is Hyundai’s latest attempt in its quest to revamp a stale reputation for something more memorable. Does it pass the test? Read on to find out...

WHOEVER SAID class had to cost? It has become evident that automaker Hyundai has come a long way from their days of bland, anonymous looking automobiles and has ventured into the realm of subtle sophistication and affordable luxury. Simply put: this isn’t just your grandpa’s sedan anymore.

The 2010 Hyundai Azera, part of the company’s new lineup of midsize sedans, is targeting a different niche this time around. At first glance, you’ll notice its long, sleek design complemented by clean lines and chrome finishing. But its aerodynamically-efficient body isn’t just for show; this ride is a missile waiting for launch. The new, larger and more luxurious design provides impressive amounts of interior room, features and power for a price that’s thousands less than those of competitors. After years of churning out affordable — albeit somewhat boring — quality vehicles, the Korean automaker is finally realising the power of style in its bid to infuse class into its new lineup.

But if the design doesn’t sell you, we imagine the interior might just have you hooked. Although luxury has not always been at the forefront of Hyundai’s business model, they are stepping up to the plate in providing a new generation of essential gadgetry and gizmos — including built-in monitors and iPod/USB audio jacks — for a new younger class of customers. The Azera has what we like to call the ‘comfort factor’, providing drivers with a bevy of tech options that will have you feeling like you’re flying first class on your favourite airline. Proof that luxury really stems from the details, you’ll love the dual-zone automatic climate control — a great solution for passengers who might not feel obliged to share one AC temperature. Kick in a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated seats, GPS, Bluetooth and a Logic 7 surround-sound audio and navigation system, you might not ever find a reason to step out of the car. Most importantly, this car is deceivingly spacious with enough legroom to kick back and relax in style.

When it comes to drive and handling, the Azera simply shatters all preconceptions. Personally, there is nothing better than having low expectations about a new car model only to find yourself swooning over it after an intense test drive, but that’s exactly what this car delivers. Engine capabilities on the Limited model include a 3.8-litre V6 engine producing 263 horsepower (more than BMW’s 5-series) and 257 lb-ft of torque, giving this car an unexpected boost in the field of power. Like a rocket, the Azera delivers speed and curve-hugging control that one would usually expect from a tricked out sports car. But deception seems to be the theme of this new model, giving drivers the opportunity to really max out in speed and acceleration supported by a top-notch breaking system.

While we expected the Azera to deliver modest driving capabilities and even lower luxury amenities, we were outwitted by its sexy new design and strong road performance. There is real beauty in its overall capabilities, setting the bar for a merger between aesthetics and raw power. While older generations still might find comfort in this classic family sedan, we predict a resurgence of interest from young motorheads looking for speed and class

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Clunkers program cut supply of used cars

The Cash for Clunkers program has decreased the supply of used cars and raised their prices, Virginia dealers and buyers said.

"It's taken the threeand fourand five-thousand-dollar cars off the market," said Tim Higginbotham, president and owner of New Millennium Auto Sales in Hanover County. "The people that can't afford a car payment, that's the car that they buy."

"Please explain to my [two] kids, each of whom will soon be in the market for a used car, why the prices are up because supply is down, a result of all those viable 'clunkers' rendered scrap by decree," said Robert H. Brick Jr., a communications technician from Chester.

Auto dealers reported 690,114 sales under the federal government's $3 billion Cash for Clunkers rebate program, according to final data that the U.S. Department of Transportation released yesterday.

Dealers have claimed rebates totaling $2.88 billion, the agency said.

In Virginia, auto dealers have applied for $98.5 million in rebates.

The federal auto-sales promotion gave rebates of up to $4,500 to owners trading in older gas-guzzling cars and trucks for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"We're looking at close to 25,000 [sales of new] vehicles in Virginia alone," said Michael Allen, director of public affairs for the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.

The new-car sales also promoted more used-car deals.

"McGeorge is also experiencing record used-car sales during this period, with 124 deals during the past 30 days," said Nick Scola, general manager with the local McGeorge Car Co. Inc. "Activity breeds activity."

The nation's used-car inventory has been contracting during the recession as individual owners, as well as rental-car and car-leasing companies, held on to vehicles rather than trade them for new ones.

Wholesale used-vehicle prices rose for the seventh consecutive month in July, up 17.8 percent since December, according to Manheim Consulting's monthly used-vehicle-value report.

"It's driven the price of used cars way up," said Charles Devegnee with Bavarian Auto Sales, a wholesale used-car company in Henrico County. "Where we were paying 10,000 [dollars], you're now paying 12 or 13 thousand" for the same sort of vehicle.

Goochland County-based CarMax Inc., the nation's largest retailer of used cars, would not discuss the impact of the Cash for Clunkers program on its business. CarMax sold more than half a million cars last year.

Sales under the program ended Monday. Cars made in the U.S. topped the most-purchased list, from the Ford Focus to the Toyota Corolla to the Honda Civic.

"American consumers and workers were the clear winners thanks to the Cash for Clunkers program," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"Manufacturing plants have added shifts and recalled workers," LaHood said. "Moribund showrooms were brought back to life and consumers bought fuel-efficient cars that will save them money and improve the environment."

For the first six months of 2009, U.S. sales were running at the rate of 10 million new vehicles a year. Last year, dealers sold slightly more than 13 million new autos.

Latvian Auto Market Takes a Dive

RIGA - Auto industry analysts all around the world are worried that carmakers, as well as car dealers, will be facing a massive sales drop in the fourth quarter of 2009 - some expect global car sales to plunge by as much as 12 percent, year-on-year. Against this backdrop, Latvian car salesmen are bracing themselves for the challenging operational environment of intensifying competition for a dwindling customer base amid decreasing profit margins.

When the experts at Business Monitor International, the international agency providing analysis, ratings and forecasts to 130 countries worldwide, set their eyes on the Latvian car industry, the picture they saw was not a pretty one. According to the Latvia Automotive Report that came out in 2009, the car market in the country remains gloomy, clearly indicating that inaccessibility of financing and economic hardships are keeping buyers away from the purchase of big ticket items such as cars.

In 2005, Latvians were the third most active car buyers in the European Union. The industry experienced double-digit growth, both in 2006 and 2007, when the robustly developing economy was sustaining customer confidence and spurring the sales. Towards the beginning of 2008 much tighter credit conditions as well as negative effects of the global economic crisis considerably dampened consumer sentiment. Consistent with the overall macroeconomic environment in the country in the first two quarters of 2009, the situation in the Latvian car market deteriorated even further, causing it to shrink by a record margin after the years of rapid growth.

Gross domestic product in the Baltic republic contracted by 18 percent in the first quarter of this year, with second quarter output down by 19.6 percent. Luxury items such as cars are said to have high income elasticity of demand, which means that as people become poorer, they will spend less and less for the goods that are not absolutely essential for functioning of the household. The real estate bubble that exploded with a bang and left many families in jeopardy of losing their house, the government budget cuts that slashed the salaries of the public sector employees, and the massive redundancies in the private sector have clearly discouraged a fair share of Latvians from experiencing that ‘new car smell’ of a freshly purchased auto.

