Car Dealerships: Use Social Media To Your Advantage

The name of the game is to sell cars, and what better way to do that than having an effective social media marketing strategy? Every other industry has hopped on board, and now it’s time for the auto industry to do the same. But what is really stopping dealerships across the country from branding and marketing their businesses to appeal to customers within their region? Unlike with TV ads, Facebook ads can target specific potential car buyers that live within walking and short driving distance of the dealerships that are advertising. So what’s the hold up?

First off, I’m just going to be straightforward. The social media accounts most dealerships operate are downright boring. You’re a business, not a virtual newspaper selling coupons every 3-6 months. Stop hard selling as if this is the 1950’s. One reason there is very little engagement with most dealerships’ social media pages is due to lack of trust. But more importantly, the content these accounts post aren’t worth reading or responding to. Instead of posting already used content by other dealerships that are selling the same brand, post unique content that shows off your showroom, best cars in your inventory, and interesting news or services that you provide.

Create a blog and share your content on your social media accounts. Tell possible car buyers why they should buy from you, why they should have their car serviced at your dealership, and explain the parts you use in the maintenance department to build trust and persuade car owners to come to you. Only posting when you have a sale or service special falls on deaf ears because you haven’t created good enough content that keeps people coming to your Facebook or Twitter page. They will inevitably glance or skip right over your post because 90% of your content is hard selling.

Post photos on Instagram. Herb Chambers BMW of Sudbury consistently posts pictures of BMW’s that are in their showroom. What 20, 30, or 40 year old doesn’t like a BMW M3, i8, or 435i Gran Coupe? You’re missing out by not posting on Instagram. The companies who are utilizing all social media platforms are increasing sales, but it’s their patience and determination that’s keeping them relevant because they’re posting good content that people want to see.

By being on social media, you’re in essence becoming an influencer. In studies, 27% of consumers are influenced by the cars they see on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Because the pictures contain the car on the road, in the city, or in the woods, consumers can visualize themselves driving that car, or taking that same photo on their vacation. You’re giving social media users eye candy that they just might indulge in.

Who Said Millennials Aren’t Buying Cars?

Remember the reports that Millennials weren’t buying cars, or were less interested in vehicles than previous generations? Well, the sales figures don’t backup those statements, and now we can throw a whole new generation under the bus for not buying automobiles. According to Bloomberg, Millennials (Generation Y) made up 27% of new car sales last year, passing Generation X for 2nd place and being right behind the Baby Boomers. I guess we can now blame Generation X, and assume that they love their iPhones and iPads more than driving, and would rather use Uber to get around than driving their own car.

The answer is simple as to why Millennials are finally buying new cars. After being weighted down with debt and facing an economic crisis, this generation was dealing with much more adversity in buying cars than in previous generations. Also, rising car prices haven’t helped either, leaving the used car lot as the best option if Millennials wanted to own a car. With this generation finally entering the work force and slowly paying off their debt, buying automobiles is finally within their reach.

According to the article Bloomberg posted, Millennials are also beginning to move out to the suburbs, which once again proves another theory wrong. It’s been reported for a while that this generation is moving to the city and embracing the idea of not owning cars, and relying on public transportation to get around. Now it appears that they’re in fact moving to areas where subways and buses aren’t as common, making it difficult to travel without a vehicle. Clearly, Millennials aren’t as in love with the idea of using Uber as reports suggested, or preferring to find other ways of transportation besides driving themselves.

It shouldn’t be understated that the Millennial generation spans from the years of 1980-2004. This means that the oldest member of this generation is 35 and the youngest is 11-16. Car sales by demographics can be distorted. Not only are we talking about a generation that is still in school, but some of them don’t even have a license. How can they buy a car when they’re still talking about what shows are on Disney or Nickelodeon? Let’s also not forget those 35 year olds. Because they’ve been in the work force the longest out of this generation, it’s possible that they’re the ones who make up the majority of the 27%.

At the end of the day, Millennials still love cars, and car enthusiasts can breath a sigh of relief. Our cars are going nowhere, and with the latest sales figures, this generation is eager to buy new vehicles and get behind the wheel. Now, maybe all the theorists out there can get on Generation X’s case for not buying new cars. Maybe they’re the real car haters and people who prefer public transportation.

Cadillac Will Soon Bow Out Of The Livery Market

A decision by Cadillac that has been long overdue will finally come to fruition as the American luxury car manufacturer will no longer be in the livery market. This comes after reports of the XTS’s lifecycle coming to an end, as this car was to attract the traditional Cadillac buyer. With sales still down, even after some exciting changes and announcements of new models, Cadillac needs to and is in the process of changing the perception the brand has had for many years, which is cars that are geared towards the older, affluent American consumer. By getting out of the livery market, this is one step in the right direction.