Car sales in Latvia have dropped precipitously so far in 2009, as the market outlook remains equally dim for family vehicles as well as high-end cars. Business news daily Dienas Bizness reports that only 1,636 new cars have been registered this year, which is a staggering 80 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2008. From January to April of 2009, Toyota sold 81.5 percent fewer new cars, year-on-year Skoda’s sales dropped by 88.6 percent, Renault’s sales fell by 83.3 percent and Hyundai’s sales declined by 82.7 percent. Dodge tops the unlucky list with a massive 97.1 percent drop in sales, closely followed by Chrysler with a 95.9 percent decrease year-on-year. I

n the high-end auto category, Ferrari posted a drop of 100 percent, year-on-year, Mercedes Benz’s sales decreased by 66.9 percent and Bentley sales plummeted by 66.7 percent, year on year. Ironically, Hummer, the leader in the category, sold 1 vehicle in 2008, and 19 in 2009, thus managing to achieve a 1,800 percent growth rate, while the runner-up, Alfa Romeo, sold 1 car in 2008, and 2 cars in 2009, posting a 100 percent increase in sales.
Clearly, the car sellers’ profit margins are just not there, currently. Owners of the car dealerships have switched to ‘survival mode’ and are forced to come up with more and more creative ways to attract the customers’ attention.

Citroen is offering clients to bring their old cars to the dealership in exchange for considerable rebates for the brand-new Citroens; BMW is advertising a 0 percent first installment for eligible clients, while Toyota is selling spare parts at a considerable discount and is lowering car maintenance fees. There is an increasing number of car dealers that focus on developing auto-body repairs, parts, and service as alternative profit centers that help to push the profit margin further up.

The focus has shifted from ‘make as much as you can’ to ‘survive for as long as you can.’ Prior to the crisis, auto sales points in Latvia were often short of cars to satisfy customer demand. This year the supply is exceeding demand by far. The need to increase liquidity is putting car salesmen under pressure to dispose of current inventory in the near-immobile market conditions and straining their relationship with car manufacturers. In this economic environment, Business Monitor International believes that the dealerships will further focus on maintaining competitive pricing and limiting costs to meet their annual financial targets.

Dealerships specializing in selling used cars are also experiencing extremely difficult times. With car values in Latvia falling at an incredible pace and fleets of discounted brand-new models available at the dealerships, it is difficult for the used cars salesmen to convince the customer that their asking price is consistent with the ongoing market situation. As Ugis Vitols, the president of the Latvian Used Car Salesmen association commented, "The market for used cars in Latvia has been frozen for some time. We are barely able to sell in a month what we used to sell in a day during the good times." Dealerships reached for this story say that with overall car sales down they are being extremely client-sensitive in regards to their product portfolio. The supply is being driven by the customers’ needs as never before, and the dealers that report decent customer traffic are also saying that one of their core priorities is keeping a competitive inventory of vehicles on their lots.

Overall, it is important to mention the significant shift that is taking place in customer behavior in Latvia. In the current market environment buyers are increasingly making long-term decisions. Customers no longer perceive a car as something they bought for short-term use, but rather as an investment that they make and which should retain value for many years to come. Thus, such criteria as average fuel economy, predicted reliability and cargo capacity become as important as purchase price and design. The consumers feel empowered by the variety of choices available to them and will be as demanding to the used vehicle as to the new one.

In the adjoining market segment, leasing companies are also finding themselves in hot water. In the past, the majority of cars in Latvia have been purchased through leasing. According to the president of Latvian Authorized Car Dealer Association Aksels Rubulis, a large proportion of those cars are under operating leasing agreements, where after a four year period car dealers have to buy back the vehicle, at 40 percent of its initial value. "In the current market development, the value of these cars is not higher than 20 percent of the sum, but the money still has to be paid on the basis of these agreements. Such contracts had been signed by dealers in serious need of increasing sales, but the loss-making leases might now be the last straw which will sink struggling businesses," says Rubulis in the asset finance-oriented journal Leasing Life.

However, as often happens in life, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. Even though the sector is facing the prospects of flat sales in 2010, there are businesses that are able to change their operational models in order to adapt to the challenging market environment. An increasing number of dealers are turning to the banks with an offer to take over the vehicles of certain models that have been returned to the financial institutions in default of the leasing agreements. Such vehicles are often in excellent condition and can be resold at a very attractive price. This motivates dealerships to work on establishing direct cooperation with banks and leasing companies that, in turn, are more willing to sit down at the negotiation table and discuss a relationship reshape.

BMW Used Car Programme Now At Ingress Auto

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 (Bernama) -- BMW Malaysia has expanded its BMW Premium Selection programme to Ingress Auto, a BMW dealership.

The BMW Premium Selection is a used car programme that offers features and benefits fully backed by a principal manufacturer.

A premium industry first, it is designed to provide peace-of-mind motoring, the reassurance of a manufacturer-backed warranty and the same confidence as purchasing an entirely new vehicle.

The first BMW Premium Selection was launched at Auto Bavaria Glenmarie in December 2008.

"It has always been in our business plan to expand the BMW Premium Selection to our dealership network.

"Following rapid sales growth despite only being opened last year, Ingress Auto has become the next dealership to offer this programme," said Geoffrey Briscoe, BMW Malaysia's managing director in a statement on Tuesday.

Vehicles sold under the Premium Selection programme must have an approved and documented vehicle history as part of the criteria.

The cars must also pass a strict 72-point check by factory-trained BMW experts, be technically and visually refurbished while having mileage of less than 100,000km.

Further premium services such as a 12-month warranty, roadside assistance and individual financing via BMW Credit are also included in the programme.

Ingress Auto's new BMW Premium Selection showroom will be located at an existing five-storey building that can display up to 25 cars at one time.

All cars sold under the BMW Premium Selection guarantee can now be viewed online via the BMW Malaysia website,

"The focus of the BMW Premium Selection programme is to provide customers with the best quality, service and reassurance that would substantiate their decision to purchase a used BMW car from an authorised dealer rather than a grey importer.

BMW expands Mini lineup with two-seat coupe, roadster models

Mini is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its original model by confirming plans for a new compact performance-oriented coupe.

The two-seater, revealed 50 years to the day after the premiere of the first Mini back in 1959, will make its public debut at the upcoming Frankfurt motor show. At the show, the BMW-owned carmaker also will unveil a similarly styled two-seat roadster, which sources say will head into production as part of a strategy aimed at further raising the appeal of the wildly popular and iconic small car.

Confirmation of the coupe and roadster pairing comes less than a year after Mini revealed that it would build a new four-wheel-drive SUV in the mold of its high-riding Crossman concept. Together, this trio of new models will double the number of Mini derivatives on sale within the next three years--a move that analysts say will help boost the company's worldwide sales above 400,000 annually, despite increased competition in the form of the upcoming Audi A1, the Citro├źn DS3 (both Frankfurt debuts) and the recently introduced Alfa Romeo MiTo.