Seeing Cadillac’s in funeral processions gives the brand a bad image, especially in the eyes of the younger generations. How can the American automaker compete with their German rivals when 20 and 30 year olds are more interested and attracted to Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz? This has been the problem for Cadillac for many years, and by also being a part of GM and having their name thrown into the fire with all the recalls surely hasn’t helped. Since it doesn’t appear Cadillac is leaving GM anytime soon, now is the right time to take on the problems that they can control, and that’s to change the brand’s image entirely. By exiting the livery market and going full throttle into luxury and performance, the American luxury brand can once again compete against other luxury juggernauts.

The new Cadillac ATS-V got a warm reception when it was unveiled, so they need to take advantage and ride the momentum of positive vibes. It’s going to take a while for the changes to take full effect as consumers are not often quick to change perceptions towards brands, but if Cadillac can continue making bold moves and offering quality, luxury, and performance the car buyer wants, we could see a revival in sales.

The one real question at the end of the day however, is will consumers have a positive reaction to Cadillac’s desire to sell RWD cars? That’s still a question that’s up for debate as almost every car manufacturer has either focused on front-wheel drive, 4WD, or AWD drivetrains. Surely Cadillac will still offer 4WD/AWD, but they’re creating a small hurdle for themselves if they do intend on moving forward with plans to manufacture RWD cars, since the average consumer has been fully exposed to AWD capabilities by most auto brands.

You Have $15,000, Do You Buy Or Lease A Car?

If you have $15,000 in cash, do you buy or lease a car? Actually, I’m going to make it more interesting. If you have $10,000 in cash would you buy or lease a car?

Having scanned through forums and Reddit, there are many young, and even older consumers, who ask the same question, usually with the same amount of money in hand asking for car buying advice. Now, if your commute to work and weekend trips make your annual mileage higher than 12,000 a year, then buying is the better option. But what about those who are driving around 8,000 – 10,000 miles a year. Would you still be so hasty to buy instead of lease?

Most people feel that leasing costs you more in the long run. But does it really? True, your car payments could be higher per month, but because it’s a new car, you won’t have to factor in major maintenance costs. At $10,000 – $15,000, you’re not going to end up with what you want. Certified pre-owned, you’re looking at the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, or Toyota Corolla to name a few. Used can be a case of trick or treat. There’s always diamonds in the rough, but more often than not, you’ll end up with someone else’s problem. Mechanical failure is likely, factoring into the overall cost of the car, while it’s aging, and every year the resale value is slowly tanking. You either wind up with a money pit, or a decent car that will last you a few years before maintenance issues could arise.

Now let’s look to leasing. You have $10,000 – $15,000 in hand and you’re visiting local dealership websites comparing lease offers and deciding which one works best for you. You stumble upon a great deal. Your local Ford dealership down the street has a lease offer for a new Ford Escape SE; $4,173 due at signing, $159 a month for 24 months. If my math is correct, for those 2 years it will cost you a grand total of $7,989, not including oil changes and annual maintenance. You’re saving $2,000 in the long run, which will be two grand more saved up for your next lease. If you buy a $10,000 car, you’re looking at a world of unknowns.

So the choice. A new Ford Escape SE or an 8 year old car with 50,000+ miles on it. $8,000 overall in 24 months, or $10,000, plus maintenance that will inevitably happen sometime during your ownership of the car.

Another example; this time you have $15,000. Now I’m sure you can find some sweetheart deal for a 6+ year old Infiniti G35 or G37 or an older BMW 3 Series, but again let’s factor in unforeseen maintenance. But you decide, “I’ll lease instead because I want to drive a new car”. Here are the potential options you have. Let me just say this is all predicated on what the dealerships in your area are offering. Here’s a few from my neck of the woods.

Audi A3: $2,694 downpayment, $299 a month for 36 months = $13,458

BMW X1: $4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604

BMW 320i X-Drive: 4,000 downpayment, $239 a month for 36 months = $12,604 (Same offer as the X1)

Infiniti Q40: $1,499 downpayment, $229 a month for 39 months = $10,430

Lexus IS 250: $1,599 downpayment, 349 a month for 36 months = $14,163

These are just some of the deals that are out there. They all cost under $15,000 within the three year window you have the car. Most come with leather seats, heated seats, bluetooth, navigation, and electric sunroof. So think about it for a minute. You can have a luxury car for the same price, or less than if you bought a certified pre-owned Honda Civic. There are even better offers out there if you don’t want to spend $15,000.