Although it is described as a concept and the official line is that no decision on production has yet been made, the Mini Coupe to be revealed in Frankfurt is no mere fantasy destined to be toned down in appearance and mechanical makeup before it reaches dealerships. High-ranking Mini insiders revealed to AutoWeek that the production version due out in 2011 will be a virtual carbon copy both in looks and in the hardware that lurks beneath.

The Coupe was styled by a team working under Mini design boss Gert Hildebrand. He has retained the retro appearance of existing Cooper models while infusing an added dash of sportiness in the heavily angled windshield, the low roofline and the dedicated trunk lid. The result is a less boxy car than the Cooper. With a height of just 53.4 inches, it's also a lot lower. Traditional touches include blackened pillars to give the coupe the same floating roof design found on other Minis.

Inside, the Coupe swaps the four-seat layout of the Cooper for a simple two-seat arrangement, with the space in back used to extend trunk capacity. While the concept car boasts a luxurious leather-lined interior, production versions of the Coupe will come with the same materials and trims used on existing Mini models.

Under its steel skin, the Coupe uses the same front-wheel-drive platform, as well as the aluminum-intensive MacPherson-strut front and multilink rear suspension and electro-hydraulic steering system from existing versions of the Mini. All of that hints at typical agile-driving characteristics and firm ride qualities for the production car, which is expected to be priced at about $36,000 when North American sales begin in 2012.

In keeping with the performance slant evident in its exterior styling, Mini has endowed its Frankfurt concept with the same turbocharged 1.6-liter, 208-hp, 206-lb-ft four-cylinder gasoline engine used in the Cooper S John Cooper Works model.

Nothing is official yet, but expect the top-of-the-line Mini Coupe to hit 60 mph in less than 7.0 seconds and to reach a top speed of about 150 mph. Production versions of the new car should also be available with the less powerful 172-hp turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine from the Cooper S, according to Mini sources.

Nissan and Audi Follow Toyota In Offering Car Sharing Programs

Nissan and Audi Japan K.K., have joined Toyota Motor Corp. in offering car-sharing schemes, in a move designed to counter sagging auto sales by raising brand recognition and increasing the firms' ecological appeal.

Unlike a rental car service, in which many cars are made available to any number of customers, in a car-sharing scheme one car is shared by a limited number of people who must be members. The members each possess IC cards used to unlock the cars.

Nissan has been providing a car-sharing service in Yokohama since late July on an experimental basis through an affiliated rental car firm. The 20 or so members of the scheme jointly use a Nissan Otti light car and March compact car.

The members must make a reservation to use the vehicles and are required to pay a monthly fee of 980 yen plus an initial charge of 6,460 yen. The rental rate is determined by tallying the total driving time (340 yen per 15 minutes) and distance traveled (15 yen per kilometer).

Car industry facing difficult year in 2010

Hamburg - With most tax incentives for new cars expiring this year, analysts expect a sharp downturn in the industry for 2010 but it could also turn out to be the best time for private customers with a glut of used cars on the market. According to figures released by the German car industry federation (VDA), new car sales in Germany and France were particularly high because of the tax incentives. Sales in China were up four per cent and also up two per cent in India compared to the same period last year.

But sales in the United States were down 38 per cent to 2.2 million vehicles and in Japan sales dropped by 23 per cent.

The head of the German Institute for Automobile Manufacturing (IFA) Willi Dietz expects sales in Germany to fall from 3.6 million to 2.6 million next year, resulting in a dramatic cutback of the workforce.

Dietz predicts that only about 6,000 of the current 11,000 car dealers in Germany will remain in business by the year 2015. The trend in the United States, France and other countries is much the same.

Premium car makers such as BMW, Mercedes and Audi are having particular problems selling their cars. Mercedes sales in the United States are down by a third. Most customers in the new car market are from business but these are are cutting costs,

especially on management incentives such as company cars.

The tax incentives on new cars, offered by governments in France, Germany, Britain and the US, have been beneficial to manufacturers of cheap small cars that can be afforded by the man in the street.

According to a recent study conducted by Carfax Europe, a web- based service that supplies vehicle history reports to individuals and businesses on used cars and light trucks, the used car market in Europe alone has a potential of up to 40 billion euros (57 billion dollars).

At the same time the study pinpointed the biggest obstacle in the sector as the lack of trust customers have in used car dealers and in the condition of the vehicles offered.

Nevertheless most private consumers buy a used car and the opportunities have never been better. Overcapacity on the part of producers has flooded the market with low-mileage vehicles, especially from the leasing business. These cars are almost as good as new and technically in a much better condition than the used car of a few years ago.

The internet has stepped up competition with customers getting a good idea online on quality and condition. Numerous websites cater for buyers and sellers. General Motors has just started selling its cars on Ebay. Consumers have direct contact with 225 dealers in California.

The site provides comparison pricing across dealerships with helpful tips for buyers and trade-in values. The programme is running for a trial period until September but could well change the car market as we know it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Four Good New Cars for Bad Credit Customers

Buying a new car may be your best bet even if you need a bad credit car loan. Here are four good cars that will help you reestablish your credit with the least amount of pain.

New versus used

There are a number of things we’ve learned about the bad credit car shopper in the last seventeen years here at Auto Credit Express. One of them is this: When it comes time to buy a car, people with bad credit often decide in favor of a used car because they believe used cars will have lower monthly payments.

Looking at just the cost of the vehicle, this is largely true. There are, however, other factors to consider other than just the price of the car. These other factors include such items as the total cost of ownership, lender rates, and the cash down payment amount required in order to get approved for financing.

Here are just a few of the considerations that make purchasing a new car equal to, or less expensive than, buying a used car:

• Aside from available rebates, new cars are under factory warranty for at least 3 years and 36,000 miles. For similar coverage on a used car you would have to pay extra (for a service contract). Some manufactures, Kia for example, protect their cars for 10 years and 100,000 miles. If unexpected repairs are necessary, having a factory warranty will lower your ownerships cost when compared to a used car.
• It’s a fact that lenders (even subprime lenders) offer better rates and longer repayment terms for
new cars than they do for used cars. A longer time to pay off your purchase at a lower rate equates to a lower monthly payment.
• If you have bad credit, most subprime lenders will require a cash down payment. Many
new cars come equipped with a built-in down payment called a rebate. Cash rebates are not available on used cars.

The following list shows four examples of new cars that have a low sale prices, long warranties, and/or manufacturer rebates:

• The Chevy Aveo retails from $12,685 and has $1,000 cash back in most areas. The one drawback to the Aveo is that it has just a basic 3 year/36,000 mile limited warranty and a 5 year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty.
• The Kia Rio retails from $11,145 and has a $1500 cash back rebate in most areas. The Rio has a basic 5 year/60,000 mile limited warranty and a 10 year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty.
• The Hyundai Accent retails from $10,290 and has a $1500 cash back rebate in most areas. The Accent has a basic 5 year/60,000 mile limited warranty and a 10 year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty.
• The Kia Spectra retails from $14,200 and has a $3,000 cash back rebate in most areas. The Spectra has a basic 5 year/60,000 mile limitd warranty and a 10 year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty.

Car dealership closures have aesthetic, economic impact on Dallas area

Empty car dealerships dot Dallas-Fort Worth, leaving scars on the landscape and $50 million gaps in the economy from southern Dallas to Denton.

The bare lots stand as bleak symbols of jobs lost and tax revenue reduced during a recession. In some cases, long-standing family businesses have crumbled. Now-quiet Chevy and Dodge dealerships also speak loudly of the unprecedented upheaval in the auto industry.

The D-FW area has close to 20 empty dealerships, totaling about 100 acres and dozens of buildings. Half of them closed recently as part of Chrysler LLC's bankruptcy, and more vacancies are likely as struggling automakers trim their sales networks.

General Motors Corp. plans to shutter 1,100 dealerships nationwide by fall 2010 under its bankruptcy reorganization, though it hasn't announced how many will close here. The D-FW area had about 240 new-car dealerships before the recent closings.

Some remaining dealers may be able to stay open by selling used cars and other brands or focusing on repair work, but the Chrysler and GM cuts will still leave Dallas and other cities with dozens of empty buildings and lots and millions of dollars in lost sales tax revenue.

"I think they really become a blight, and they make an area look really depressed," said George Hoffer, an economics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who specializes in the auto industry. "An auto dealership sticks out like a sore thumb because the property is so large compared to other businesses."

To some degree, the closings are part of a longtime pattern with car dealerships. They tend to open near residential areas, often in parts of town that are just beginning to develop. Over time, as growth intensifies, the land can become more valuable than the businesses, prompting the dealers to sell.

Most of the recent closings, however, are tied to tough economic times and a shrinking auto industry.

"I've never seen this many dealers go down at one time," said Jerry Reynolds, a former Ford dealer who offers auto advice on Saturdays on a local radio show. "In tough times, the weeding-out process starts."

The economic impact will be substantial. A typical new-car dealership in the Dallas area generates revenue of about $50 million a year – plus related sales taxes.

Also, job losses linked to car dealerships are contributing to Texas' unemployment rate, which rose to 7.9 percent in July. That month, jobs at Texas motor vehicle and parts dealers were down 11,600, or 7 percent, from a year earlier, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Used car imports slump 40% in Jan-July

Prague, Aug 23 (CTK) - Czech used car imports slumped by 40 percent year-on-year to 85,551 units in January-July this year, according to data from the Car Importers Association (SDA).

The top-selling make among imported second-hand passenger cars was Ford, followed by Skoda and Volkswagen.

Experts said the drop in interest in imported used cars was due to the weakening of the crown to the euro this year, the introduction of a registration fee for cars which do not comply with the Euro3 emissions regulation and a fall in the prices of new cars.

Sales of new passenger cars and light utility vehicles fell by 13 percent to 107,287 units in January-July. The decrease was due to lack of demand from companies, while demand from households, which are the main buyers of second-hand imported cars, increased.

Almost 42 percent of imported used cars were five to 10 years old, and more than one-fifth of the vehicles were older. Last year, cars older than 10 years accounted for 28 percent of imports.

Another reason for less interest in imported second-hand cars could be the saturation of the Czech market and low prices in second-hand car marts which dropped by up to one-third on the year in the first half of 2009.

"I think there can be certain pressure on a slight growth in the prices of second-hand cars owing to slightly increasing prices of new cars and lack of quality almost new used cars," Milan Smutny, spokesman of second-hand cars dealer AAA Auto, said.

"But it will be decided by the market and also the development of the economy, above all the problem of unemployment," Smutny said

Czechs have imported 12,669 second-hand Fords, 11,414 Skodas and 9,826 Volkswagens to the Czech Republic this year. Czech used car imports also included 114 Porsches, 18 Ferraris, seven Maseratis and two Rolls-Royces.

Used-car group is recruiting rejected dealerships

Several former Chrysler executives and dealers are helping recruit rejected Chrysler and General Motors dealerships to establish a used-car chain called AutoStar Superstore.

The plan is to open the first five stores Oct. 1 -- one each in Albuquerque, N.M.; Portland, Ore.; Las Vegas; St. George, Utah; and Pittsburg, Texas -- says George Lovato Jr., chairman of AutoStar Dealer Network in Albuquerque. Lovato is the founder of Rent Rite Car Rental Systems Inc., the eighth-largest car rental company in the country.

AutoStar Dealer Network plans to open five stores a month for the first three months and then increase to 10 a month, Lovato says.

"If you look at the disenfranchised dealer -- a GM or Chrysler dealer who has a very big footprint" for car sales, service and parts -- "that's the guy we're after," he says.

Lovato says AutoStar will offer dealers a nationally branded certified used-car program, floorplan financing, dealer management system software, employee training, vehicle warranties, a national Web site for consumers, vehicle procurement and other services.

Dealers who want to join will pay an initial licensing fee ranging from $6,200 in rural areas up to $37,500 in metropolitan markets. The metropolitan stores should be ready to sell 100 or more used cars a month, Lovato says.

Art Laws, owner of what was Timberline Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in Portland, is on the AutoStar board and will operate one of the first five dealerships to open. Timberline was rejected when Chrysler cut 789 dealerships during bankruptcy. "You've got service business; you've got flooring and more opportunity to make a profit on parts than you did before," says Laws, a two-time chairman of the Dodge National Dealer Council.

The AutoStar board also includes Ken Zangara, vice chairman and a former Dodge dealer in Albuquerque; Tom McAlear, former COO of DaimlerChrysler Financial Services; and Mike Yatsko, retired director of dealer operations for Chrysler.

Rising used-car prices means shortage on lots

Morrie’s Automotive Group Inc. has only $6 million worth of used cars available for sale at its eight Twin Cities dealerships, two-thirds less than it had a year ago.
Demand is relatively high for used cars, but declining supply and the corresponding rise in prices are making it difficult for Minnetonka-based Morrie’s and other local dealerships to purchase enough vehicles to keep their lots fully stocked.

“That’s probably one of our biggest challenges right now — acquiring inventory at what we consider a reasonable price,” said Morrie’s Chief Operating Officer Karl Schmidt, who estimated that his company is paying an average of 10 to 15 percent more for used cars than it did a year ago.

Used-vehicle values have risen for seven straight months due to decreased supply, according to the most recent Used Vehicle Index from Atlanta-based Manheim Consulting, which operates auto auctions in Maple Grove, Shakopee and numerous other sites across the country.

Prices are up across the board for used vehicles, but the supply is especially tight for cars and trucks that are just one or two years old, Manheim Chief Economist Tom Webb said.

‘Obscene prices’

Dealerships typically get a little more than half of their used cars through trade-ins. Due to the recession, consumers are buying fewer new cars, so they’re trading in fewer as well.

Dealers now need to rely more on auctions and other wholesale sources. It’s getting harder to find bargains at the auctions, though.