After seeing this, would you still buy or would you lease?

Consumer Reports Has Buick In Top 10 Brands, Regal Best Sports Sedan

To most car owners, Consumer Reports’ findings are always suspect and are never truly accurate. Because they base part of their reports on the reviews of their subscribers, the findings can be a bit distorted. While they do test these cars themselves, they’re also using other forms of secondary statistics to decide which vehicles and brands are worthy to be put into the top 10. Shockingly, the Buick Regal gets best in the sports sedan class while the Buick Brand gets places in 7th behind Porsche, Subaru, and Audi in the top 10 auto brands.

Buick finds themselves among some of the most well-known brands in the industry, and it’s rather interesting how Consumer Reports came up with the findings. The real question is, based on what? Price? Reliability? Performance? It should be noted that the Buick Regal is in fact a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, so no matter what your take is on this report, apparently having your car built in Germany can make all the difference when it comes to quality.

The Regal is priced between $29,000 – $40,000 putting it in the price range of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Volvo S60, and Infiniti G37/Q40 to name a few. That’s some worthy competition to be up against and to beat out. The one factor that hasn’t been taken into consideration is long term reliability, and seeing as though they’re basing these findings on the 2015 models, we can’t tell if the Regal is better overall in the sports sedan category when it comes to reliability.

When it comes to the Buick brand itself, they are making better cars, but that might be due to the rebadging of Opel’s. Buick is certainly selling nicer cars than a few years ago, but to put them in the same sentence as Porsche, Subaru, Audi, and Lexus in the top 10 auto brands is far too early and very bold.

The other shocker from this report is the Chevy Impala’s rank as best in the large sedan class. Again, I want to know what it’s based on. I’ll respect the honors it’s receiving if I could understand why exactly this car is better than all the other large sedans on the market. Even when it comes to Buick, I just want an explanation as to why and not just a graph showing me that the Buick Regal is best in the sports sedan class.

What do you think? Cars are not one of Consumer Reports’ strong suits, but I do agree with Subaru’s dominance in the mid-sized sedan and compact car classes. Who do you think should have gotten the honors in the sports sedan and large sedan classes? Do you agree that the Buick Regal is the best sports sedan, or Buick is a top 10 auto brand?

Consumer reports also left out the hatchback class, but we all know the GTI would have gone home with that award.

Debunking the “Leasing is a Bad Option” Opinion

Go on any online forum, Facebook page or group, Twitter, or Reddit and you’ll find an overwhelming majority of commenters and members of groups discouraging many people from leasing when they ask the question. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Some people prefer buying outright, some would rather buy certified pre-owned or used, and a growing percentage of consumers are looking at leasing rather than buying. Every consumer has their motivation as to how, what, and why they buy the cars they do, but why is leasing always ripped when someone asks the question?

One of drawbacks of leasing is the annual mileage limit that typically ranges between 10,000 – 12,000 miles, depending on the car brand. You’re also looking at a higher down payment on a lease. But there are other factors (I’ll get to that in a moment) where the $2,000 – $3,000 down payment doesn’t look so bad in the long run. You will also not have the option to trade in the car after your lease is up, but you can buy the car or look at leasing again. Lastly, any extra miles that go above the annual limit, or scratches and dents, will cost you at the end of the lease, so you must be more careful than if you bought new or used.

Now that we’ve got the negatives out of the way, let’s take a look at why leasing is actually better.

As a used car buyer, I’ve experienced dealing with maintenance due to owning an aging car. I have monthly car payments, and I had to put a $2,000 down payment on the car. Right there we’re looking at close to $4,000+ (not including the monthly payments) with the down payment and maintenance. I’m paying $200+ a month on car payments, and to put that into perspective, the payments are more than if I leased a new Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback, Toyota RAV4, or a Honda CR-V.

The payments are a concern for people inquiring about the costs of leasing, and the advice givers always go back to the payments as a strongpoint to oppose the idea of leasing. However, if you’re in the position where you can’t buy a used car outright and put a down payment on it, you’re still dealing with monthly payments. Unlike with leasing, you could be locked in for 48 – 60 months depending on how much you want to pay per month, as opposed to being committed for 24 – 36 months with a lease. So right there you’re putting in an extra year or two on an older car that could be subject to mechanical failure due to high mileage or age.

Some dealerships are now offering free maintenance with a lease. That’s huge, especially if you’re thinking longterm. There are dealerships out there that also offer competitive prices when it comes to oil changes and wheel alignment. Also with a lease, you’re less likely to have to deal with major maintenance bills with the car being so new. There are no previous owners, so the entire time you have the car you know it’s history from your first drive to the last time you’ll ever see the car.