The auction buyer for Morrie’s, for example, will go out on a three-day “car-buying mission” and come back with just two or three cars, Schmidt said. “There’s just no availability at the right price.”

Sports-utility vehicle prices have jumped the most, thanks to lower gas prices, he said. “You’re seeing pretty dramatic $3,000 or $4,000 swings on some of the SUVs. People got used to buying those pretty cheap a year ago, but that didn’t last long.”

Paul Walser, CEO of Bloomington-based Walser Automotive Group Inc., said he hoped used-car prices would start dropping after the start of the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program, which provides consumers with vouchers of $3,500 to $4,500 for trading in old cars and trucks for newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles. New-car incentive programs typically pull down prices for used vehicles, but that wasn’t the case this time because the impact was offset by low inventories of new products.

Walser Automotive has pulled back on its buying, hoping that the “obscene prices” will start to fall in coming months when new-vehicle inventories rise due to increased production by the automakers. For now, the company is just “filling holes” on its lots with cars that it finds at more reasonable prices.

“We’re not being nearly as aggressive as we were, so our inventories are running a little light from where we’d like them to be,” Walser said. “There’s going to be plenty of inventory here in 60 to 90 days, so we are not getting too silly on acquiring late-model used cars right now.”

David Luther, president of Luther Automotive Group in Golden Valley, said his company’s used-car inventory is down slightly, partly due to tighter management. But prices are making it more difficult to find cars that make sense for the company to put on its lots.

If the dealership has to pay more for used cars, it has to pass that on to consumers. Luther said he’s reluctant to do that because customers are less likely to buy used when prices close in on new-car levels. “There has to be a reasonable amount of savings to buy a pre-owned car. If that gap gets too close, it’s going to be less advantageous for us and for our customers.”

Rising prices haven’t scared away too many customers so far, though, according to Manheim’s Webb. “It really hasn’t hurt dealers that much. They’ve been able pass their higher acquisition costs on to retail buyers.”

Strong sales

The used-car segment in Minnesota has declined from a year ago, but not nearly as much as the new-car segment. Sales of used cars in the state declined 26.2 percent to 103,690 through April, while sales of new cars fell 39.2 percent to 32,637, according to the most recent statistics available from the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association (MADA).

“New cars have suffered to the benefit of used cars,” MADA Executive Director Scott Lambert said.

Some dealers, however, say their used-car sales could be stronger if they had more cars to sell. “It’s definitely hurting us,” Schmidt said of Morrie’s reduced inventory. “In this market it’s hard to say exactly how much, but I feel like we could be up 20 to 25 percent in the used-car business year-over-year if we had the inventory. As it is, we’re even to down 5 percent, depending on the store.”

New car sales at Morrie’s rose 83 percent during the first half of 2009, thanks largely to “Cash for Clunkers.” Used-car sales, however, were down 2 percent.

For the year, Morrie’s expects total sales to increase by 40 percent. “That’s a good story,” Schmidt said, “but it could be even better with more of that pre-owned business."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Used Car Buyers Queue up for Quality

In the 'second chance' section of the website, visitors to can register their interest in a used car which has already been reserved by another buyer, in case it becomes available again. A staggering 220 potential buyers asked to be emailed if one BMW 318i came back on the market, more than any other model.

The website also has a 'coming soon' page, where shoppers can ask for email alerts on cars which will shortly be in stock. Again, BMW tops the charts. One particular used BMW 118d M Sport had a queue of 145 buyers waiting before it was even on sale.

Plenty of other prestige cars have attracted lots of interest, and not just those with a BMW badge. 108 car buyers asked to be contacted if one Range Rover came back on the market. 95 buyers requested an email if a reserved Volvo XC90 became available again.

Quality mainstream cars are also popular with visitors. An amazing 180 buyers waited to find out if a Vauxhall Zafira 1.8i buyer changed their mind. Almost 140 shoppers asked to be told if a Mazda 5 2.0D became available again.

Fredrik Skantze,'s CMO and co-founder, said: 'There's a shortage of quality used cars at the moment, so it's no wonder buyers are queuing up to buy the most popular models.

'At there's a constantly changing stock of nearly 1000 cars, so if we don't have the car a buyer is looking for right now, there's a good chance we will soon.'

Top 10 'second chance' cars

Make and model Age/mileage Price Sign ups
1. BMW 318i SE 4dr 53-plate/82,326 miles £4763 220
2. Vauxhall Zafira 1.8i Club 56-plate/18,239 miles £6813 180
3. Mazda 5 2.0D Sport 07-plate/38,741 miles £10,842 138
4. BMW 520d M Sport 4dr 06-plate/94,818 miles £12,687 120
5. Range Rover Sport 2.7 TDV6 SE 5dr auto 06-plate/28,193 miles £22,750 108
6.= BMW 520d SE 4dr 06-plate/82,045 miles £13,875 104
6.= VW Passat 2.0 Sport 4dr 06-plate/27,257 miles £9425 104
8. Volvo XC90 D5 S auto 05-plate/49,056 miles £13,875 95
9. VW Passat 2.0 TDI SE 4dr 06-plate/28,800 miles £8650 85
10. Toyota Avensis 1.8 T4 5dr 06-plate/87,626 miles £4532 84

Top 10 'coming soon' cars

Make and model Age/mileage Price Sign ups
1. BMW 118d M Sport 5dr 06-plate/54,300 miles £11,997 145
2. V'hall Vectra 1.9 CDTi SRi 55-plate/53,401 miles £5931 102
3.= BMW 330Cd Sport 04-plate/75,837 miles £10,799 54
3.= Mazda 5 2.0D Sport 06-plate/20,749 miles £9858 54
5. L-R Freelander TD4 GS 07-plate/56,589 miles £14,195 46
6. Mercedes-Benz A140 Classic 03-plate/6580 miles £4868 45
7. BMW 320i Sport 4dr 54-plate/37,359 miles £8797 36
8. L-R Range Rover 2.7 TDV6 HSE 06-plate/51,526 miles £24,875 33
9. Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE 4dr 08-plate/45,965 miles £14,033 31
10. Volvo S40 1.6D SE 4dr 05-plate/85,729 miles £5146 28 is the UK's largest online car retailer. Founded in 2005 with the goal to provide a better used car buying experience, currently helps around 1000 buyers a month.

Cars for sale in's virtual showroom are displayed with descriptions including 40 high quality digital pictures. All cars go through a 141 point inspection and come with a 100% money back guarantee. Car finance, warranty, insurance and delivery are supplementary options that buyers can benefit from.

Kuwait's online market flourishing

KUWAIT: Twenty years ago, it was inconceivable that one could make money without owning a shop or a company selling products. The Internet revolution, however, has transformed this state of affairs and introduced a new flavor to retail.

The Internet is becoming more prevalent and connection costs are falling, while broadband speeds are accelerating and computers themselves are becoming more compact and cheaper by the day; this brings more and more costumers to the virtual reality, and has turned the contemporary dot com industries into the most promising, attractive and profitable businesses in the world.

Kuwait is no exception. The online services offered in the country range from paying your mobile bill or traffic fines, to ordering food, buying groceries, finding a job or browsing for a new car. In fact, many people in Kuwait make a living exclusively online, and many small websites that started with just a simple idea, with few people working on them, have turned into major enterprises, with a net value of hundreds of thousands of Kuwaiti Dinars, like, and others.

Although Kuwait's population, including expatriates, does not exceed three million, it still occupies a leading position among the Arab world internet users' index, coming second after the UAE with approximately 900,000 users, meaning that 34.7% of the whole population in 2008 were online, compared to only 5.8% of the population in the year 2000. (what is the index, who commissions it and where does Kuwait stand in terms of penetration on it?)

The user growth increase of a staggering 423.3% in the period between 2000 and 2008 is not expected to witness a slowdown any time soon, according to internet world statisticians' estimates. And this, of course, means yet more opportunities for Kuwait's online businesses.

Jassem Al-Enezi, the sales manager of the website, told the Kuwait Times, "When we started in the year 2000, we were just three engineers with an idea to make it easy for people to sell or buy a car, without having to physically travel to all the used cars agencies or car market, and that's what we did; we've now been in the market for nine years and we've achieved the milestone of 20,000 visitors a day...we are considering expanding our business to KSA.

Dot com biz and fast revenue
Al-Enezi explained why the dot com business is sometimes considered a tough venue. "Some people just don't have the patience to pursue internet business. Most of them want fast revenue and that's why we see a lot of people trading on the stock market. Internet business can be very profitable, but it needs patience and determination. You can't just expect to make an income with the launching of the website, you need to plan for a long-term investment in your website and you need to expect not to make any pr
ofits, at least for the first year.

Al-Enezi has some advice for beginners in the online market. "The idea is the most important thing when it comes to opening an online business. If you come up with a new idea that can really help online users in their daily life, and pursue it all the way, then it's more likely to be successful. The second thing is the website should constantly be updated, enhanced and maintained. Then again, you have to be patient to establish a name and reputation and only then can you enjoy the outcome".

A UAE-based online recruitment company, also dubbed one of the biggest online recruitment companies in the Middle East, has been operating in the Kuwaiti market since 2001. It offers another example of how online business can prosper in this part of the world. According to the company's managing director in Kuwait, when they started the business in 2001 the internet market in Kuwait wasn't as big as in the UAE. "So, we opened the first headquarter in UAE, and the second branch here in Kuwait, he recalls.

The idea started with a group of people who wanted to find employees for one company, and it was difficult to reach out to people, so they wanted to create an online employment market," he says, adding that in the first month alone they gathered some 6,000 CVs on their database. "That encouraged the team to pursue their idea further," he added. "Now, thank God, we have about 3.5 million CVs".

The manager also explained the steps of establishing an online business. "The time you take from launching the business to making money online differs according to the place you are competing in. Kuwait, for example, is a very educated market, and that can be very helpful when it comes to how easy it is to really be known as an online business.

Click and earn
At the time when so many companies are offering services online for their clients, many websites don't offer any kind of tangible services, or sellable products, and the only source of income for this kind of online businesses is in advertising. The system is simple: Website owner A places a banner or a link on his web pages, which promotes the product or products of advertiser B, and every time a visitor to A's website clicks on the advertising banner and moves to the advertiser's homepage, B pays A a sma
ll amount of money.

The online advertising business is an industry worth $45 billion worldwide annually, with this figure, according to a 2008 report, expected to reach over $147 billion by 2012. Dart Media is one of the Kuwaiti online marketing companies that are active in this field.

Salim Hatoum, Dart Media's General Manager, told the Kuwait Times "the internet is a lifestyle," asserting that pretty much everything can now be done online.
Many people connect online daily, and there are many positive sides to e-marketing," Hatoum explained, arguing that with e-marketing it only takes one click to bring the client to your site. "Advertising campaigns usually last a month and the banners can be case-specific when it comes to language," he says, providing the following example: "You can have your English banners forwarded to the English version of your website and the Arabic banners to the Arabic version. Also, you can actually discover how ma
ny people clicked on your banners, so you can assess which advertisements are working better for you.

Hatoum claims that there's a strong demand for internet marketing in Kuwait. "Advertisers know that very well. Since 2006 until today, the expenditure on internet advertisements has grown by 300 percent and that just indicates the amount of awareness here about the importance of internet marketing.

Audi's bold marketing strategy pays off

Audi Worldwide sales and marketing boss Peter Schwarzenbauer says Audi's growth and increased market share is partly because it was spending more on marketing during the economic downturn, not less.

"Other companies have put on the brakes but we have done the opposite," said Schwarzenbauer on a whistle-stop visit to Auckland at the weekend.

He said New Zealand importer European Motor Distributors had made Audi the market leader in premium cars, helped by its focus on marketing activities.

He would be looking at using its approach in other markets.

Last year Audi sales were 1060, and they were on target for 1000 this year. Schwarzenbauer - who is a member of the Audi worldwide board of management - said it's long-term strategy was to be the most successful premium car brand in the world by 2015.

The New Zealand market had achieved that two years ago and provided lessons in other markets. He said marketing used here was well suited to the brand internationally.

"It is not only about advertising but getting involved in activities - getting people into our cars, he said.

He said that Audi sales in Europe had been good but the European economy was under pressure.

Asked whether cost for premium car brands was an issue in the current economic climate he said not as much as a volume brand, but said value was still important.

Carcash Is Proven To Be The Fastest Means Of Selling Used Cars

This is the time period when people want financial aid as quick as possible. You will be well aware of the fact that the banks have stopped issuing loans and the people out there are left with no option other than selling their cars. This worst economic condition has not affected only a certain group of people. The economic slowdown has hit worldwide and so there are no takers for the used cars even for dead cheap prices. As a matter of fact people don’t even notice the used car sales advertisements in the newspapers. We have been buying used cars since 1977 and we know the used car market than anyone else. Foreseeing the market, we continue to buy the used cars for acceptable prices. We still keep our promise of providing the easiest, fastest and most profitable way to sell used cars

What is the difference between the service provided at and other online portals available for car sales? "There is no scarcity for online portals where anyone can list their used cars for sale. Moreover, most of these online used car portals are free to use. However, these portals don’t get into the business directly. They just help you in finding the people who are interested to buy used cars. Selling used cars through these online portals will take ages. There are several cases where your listings will get no responses. This is where CarCash stands out from the crowd. We directly buy used cars no matter the model, make or year of manufacture.

Mr. Ron said, "All you have to do is to get a free online quote for your used car from our website. If you are satisfied with the quote, the deal will be completed in just minutes. We will pay the cash instantly and remember that none who requested the quotes from use were disappointed with our pricing.

More turning to used cars

USED cars are getting more popular, as prices of new cars rise with certificate of entitlement (COE) premiums going up in recent months.

Latest data from the Land Transport Authority shows 18,539 cars changed hands in the first seven months of the year - the highest in recent years.

Used car traders expect sales, which have been rising consecutively since 2006, to continue growing, as COE supply is expected to shrink in coming years.