The last positive is that dealership’s leasing offers are always changing, especially during holidays. Herb Chambers BMW of Sudbury had an offer for the BMW 328ix that you couldn’t refuse. It was $275 a month with a $3,000+ down payment (usually you’d be paying close to $300+ a month). I know the down payment would scare anyone away, but if you have the money, you can’t tell me you’d rather buy a $3,000 early 2000’s Honda Civic with 180,000 miles that’s been owned by 3 different people, than a new 3 series. Now again, it’s all about where you are financially, but whether you’re a parent or college graduate, you would prefer something new or newer than having to deal with the headaches and hassles of owning an older car.

It doesn’t have to be a BMW, but a new Mazda 3, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and RAV4, or Subaru would be a better option than buying used and dealing with the unknowns.

Yes, leasing has it’s downsides, but so does buying used. It really depends on what you’re specifically looking for. As someone who owns a nine year old car, driving a new car with a lower monthly payment sounds great. Also, the peace of mind of owning a new car with no mechanical issues or aging equipment would make me sleep more soundly at night.

Making A Case For The Kia Forte Hatchback

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of getting a good long look at the redesigned Kia Forte5 SX. Needless to say, it left a lasting impression. The hatchback market is extremely competitive with the Volkswagen Golf and GTI leading the way, Ford bringing their Focus RS over to the United States, the Fiesta’s dominance in the compact hatchback market, the fresh design of the Mazda3 which is turning heads, and Hyundai’s Elantra GT. Where does Kia’s Forte fit in, and can it hold it’s own against the competitors?

The Forte hatchback comes with two trims: The EX and SX. For performance, you would most definitely want to go with the SX, which is turbocharged, packing 201 HP. Unfortunately to get all the bells and whistles, which includes front and rear heated seats, you’re looking at spending $28,000, but it’s worth it. A sporty interior that will grasp the attentions of young millennials and will certainly get them noticed. A spacious interior that has more cargo volume than the Golf and GTI will make it easy for college students to move in and out of dorms, while also making room for passengers when it’s a late night on the town.

The EX on the other hand is more practical, getting much better gas mileage (25 MPG in the city, 33 MPG on the highway), but not lacking in power. With a 2.0L engine, you’ll still get 173 hp, 0-60 in 7.5 seconds (only two tenths of a second slower than the GTI). With a base price of $19,960, it’s much more reasonable, but if you’re looking for leather interior and other comforts, the price could hover around $25,000.

The Kia Forte is definitely a car worth looking at getting if you don’t want a Golf or GTI. While you’re not getting the fastest hatchback with the SX, you’re still getting a turbocharged engine, cargo space, a sporty interior, and a car that will turn heads. It’s the kind of car you want to get if you want to be different and not buy a car your friend owns.

If you’re a fan of Top Gear UK, you’ve probably already seen the Forte make it through a grueling challenge of rugby. The car is no doubt durable, and even for Top Gear, was an eye opener. The Forte is by far one of the most impressive cars I’ve seen in the hatchback market. I wasn’t expecting to see premium features such as backup assist, heated seats, navigation system, leather seats, and sunroof from a car that’s been flying under the radar for so long.

As someone who goes against the trend and leans more towards something different, the Kia Forte5 would certainly be in the top 5 cars under $25,000 I’d choose as a daily driver.

Am I Buying A Buick, Opel, or Vauxhall?

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Meet the all new Buick Cascada, or should I say, the Opel Cascada. The four seater convertible is here to attract young and old buyers alike to purchase a luxury sports car from Buick and GM. Coming with a 1.6 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that supplies 200 hp, there is great potential for the Cascada to be a very fun car to drive around in. Heated front seats and heated steering wheel will prolong the driving season for owners who live in the northern part or colder regions of the country, while also giving the sense of class and luxury when on the road. But here’s the question. Am I really buying a Buick?

The answer is no, you’re buying a rebadged Opel Cascada. For those that don’t know, Opel is a German automaker that’s a subsidiary of GM. They produce cars for Vauxhall in the United Kingdom, and once made cars for Saturn in the United States. The most popular model thanks to the UK’s Top Gear, is the Vauxhall Astra, which is still in production today. So at the end of the day you’re really buying a German car.

Thanks to the Cascada’s unveiling at the North American International Auto Show, it’s also been noted that the new Buick Regal is not exactly American or Buick at all, but is also an Opel. In Europe the Regal is sold as the Insignia, which not only comes as a sedan, but also a station wagon, an option we don’t get here in the States.