Friday, August 21, 2009

BMW 'the most sought-after used car'

Motorists looking for a second-hand car are coveting BMWs above any other brand, according to a new report.

Research published by second-hand car portal has revealed that vehicles manufactured by the German carmaker are gaining the most interest among its users.

The BMW 318i topped the site's "second chance" rankings, which measures how many customers are registering interest in a reserved vehicle in case it becomes available again.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer's 118d M Sport model logged the largest number of people wishing to receive email alerts when it came back into stock.

Other brands which proved popular choices include Vauxhall and Mazda.

Fredrik Skantze, chief marketing officer and co-founder of, said: "There's a shortage of quality used cars at the moment, so it's no wonder buyers are queuing up to buy the most popular models."

Earlier this month, online retailer advised those shopping for used vehicles to buy now or risk paying more later due to increasing prices.

Dealerships now places where auto engines die

The 10-year-old Dodge minivan's engine made a mechanically sick clunk, stopped, popped and sighed as a cloud of white vapor belched out of the grille and hood seams, and green coolant ran out on the dealership's back lot.

The white Grand Caravan had been traded in at one of the dozen Jim Click Automotive Team dealerships around Tucson within the last month. It was probably one of the first Cash for Clunkers deals. By the time the engine was snuffed Thursday morning, its former owners were probably already used to their new gas-sipping vehicle.

"It's not in that bad shape, a '99 with 137,000 miles. Someone obviously took care of it," said Pete Cates, service director at Jim Click Ford, 6244 E. 22nd St..

No big dents. The interior still looked sharp. It had probably seen a lot of soccer games and family trips. It was certainly no "beater," not an abused vehicle.

Just 10 minutes earlier, shop foreman Ronnie Porcellini was inside the Ford dealership's hangar-sized car hospital — where everyone else was making repairs or doing preventive maintenance — draining the oil from the minivan's crankcase so he could kill the engine.

Porcellini put the drain plug back in the oil pan, lowered the lift, popped the hood, removed the oil filler cap on the clean V6 engine, jammed in a long black funnel and poured in a large plastic bottle full of Engine Seize, sodium silicate — essentially liquid glass.

Cates said the liquid would get thicker as the engine heated, eventually stopping the engine.

With Cates and curious mechanics from neighboring work stations watching, Porcellini withdrew the funnel, grabbed a shop rag from a mechanic who was acting as his assistant, screwed the filler cap back on, shut the hood, got in the driver's seat, started the engine and drove to a rear lot. He backed the van into a parking space and kept his foot on the gas, keeping the revs up.

In a couple of minutes, it started making strained noises, not normal — the kind of clanks and rattles that should make a responsible driver pull over asap.

Within another minute, there was steam coming out from under the hood. Then came that loud CLUNK! — a pop that was probably a radiator hose bursting, followed by a loud hiss as coolant came running out and more steam billowed from the front.

It was 9:02 a.m.. The time was noted and Cates and Porcellini lined up someone to clean up the antifreeze and to come back in exactly one hour to confirm the engine wouldn't start, that it was indeed dead.

Later, this and other program trades that had gotten their final approvals would be picked up by an approved local auction house. There they would be auctioned off, as untitled vehicles, all the parts except the engine available for resale or scrap.

Like other dealers, the Click executives didn't want to kill the engines in the clunkers until they were sure they were going to get reimbursed by the government for the $3,500 to $4,500 rebates they had credited toward the price of a qualifying new car.

Local dealers have done only a handful of engine kills so far.

Clunkers — some hideous heaps, others surprisingly nice vehicles — have been piling up on local dealers' lots as they wait for the paperwork to clear. The dealers don't want to find out they're not going to be reimbursed for the rebate on some technicality, having already destroyed the most valuable part of the car they took in trade.

Click Automotive team executive Sam Khayat said the group's dozen Tucson-area dealerships had accumulated roughly 400 trade-in clunkers parked on death row and awaiting the federal final word and the last rites — the engine-killing process.

That backlog represents $1.4 million to $1.8 million in rebates.

Khayat was upbeat about word Wednesday that the government had hired upward of 1,000 workers to help process the dealers' Cash for Clunkers rebate claims.

Car buyers have only until Monday to cash in

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will end the popular $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program Monday evening, giving car shoppers a few more days to take advantage of big government incentives.

The Transportation Department said Thursday that the government will wind down the program at 5 p.m. Tucson time Monday. Car buyers can receive rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 for trading in older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models.

The White House has touted the program's success in providing a targeted boost to the sluggish economy since its inception in late July. Through Thursday, auto dealers have made deals worth $1.9 billion, and the incentives have generated more than 457,000 vehicle sales.

But the administration needed to put a halt to the program to avoid surpassing the $3 billion funding level. Consumers were on pace to exhaust program coffers in early September, and dealers have complained about delays in getting reimbursed for the car incentives.

The Transportation Department said it has reviewed nearly 40 percent of the transactions and already paid out $145 million to dealers. Obama officials said there are no plans to seek additional funding.

Applications for rebates will not be accepted after the Monday deadline, administration officials said. Dealers will be able to resubmit rejected applications after the deadline.

The Transportation Department cautioned dealers about making sales this weekend, advising them to make sales only when the buyer's paperwork is clearly in order and can be submitted immediately for repayment.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Used car auctions offer good deals in stressed times

Dubai: Spending some time on research about vehicle auctions in Dubai can save a bunch of money in this stressed economic times. With car auctions held almost every week by different auction companies, chances that a buyer will strike a bargain are better than ever.

"Prices are definitely lower than before the crisis", said Mohammad Majeed, a freelance car dealer from Khartoum, Sudan, at last week's Golden Bell auction at the Al Aweer car complex in Dubai, where he was studying the auctions tables over and over again.

"And not only this - also the quality of the cars on sale has become better. There are more and more younger and lower mileage vehicles available," he said.

Mohammad is kind of a veteran in the business, buying cars at auctions in Dubai for his friend's dealership back home in Sudan since a few years.

Besides the GCC countries, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya are the major export markets for pre-owned cars from Dubai. The vehicles find their way from Jebel Ali port to Djibouti, where they are distributed further, pepped up a little bit and then sold to new owners with a reliable profit.

Today, the abundance of vehicles on auction makes life easier for Mohammad and his many colleagues, and even individuals show a rising interest for a quick buy.

Martin Valinsky, a Russian expat working as an IT expert in Dubai, was looking around for a cheap car quite a while at Al Aweer until he was attracted by the shouting of the auctioneer from the auction yard in the centre of the complex.

He now definitely is looking to purchase his car by auction.

"What I see from the sales prices here, it is way cheaper than at the dealerships. But one has to be careful about the condition of the cars on auction since you have no possibility to test drive them," he said.

It is true that the cars at the auctions are sold on an "as is" basis, which means the prospective buyer is able to judge the car only by taking a look from the outside and rely on the technical report which is attached to the windshield.

Nevertheless, at last week's auction in Al Aweer some sellers who were present opened their car for a short drive to people who showed genuine interest. The technical report, a comprehensive test of the car, is conducted by Eppco-Tasjeel for Golden Bell auctions. Even if it does not state too much, major damages such as malfunctioning brakes or gearshifts or the odd "engine not starting" are turning most buyers away.

For individual buyers, it is essential to visit the auctions a few times before starting to bid to get a feeling what is going on and get used to the incredibly quick lingo of the auctioneer.

To take part at the Golden Bell auction, bidders have to present a refundable Dh3000 deposit and then get a small signboard displaying a number with which they can be identified after the auction is done.

The auction itself proceeds very quickly; the sale of a car does not take more than a minute. Cars are being driven one-by-one in front of the tribune where the auctioneer speaks in his head-worn microphone, asking for the first bids. There is no minimum bid, but sometimes the owners or their representatives start with a basic amount, and continue to bid further when they feel that the price should come up a little bit more.

But at last week's Al Aweer auction, some sales prices indeed remained impressively low. A 2007 Mazda 6 went for Dh23,000, a 2006 Toyota Camry for Dh19,000, a 2007 Ford Mustang for Dh26,000 and one-year-old Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD cost only 63,500.

Even if some repairs or cosmetic adjustments have to be factored in by a buyer, it's still a good deal as similar cars offered by private owners through trading websites like Dubizzle all show higher asking prices, not to mention the prices at used car dealer showrooms.

By comparison, auctioned cars are currently some five to 15 per cent cheaper than privately traded cars and up to 30 per cent cheaper than dealers' cars. This, however, prompts many dealers to buy used cars at auctions, which then are moved to the dealers' car parks with little changes than a higher price tag.

But it seems the abundance of cars on auction won't dry up in the foreseeable future. Companies like Golden Bell Auctions offer up to hundred cars weekly from different sources, mostly banks and leasing companies, dealerships wanting to get rid of old stock or trade-ins, car rental and transport firms, taxi companies, individuals as well as Dubai Government.

For example, if you want to buy a Dubai Police Chevrolet withdrawn from service, but with it original beige and green paint and battering rams still fixed on the bumpers, take a look at the Al Aweer's next auction.

Used car dealers struggle on but with optimism

MOST of East London’s used car dealerships are feeling the pinch of the recession, with some having to change their sales strategies to survive – but some report signs of a recovery.

McCarthy Motor Holdings estimate more than 250 outlets closed their doors in South Africa over the past 18 months because of the difficult trading conditions.

Dinker Rama, owner of Autorama and the Motorama dealerships in Amalinda and Mdantsane , said he’d altered his strategy to overcome the slump caused by the recession and the National Credit Act.

“Before, I was selling cars for between R80000 and R120000 but now I’m selling vehicles in the R40000 to R60000 range,” he said. “It’s much easier for people to qualify for personal loans than vehicle loans. I’d say about 70 percent of my stock sold is on a cash basis now.”

Auto Africa owner Ian Mackinnon said the market was the worst in his 27 years in the business. “I have noticed an increase in demand but it’s still very difficult for buyers to get finance.”

Mackinnon said he was also looking at selling lower-priced vehicles. “I’m looking at operating a cash business where people don’t have to apply to the banks for loans.”

He added: “I don’t see a big recovery until the banks start loosening up on their credit demands.”

Jason Lamb, sales manager for the Mitsubishi used car division and for Max4 Cars , said: “We’ve been pretty busy on the pre-owned side of the business. The gap between new car prices and used is enormous. A new Pajero 3.2 GLS long-wheel base is R594000 while a one-year-old model with 13000km goes for R450000.”

Nomafuza Bele of Mthatha planned to buy a new Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Classic and was quoted R194000 . She found a 2006 model with 36000km on the clock for R100000 – and it “looks and feels brand new”.

Brad Jones of Car City in Amalinda said after battling for six months there were signs the market was improving and Danie Mare of Auto Pride in Vincent added that “things are starting to pick up now and confidence in the used car market is increasing”.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Jaguar pins its hopes on radical new look

Last night there was a big party at the Saatchi gallery to launch the new Jaguar XJ hosted by American talk show host and car fanatic Jay Leno.

My invitation was lost in the post, but I'm sure it was a flash do. The next XJ is certainly an important new car for Jaguar, which isn't having a good time right now.

The XJ really needed a proper replacement. The big Jag has always been a nice car but, unfortunately, it's always looked the same. Even the current one, which is a very sexy big saloon, looks similar to the XJ that was launched in 1968.

And punters who lash out 50 grand on a posh saloon are not too chuffed if you can buy one that looks like it off eBay for the price of a dog collar.

The new XJ looks totally different. First, it's got a long glass roof that creates a very bright interior. Inside there's all the luxury you'd expect in a Jag including various options of leather and wood.

And while lots of designers bang on about 'wraparound' dashboards, the new XJ's really does. I'm looking forward to seeing the 'virtual' instruments working.

There are several audio and infotainment options including a 1200 watt Bowers and Wilkins hi-fi. No, I hadn't heard of them either. Sounds like a shortbread biscuit maker.

Both standard and long wheelbase versions will be available when the car goes on sale
early next year. If you've been in an old XJ you'll remember that there's hardly enough rear legroom for kids let alone a couple of lanky businessmen.

The new car apparently has ample and the LWB version an extra 125mm. The boot, usually a XJ weakpoint, is 520 litres.

Half of the aluminium chassis is made from recycled metal, so some bloke could be driving round in your old beer cans.

Under the bonnet there's a choice of a 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 diesel, the 5.0-litre V8 and a supercharged version of the latter with 470bhp. I imagine that one day there'll be an R version with a bit more.

As the diesel version can do 40mpg it's going to be most popular. A Jag shouldn't just go fast, but should handle well with a comfortable ride. The new XJ comes with a wardrobe full of gadgetry including air suspension and variable damping as well as heaps of clever electronics.

If it drives as well as the smaller XF, it'll be a job well done. I'm looking forward to finding out if it does.


In September the Series 1 XJ was launched. A 2.8-litre six-cylinder was standard and a 4.2-litre was optional. Air-con was only available on the 4.2.

A V12-powered version was launched, the XJ12. It was so smooth you could barely hear the engine. Sometimes that wasn't because it had run out of fuel - usually it was.


The Series 2 arrives, looking a lot like the Series 1. A two-door coupe arrives that looks even better but it leaked water and wasn't well made.

Series 3 launched. Amazingly it looks a lot like the 2 but with bigger rubber bumpers. The 5.3-litre V12 is still fitted along with the 3.4 and 4.2-litre straight sixes.


XJ40 launched. Hideous, with square headlamps. The only XJ that isn't svelte and sexy.

The X300 arrives - the XJ is sexy again. Ford is in charge and quality is improving.

Now it gets confusing as the X305 facelift replaces the X300. It still looks a lot like the
1968 Series 1. The big news was the new V8 engine.

I'm running out of puff and space so we'll wind up with the X350 which was novel in that it used aluminium for its body (It still looked like the 1968 SJ). This car was given a facelift a year or so ago to keep it alive until the new X351 arrived.