Buick’s new look has been great, and has revitalized the sluggish sales as of late. In 2014, Buick sold 228,963 cars, which was an 11.4% increase from the previous year. With German engineering being the cornerstone and heart of the new cars for Buick, buyers can feel good knowing that they’re purchasing a quality car that has a blueprint from Germany, but still has an American badge. With the Cascada, Buick hopes to not have Chevrolet compete with them in this segment, and make a cheaper, knock-off version of the four seater convertible.

Hopefully Buick continues to look across the ocean for inspiration and importing cars from Europe, and rebadging them. While it’s true that they’re no longer Buick vehicles per se, they do have a German backbone, something Chevrolet can’t boast. With Cadillac becoming a distinct brand and really trying to distance themselves from GM as much as possible, Buck must do the same to stay alive. Right now Buicks don’t remotely look like GM cars anymore, and that’s a good thing.

Volvo Has Caught The Cross Country Bug. XC S60 and XC V60?

Volvo is a company in transition. Under new ownership after being sold by Ford, Volvo has had difficulty in distancing itself from it’s past. Much of the designs and components of their older models such as the S60 and discontinued S40 were based off of Ford, and for the S60, there are major changes underway to get rid of the old blueprint and start fresh in 2015. Well they’ve certainly done that by unveiling their new XC version of the S60. With a height adjustment of 2.5 inches, Volvo is moving away from their traditional sedan and have suddenly come up with a Subaru-like, height-adjusted, tough terrain beating car and station wagon.

The addition to the XC family has already caused confusion with the media as there is an XC V60 and a XC60 now, but the difference being one is a station wagon and the other a crossover. What are Volvo’s future plans, what segment are they trying to enter, and who exactly are they competing against with their new XC lineup? These questions seem to go unanswered, but one could speculate that they’re trying to be the more luxurious Subaru by offering AWD across their product line, or their bringing Subaru-like engineering to the luxury car market, a segment that hasn’t been capitalized as of yet. But is there a demand for it?

Volvos primarily sell better in the states with winter climates as their AWD systems are a luxury during the late fall and winter months during the year. It’s very possible that they’re trying to target a specific market that either likes off-road capabilities or prefers something other than Subaru without sacrificing the AWD and year round durability.

However, the redesigned Volvo XC90 might contradict that theory as Volvo unveiled the R-design trim that will surely take on the BMW X5 and Audi Q5. It appears the Swedish automaker is trying to take on multiple segments at once, while also innovating along the way. They have a triple turbocharged engine in the works that could revolutionize the car industry while also continuing to perfect their safety features on their cars.

It will be interesting to see the reception the XC S60 gets when it enters Volvo dealerships early this year. Personally, I see the XC V60 doing better as Subaru has lived off the AWD station wagons for years, and it’s possible Volvo can experience that same success. Great things are happening up in Sweden these days, and let’s hope we continue to see these changes as Volvos have become very luxury-based cars over the past 5 years or so.

What Are Your Thoughts On Cadillac and BMW?

Over the past few weeks Cadillac has become very bold, and rightfully so, with the unveiling of their new ATS-V Coupe. This has lead to a lot of banter on the Internet, with some going as far to say that BMW should be looking in their rearview mirror because Cadillac is catching up with the German luxury car manufacturer. The BMW faithful are defending their favorite cars, while fans of the new Cadillacs are beginning to believe GM’s luxury branch has finally made a comeback in the luxury car market. What do you think? Is Cadillac inching closer behind BMW, or should the people in Munich just laugh at Cadillac’s show of force?

The BMW product line has certainly been extended the past few years, and with the BMW M4, and the highly anticipated four-door BMW 435i Gran Coupe, it doesn’t look like they’re going to give up ground easily. While Cadillac’s newer designs and breath of fresh air is encouraging, can they compete with a luxury brand that seems to be sticking their nose into every market in the automotive world? BMW continues to push their SUV and crossover models, the new 2 series is sure to be a hit with the younger generations, and their 3 and 5 series sedans are still experiencing strong sales figures this year.

What are your thoughts on Cadillac and or BMW? Is Cadillac ready to take the stage? Or do you not like both and prefer an Audi, Mercedes Benz, or maybe even Volvo due to what they’ve been doing lately. The great thing about the automotive world is that it’s constantly evolving. What might be exciting and popular today, might be old news by tomorrow. Right now BMW is still riding on their popularity over the past decade, while Cadillac is trying to revitalize their sluggish sales figures and create a buzz for their cars that hasn’t been seen in years.